In case you have not heard, Westboro Baptist Church founder/leader, Fred Phelps, has died. If you are unfamiliar with who WBC is, they are the folks who spew hate filled venom at concerts (I'm pretty certain they were at Cornerstone the year I went), are infamous for their 'God Hates Fags' signage and protesting soldier's funerals. They are known for nothing but their hatred.
So this week when the news broke that Phelps was near death/died, it's not surprising that there seemed to be a collective sigh of relief... There was also a monsoon of articles and posts from Christians crying, 'you must forgive!' I found that mildly unsettling, but it took me a couple of days to figure out why...
1) Immediately proclaiming, 'you must forgive' is in a sense, glossing over a range of emotions. We are not robots. We do not simply flip a switch and 'turn on our forgiveness'. Forgiveness is a PROCESS. It's a very personal process and one that typically only occurs after many nights spent soul-searching... And there's a lot of anger and confusion and denial and tears all mixed up in there in between. You may reach forgiveness, but it's certainly not going to be because somebody TOLD you to.
2) 'But Jesus Commanded Us To Forgive'... Yes. We know. We all know. He also talked a lot about money, but that hasn't stopped a lot of you from being stingy to your wait staff. He did tell us to forgive... and to never stop forgiving... That's the radicalness of it to me - the fact that we are even supposed to entertain the idea of forgiving those who have truly wronged us.
3) Search your feelings (Luke)... but don't stay there. Process the anger and frustration and whatever else... If you don't ever allow yourself to feel those things, you'll never ever be able to embrace the concepts of love and forgiveness. And that's the real win.