Saturday, February 20, 2010

Forgiving those who haven't wronged you

I've often wondered about the problem of forgiving those who haven't wronged you.

Suppose, just for example, that I have a dear woman friend whose husband, whom I knew only somewhat, leaves her for another woman, betraying both her and their children.

It's not my business to forgive him, right? He hasn't done anything to me. But as I watch her heartbreak and that of the children and see all the harm he has caused, I become angrier and angrier. I may even fantasize about getting a chance to tell him off someday, to bring him to his senses, of course. Of course. Well, no, actually, just to tell him off.

Is it even meaningful to speak of my forgiving him? The notion of a debt, connected repeatedly in Scripture (both in Christ's parables and in the Lord's Prayer) with forgiveness, doesn't seem to apply in such a case. He doesn't owe me a debt, and it would be presumptuous in the extreme for me to forgive him for what he's done to others, as if I could tell him, "You're free of the debt you owe for all the harm you've done to your wife and children."

This question has bothered me for a long time, because psychologically, I think one can get so resentful on others' behalf that one really needs to forgive. It's often said that holding a grudge is a problem chiefly for the harm it does to the soul of one holding the grudge. But how to go about forgiving in such a case?

As I've been reading Marilynne Robinson's novel Gilead and thinking about it for a review, it has seemed to me that I get a little glimpse of the answer. In a sense, the husband in my example has wronged his wife's friends as well as his wife and children. In a sense, he's wronged a whole bunch of people, because he has, we might say, messed up the world by his sin. That sin causes a ripple effect of pain and suffering both in the people he has wronged directly and also in the vicarious suffering taken on by those who love them. In that way, he has wronged me. But this fact, which hardly seems like good news, actually is good news, because, since he has wronged me, I also can have my own small share in forgiving him and in laying aside my resentment--which really can be hatred--and my grudge. That doesn't, of course, mean that he is clean of his sin before God, if he hasn't repented it and turned back, done what he can to make amends, and so forth. But that is between him and God. And if there are costs to be paid with the civil authorities (for example, if we are talking about a crime for which they are to execute justice), that, too, is between him and them. My own forgiveness, however, is made possible both by the grace of God and by the fact of the indirect wrong done to me.


Few thoughts and a few songs

Tomorrow I'll see if I can rustle up something more profound and serious to say. No promises.

For now, here is some more music with a few thoughts.

These are all obviously meant to be fun, but this first one does make me think of a passage in the novel Gilead. The down-and-out character Jack Boughton tells of going to a tent meeting. At that meeting, a man next to him "went down" as if he had been shot. Jack says he thought that if he'd been standing a couple of feet to the left, it would have been him, which is funny and sad all at once. The other man gets up and says that he is clean and that he was the worst of sinners. Jack is just embarrassed at the time, but when he tells the story, he tells it wistfully. He says that if God had saved him there, he could have looked people in the eyes. I can't help thinking of that every time the GVB sings, "Jesus' blood can make the vilest sinner clean."

This next one is related, though even less serious and more rousing. I'm told that despite the slight bluegrass sound of the piano (Gordon Mote is incredible) and the guitar, it is really Gospel and not bluegrass. "Child Forgiven"

And last of all, for pure fun, without a stitch of serious content, here is "Swing Down Chariot," combining the talents of the GVB and Signature Sound Quartet. But y'know what this one made me think of? Some of what Anthony Esolen (see his bio at Mere Comments from the sidebar--no independent link available) has written about male bonding and masculine activities. One of the neatest things about Bill Gaither is the way that he has acted as a mentor for younger singers over a period of many years. The "men doing something hard and skilled together" feeling comes across very strongly to me in this video. Notice Marsh Hall and Wes Hampton practically high-fiving each other at the end. (Advertising note: The Youtube videos of SSQ and GVB have motivated Eldest Daughter to buy their DVD, Together.)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

"Lead the Way"

By one of those happy liturgical coincidences, Valentine's Day this year falls on the Sunday right before Ash Wednesday, for which I Corinthians 13 is the reading and for which this is the collect:

O Lord, who hast taught us that all our doings without charity are nothing worth; Send thy Holy Ghost, and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of charity, the very bond of peace and of all virtues, without which whosoever liveth is counted dead before thee. Grant this for thine only Son Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.
Blind singer Ken Medema has a song called "Lead the Way," unfortunately not available anywhere on-line that I can find. It begins, "There's no way in this world that I can do everything that love means for me to do. But as long as morning breaks another day, Lord, I'm yours, I'll follow, lead the way." I remember thirty years ago or so having an earnest conversation with a young friend about that song. He opined that it implied that God is asking us to do something strictly impossible, which makes God unjust. If there's no way in this world that I can do everything that love means for me to do, he argued, how can I be blamed for not doing it?

