Scripture throws light on this international incident.
When President Reagan laid a wreath on the graves at Bitburg, he unwittingly taught the whole world some fundamental lessons in theology and ethics. The President’s motive was clear: he wished to make a powerful affirmation of good will toward the German people, and to toughen the bonds of mutual respect and cooperation already existing between the nations.
But human acts are subject to different interpretations. What to some was a simple act of national good will quickly became an international incident reviving the hates and fears of Hitler’s world.
Scripture commands us to forgive—even our enemies. Scripture also commands us to seek justice for all. Now, to seek justice is never easy. But to forgive is even harder. And the greater the evil and the more immediate its impact upon me personally, the harder it is for me to seek true justice or to forgive. When we are called upon both to seek justice and to forgive wrongs that have been done against us, we transcend the bounds of our normal human capacities.
Who Was Sinned Against?
In the ultimate sense, only God can forgive sin, for he alone is the sovereign Judge. Yet we humans can forgive the wrongs that have been done us. Discussing the Bitburg crisis, Lance Morrow (Time, May 20) fittingly cited the poet John Dryden in his title, “Forgiveness to the Injured Doth Belong.”
But does this mean that it was wrong for President Reagan to express forgiveness and a desire for reconciliation with the German people because they wronged only Jews and not Christians or non-Jews?
Not at all. The Holocaust was a crime against more than the Jewish people alone. It was a crime against all humanity. At this point, ...1
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