In New Jersey this week, the news is corruption. Forty-four people, including three mayors, a state assemblyman, and five rabbis, have been arrested on various charges, including bribery and organ brokering. Shocking, even for New Jersey, many say. Ho hum, others sigh. For victims, the news is as fresh as an unexpected slap in the face. Imagine being the guy or girl who finds out that a rabbi was going to pocket $150,000 on the sale of your kidney. Imagine being one of those who learns he already has.
As Christians, we're fond of moral equivalence statements designed to inspire us to forgiveness. "There by the grace of God go I" is one. "The ground is level at the foot of the Cross" is another. I hate moral equivalence arguments. They impede the ability of victims to truly forgive. In this case, it is not the same thing for an impoverished father to sell a kidney to feed his family as it is for a member of the clergy to buy it for $10,000 while charging a desperate patient's family $160,000. One behavior, unchecked, may lead to another, but we empathize with the desperation and rightly deride the exploitation.
Still, corruption threatens its victims' souls nearly as much as its perpetrators'. The path of least resistance is to give in to bitterness and self-absorption, especially when expressions of anger at the injury or injustice draw condemnation from friend and foe alike. When our fellow believers hold up as models the Amish who immediately "forgave" the deranged Nickel Mines killer, for example, victims struggling with anger feel doubly violated. As one journalist discovered, even for the Amish, forgiveness is a complicated process.
In my own journey with forgiveness, the most helpful writer I've encountered is theologian ...1
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