Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Unthinkable

Hello blogger pals, For Christians this week is Holy Week, leading up to the celebration of Jesus' Resurrection. For Jews this week marks the sacred time of Passover, which of course, also celebrates deliverance and new beginnings. It's a powerful week for so many of the world's people of faith. It's also a big time for the sellers of bunnies and chocolate and strappy sandals, but that's for another post. In the liturgical church world, the world where I hang out, this week is the culmination of the season of Lent. A season where the topic of forgiveness is discussed vigorously. (Don't get me wrong..I also hang out with the sellers of strappy sandals...just got back from Macy's).

Last week on the Today show I saw an interview with the family of Katherine Olson. She was the young woman from Minnesota murdered in 2007 by Michael Anderson after she answered a bogus Craig's list employment ad. Apparently the young man just wondered what it would be like to kill someone. At the time of the murder, Anderson was 19 years old, Katherine was 24. Anderson has now been found guilty and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. The irony that he is from the town of Savage is just too poignant.

Katherine's father, an ordained minister, spoke about forgiveness. He said the New Testament (Greek) understanding of forgiveness is to release, and that he hoped his family would get to some sort of release. Then he said "the purpose of forgiveness is to heal a relationship We have no relationship with the killer."

Wow. When he said that I just motionless (very hard for me). That was such a powerful statement from one who has suffered an unthinkable, unspeakable loss. NEVER would I presume to advise or weigh in on how the Olson's should navigate these wretched waters of grief. This blog reflection in no way is intended for any reason that remotely speaks directly to them. Nor, for that matter is this intended to speak to Michael Anderson or his family.

It did call to mind that powerful scene in The Shack when the God figure asks Mack (whose child was murdered) which of God's children should God stop loving. Mack, the lead character in the book, wants desperately (and understandably!) for the murderer of his child to be punished (duh) and to be cast away from God. And who wouldn't! But in the book God says God has to love all the children or the love isn't real.

I don't have a child, but I have children in my life whom I love more than words can say. And I know even as much as I love them their parents love them even more deeply and radically. Despite all my peace loving liberal Christian beliefs I can also imagine choking someone with my bare hands who hurt one of these kids or my beloved husband. So, I wonder.

I wonder about God's love and God's forgiveness. I do believe that God's love and forgiveness must be extended to everyone or else to no one. (Not just I think that but smart theologians through the ages have taught us that). That doesn't mean, of course, that there are not consequences to people's actions. Part of God's love of us is consequence, and judgment.

Katherine's killer will go to prison. His family will suffer. He will suffer. And yet, I do not believe even as horrible as his crime was, that he will be cast away from the love of God. And maybe some day Katherine's family will go to visit him in jail, like the final scene in The Shack. Or maybe not.

And since forgiveness does not HAVE to mean having a face to face conversation, reconciliation, and lunch with the offender, maybe Katherine's family can indeed forgive in some way. Again, or maybe not. Maybe that doesn't even matter.

In this week where Christians think long and hard about the suffering of God, maybe God's suffering with both the Olson family and the Anderson family is enough. Maybe that's a glimpse of forgiveness.

Blessings to you now and always, Rhoda

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