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How Far Should Forgiveness Go?
Image: Brian Macdonald
"Forgiving love is a possibility only for those who know that they are not good, who feel themselves in need of divine mercy, who live in a dimension deeper and higher than that of moral idealism, feel themselves as well as their fellow men convicted of sin by a holy God and know that the differences between the good man and the bad man are insignificant in his sight."
—Reinhold Niebuhr, An Interpretation of Christian Ethics

I wish I could believe every one of these words from Reinhold Niebuhr. Instinctually, I don't, wishing instead for Dante's hell for certain kinds of sinners—like corrupt pastors who egregiously violate their calling and never repent. In my unregenerate opinion, I believe these types of sinners should be relegated to the eighth and ninth circles of Dante's Inferno.

I've read numerous books on forgiveness. Some of them lead me to conclude that the authors have never known the kind of spiritual betrayal some Christians, including myself, have known. If they did, they could never write the pabulum they are selling.

...

I'm certainly not unique in having a long history with clergy misconduct ("Sorrow But No Regrets," Christianity Today, July 2007). Perhaps I have the distinction of having walked with a sex-abuse survivor and her family in their quest for justice in a famous mega-church whose leaders vilified them for their decision to prosecute—and of having faced similar treatment for reporting a suspected pedophile in this church ("Day of Reckoning," CT, March 2007).

Two years after my husband resigned his pastoral position there due to systemic corruption, our firstborn child died by suicide ("In the Valley of the Shadow ...

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Christianity Today
How Far Should Forgiveness Go?
hide thisOctober October

In the Magazine

October 2010

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