In strict logic and taking the song with undue literalness, he was right. But anyone who has ever read I Corinthians 13 knows quite well what Medema means. There's certainly no way in this world that I will do and be everything that love means for me to do and to be. The only solution is the grace of God and our own willingness to keep on receiving it. The only sin that cannot be forgiven, because by definition it involves the rejection of forgiveness, is despair. C. S. Lewis says,
No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home, but the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and the clean clothes in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one's temper and give it up.
And God is ready to pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of charity, which leaves us no excuses whatsoever.

Now, for a bonus, though not directly related to the post topic, one of the quieter Gospel numbers on my list of songs to embed--"There is a River."

Friday, February 12, 2010

Privacy warning regarding Yahoo mail

Hey, all you Yahoo mail users out there. I just found out that Yahoo Mail (you know, the thing you thought you were using just for e-mail) is now pretending to be Facebook and being, if possible, even worse than Facebook about privacy. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Yahoo mail is making available to the public your birthday, including your age, and your location without your permission. Those under age 18 do not have their age displayed. You can get it to hide your age if you are over 18, but the location and the birthday day and month will continue to be publicly available information. Your only recourse is to put in a phony location and birthday, which I think is perfectly justified, considering that the information is no one else's business and certainly is not something Yahoo has the right unilaterally to publish.

Naturally, if you start using their posting option and posting "statuses" (see the Facebook envy coming out?), adding more information to your profile, and the like, you'll have to encounter a whole web of privacy settings and such, which I have no interest in mastering, so I just don't use those features.

It's particularly outrageous that minor children have their locations displayed as part of their public profile without their or their parents' consent now on Yahoo, and the only way to get around this is to discover it and enter something like "Undisclosed Locationville, AK," on your child's profile. I find this really angering.

So far, Google mail has not jumped on this bandwagon all the way. Gmail has added a "buzz" feature which is similar, but here's the difference: Thus far, gmail does not automatically generate a public profile for you without your consent, as Yahoo did. You have to create such a profile deliberately if you want to use the "buzz" feature, so if you just don't use that feature, you don't have a gmail profile. Of course, if you have a blogger account, such as the one I have for this blog, you already have a Google profile, but you made that one on purpose and can control its contents. So Yahoo gets my thumbs down and Gmail my thumbs up on the privacy front.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

"No Other Name But Jesus" and "He Touched Me"

It had been so long since I heard this song that at first I told Eldest Daughter that I didn't know it. How could I have forgotten?

Steve Green praises the name of Jesus:

It led me to reflect on the phenomenon of hand-raising. In the churches in which I was raised, hand-raising was a no-no. Way too Pentecostal. (Though it has Scriptural warrant in 2 Timothy 2:8.) The hand-lifting you see in the Gaither band reunion represents what I might call the evangelical compromise. Nobody gets up and starts dancing around. It's not a "me" thing, but it is a way of using one's posture and body to express praise to God. The nearest Anglican or traditional Catholic equivalent, I suppose, is kneeling. But that is different, too. Just interesting to reflect on.

Next, a beloved oldie, with a group put together by Gaither only at the reunion:

I hear some guy named Elvis also covered this one once...

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Judge sends an ultimatum to Lisa Miller--wherever she may be

A follow-up on this story:

A judge has said that if Lisa Miller does not turn over her child to her lesbian ex-lover Janet Jenkins (no relation to the child, Isabella) by February 23, he will "consider all possible sanctions under the law"--presumably a threat to issue an arrest warrant. So far Judge Cohen has not issued a warrant for Miller, who disappeared with daughter Isabella last month.

Alert reader Scott noticed that the Protect Isabella Coalition web site has disappeared. Life Site News also notes that Lisa Miller's Facebook page is gone.