Since the terrorist’s attack on Capitol Hill and the subsequent calls for reconciliation in order to save our democracy, I have been thinking of Lewes Smedes and the five common mistakes, according to him, people often make in the process of forgiving.
It seems to me that we Christians are often confused about forgiveness I think that the present, volatile, political climate we find ourselves in is one that can lead us astray regarding how we treat our fellow citizens and how forgiveness comes into play. But we all know that to move forward requires forgiveness of people like Senator Kennedy and Richard Barnett. Our secular laws will deal with terrorists such as Barnett, the man from Arkansas who posed in Speaker Pelosi’s office. The voters of Louisiana will commend or condemn Senator Kennedy when he comes up for re-election. But we as a nation must “move on” in order to heal our nation; yet the process of moving on cannot happen until all terrorists and their enablers ask for forgiveness and are forgiven by the majority of Americans who are appalled by what happened at our People’s House.
Smedes first tells us that to forgive someone does not mean we excuse their transgression. The lawless and their supporters who attacked the Capitol must be told how damaging and unlawful their attack was.
To forgive, Smedes says, is not to tolerate. The believers in conspiracy theories have legal avenues in which to express their opinions. Any such action as that on January 06 will be met by force, and lethal force may be used if necessary to maintain order.
Smedes warns us that to forgive will not give immediate results. The storming of the Capitol was not a spontaneous event, but one building since November 03, if not before. Thus, to mend that scar will take time and patience on all our parts.
Smede tells us that to forgive does not mean the one forgiving must run to the forgiven and tell him or her of the forgiveness. The burden is on the transgressor, and in the case of the attack on our democracy, there are many insurgents who need to ask for forgiveness.
Finally, Smedes warns us that to forgive someone does not mean we must return to the same relationship we had before. Since the Capitol transgression was so deep and costly and deadly, our relationship with Senators Graham and McConnell and the Barnetts of the mob will never return to what it was before. However, they must be forgiven. But does that mean we forget?
As an American, who voted for President Trump in 2016, I have increasingly watched in horror as he grew into a Frankenstein of our making. I have been sickened by his enablers like Senator Graham while wishing for more like Senator Romney. Now, the words and deeds that so many tolerated and excused and encouraged have erupted. The pus from so many lies has spilled out and violated our democracy.
As Senator Graham said the night of January 6, “Enough is enough.” We must, as a nation, “move on”; and to accomplish that healing, forgiveness for the rebellious mob and its president is required. But our relationship with them can never be what it was before. They and their enablers must never be trusted and their racist lies finally wiped from our midst.
We cannot “move on” until the traitors, like the Prodigal Son, admits the wrong and asks for forgiveness.