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Monday, October 8, 2012

When Forgiveness Hurts the Most

The Green River Killer, Gary Ridgway, was responsible for the murder of approximately 90 women and girls. The family members whose loved ones will forever be known as the victims of Ridgway’s murderous infamy were given time to voice the hate that brewed in the deep chasms of their grieving hearts. Hate that comes naturally when we’re confronted with the brute reality of unadulterated human wickedness. 

Now, I don’t think this man should have been forgiven by the state and released without punishment. I also don’t think those angry, hate-filled family members are morally culpable or acting disgracefully. In fact, their reactions are incredibly normal and reflect the deep and abiding scars of an unimaginable tragedy. However, they seek at least a semblance of peace by sinking their roots deep in the embittered soil of hate and vengeance. But hate did not bring peace to those who had been wronged, nor was it strong enough to break the spirit of the one who wronged them. 

In the video, we see the measured tempo of a father who lost his daughter. It was the slow pace of a weary soul, burdened with grief. It was a man who bore a heavy cross that day. Who mastered his hate and did, not the easier thing, or even the normal thing, but instead, Robert Rule, father of a murdered Linda Rule, decided to forgive. The resolve of the wrongdoer was to no avail, for hate he could take, but forgiveness he could not bear. My father once told me that the one way to overcome evil is with the one force that’s stronger. Quite similarly, the one way to overcome hatred is through the one force that’s stronger, forgiveness. 

It’s a tough gospel to swallow and an even harder one to follow. Jesus calls us to love our neighbors and our enemies. Worse yet, He calls us to forgive those who sin against us. Though we’re tempted to hate those who've wronged us and wallow in thoughts of vengeance not our own, the truth will set us free. And the truth is, as often quoted, unforgiveness is the poison we drink hoping someone else will die.