We live in a society driven by justice and vengeance rather than forgiveness. A forgiveness-free society.
In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, the cries for justice and vengeance against the Tsarnaev brothers are vitriolic. For many, nothing less than the death penalty will satisfy. We cannot stomach the thought of forgiving someone who has so wronged and wounded us. It is easier to end a life than to imagine reconciliation.
Our neighborhood just recognized the 98th commemoration of the Armenian Genocide. The street we lived on was tagged by a local gang, which is not uncommon, but the night before the commemoration the tagging was filled with hate and anger at another ethnic group – an anger that has been building and growing for nearly a century. Yes, there have been terrible atrocities committed. Yes, there is a righteous anger in the face of horrific injustice.
But is there not room for forgiveness?
We prefer an eye for an eye and a life for a life over the gospel’s mandate to forgive in light of our own experience of forgiveness.
The heroes of the stories celebrated in our culture are driven by revenge and violence, not by the call to turn the other cheek. Our heroes would be unrecognizable to generation’s past. They are not heroes in the traditional sense, they are antiheroes. Dexter, Don Draper, and all twenty-seven characters in the Game of Thrones.
Our (anti)heroes are committed to and driven by anger, revenge, loathing, and a twisted, selfish sense of justice.
As the church, we are not called into this story of violence, justice, or revenge.
We’re called to a story of forgiveness. In a forgiveness-free society which celebrates the antihero, forgiveness is the most powerful story we can tell.
This is the second part of a short series of posts on shame, blame, and the urgency of forgiveness based on a teaching I gave at Kairos Hollywood. The third post will be up in the next couple of days.