Christianity and the Problem of Human ViolenceChristianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 62: Forgiveness and Anger
from Guide to Kingdom Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth.

Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 62: Forgiveness and Anger

By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

Generally, and perhaps always, angry, bitter people have been deeply wounded. We tend to dislike such people, because they are generally unpleasant company. Often, their anger reflects fear of being hurt again, and they express anger to keep people at a distance, where they seem less threatening. But, if we are willing to patiently listen to their stories with an empathetic ear, withhold judgment, and have compassion for their pain, we will often ease their fear, lighten their burden, and relieve their anger.

Some people seem incapable of love, and I think this is because they don’t love themselves. Deep down, they feel humiliated and unworthy of love. As a psychological defense mechanism, they project their antagonism onto other people, and commonly the things they despise most in other people are attributes that they inwardly despise about themselves. Are these people aberrations, or does this describe us to varying degrees? Do we not find it difficult to love others because we often find it difficult to love ourselves? To the degree that we find it difficult to love others, we find it hard to forgive them for their “debts” against us – the various offenses that we have resented. If we can’t forgive them, how can we reconcile our differences nonviolently?

The path to the nonviolent living that Jesus taught and practiced is simple to articulate but difficult to practice, because it takes a great faith. We must believe that God forgives us. In other words, we must believe that God loves us so much that God can forgive our transgressions. If we recognized that God loves us, even though we have offended God, we would much more readily forgive those who have offended us. And, by forgiving them, we seek reconciliation rather than revenge.

Many people have trouble believing that God loves them. They know they have sinned in serious ways, and they don’t feel forgivable. This is particularly the case if they (in my opinion mistakenly) regard God as wrathful (see essays 57-59), when their image of God is a father-figure (because many people have had fathers who were harsh and judgmental), and when they live in communities that are unwilling to forgive their more egregious transgressions, even those that occurred in the remote past. However, I see God as like a loving parent who might be disappointed in the child’s behavior but whose love for the child never wanes.

Why should we believe God that God loves us enough to forgive us? Because God created us. Science can describe chromosomes, cells, and organs, but it cannot explain the spark of life, and I think the only reasonable explanation is that the spark of life comes from God. Of course, this spark is not unique to humans, and our faith teaches us that God loves all of Creation. Once convinced that we are truly forgiven, then, we may forgive all who have wronged us, love everything, and enjoy the serenity that comes from following Christ. This is the peace-of-mind enjoyed by the saints and by Jesus, who genuinely suffered on the Cross but was still able to observe, presumably with satisfaction, “It is accomplished.”

Those who have been deeply wounded may have difficulty believing that God loves them, and I think recognizing God’s love is a form of grace. We can help people experience that grace by expressing God’s love in our lives. Our love, forgiveness, and compassion constitute our witness to God’s love. To the degree that we make choices that are hurtful and not loving, which could include participating in the inherent cruelties of factory farming, we fail to witness for Christ and we fail to be “lights unto the nations.”

Next week, we will explore forgiveness and judgment.

Go on to: Part 63: Forgiveness and Judgment
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