Reflections on Forgiveness and Faith
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Reflections on Forgiveness and Faith
(March 17, 2010)

The movie Rachel Getting Married focuses on Kim who, several years previously, was drunk and high on drugs when she drove the family car off a bridge, killing her younger brother. Kim relates, ďI could never believe in a god who could forgive me.Ē What might it mean for God to forgive her?
Nobody, including God, can make things right Ė Kim made some terrible choices that resulted in a great tragedy. Indeed, how can God forgive, when the offense was not against God but rather against her helpless brother and against her deeply wounded family? And Kimís offense was also against herself in that she experienced a deep sense of loss and a seemingly insurmountable feeling of guilt. At one point, Kim says that nothing she could do with her life would make the final sum come out positive.
I donít think Godís forgiveness means that God forgets the past. People in Kimís circumstances are unable to accept such an idea. Godís forgiveness simply means that God still offers love, regardless of what we have done. The reason God offers love is that, as our faith teaches, the spark of life that animates us comes from God. The core of our being is grounded on an act of love. Just as we would love a child who had deeply disappointed us, God loves what God has created, even if those creations have fallen far short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). King Davidís life provides us with an example of this.
While our faith teaches that God offers forgiveness in the form of unconditional love, forgiveness only happens when we are ready to accept it. It will take great faith for Kim to believe that God can still love her, and itís unlikely that Kim, who has so much self-loathing, will find this faith on her own. Thatís why community is so important to faith. Kimís greatest hope for salvation Ė in the sense of finding spiritual healing Ė is to find a community that values and cherishes her because she is a creation of God. If that community reflects Godís love and concern with their own words and actions, she can feel valued, regardless of whether or not the sum good of her life outweighs the bad.
This view of God as offering love to everyone is, in my view, crucial to the spiritual salvation of people who feel estranged from God either because they believe that they have let down God or that God has let them down. Logically it follows that a loving, compassionate God who loves sinners like Kim who unintentionally harmed her brother would never look upon humanityís intentional torture of innocent creatures Ė also Godís creations Ė and smile approvingly. The test of any faith, I believe, is what it teaches us about what to do with those who are most vulnerable. A faith that sees God as siding with victimizers is simply a facilitator of evil. Though Christians throughout the ages have claimed Godís stamp of approval over slavery, subjugation of women, ostracism of homosexuals, and abuse of animals, I am convinced that the faith of Christ, which we are called to emulate, is one that lovingly sides with victims.

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