Thinking more about what happened in Newtown. I heard about the family of one of the victims; they issued a statement that said that they were praying for the family of the murderer. That’s not the only time I’ve heard about that kind of unfathomable forgiveness. There was a lady whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver. She not only forgave the guy but now tours the country with him, speaking to groups about how real the dangers of drunk driving are. Every once in a while you’ll hear about stories like this, where the family of some murdered son or daughter publicly forgives the murderer.
While I was at home over Christmas my dad and I started talking about Sandy Hook and how horrible it was. He then brought up the Biblical story of Ahab and Naboth’s vineyard. King Ahab wants the land of this Israelite named Naboth so that he can have a garden close to his palace, but Naboth says no. So Ahab gets and his wife, Queen Jezebel notices. She asks what the problem is and when he tells her, she says “Is this how a king acts? Cheer up, I’ll get that vineyard for you!”So she arranges for a couple of people to give false testimony saying that Naboth committed blasphemy. He’s tried, convicted and executed for a crime that never happened just so that Ahab could get some land. Naboth had family. He was a son, he had parents, and, in all likelihood, brothers and sisters, maybe sons and daughters who loved him, a wife. He had friends, people who cared for him, and suddenly he is ripped out of their hands so that some guy on a power trip, a guy who already has more land than he knows what to do with, doesn’t have to walk so far for his carrots.
So, Elijah, a prophet of God, comes and confronts Ahab with what he’s done. Ahab begins to feel guilty and he repents, asks God for forgiveness. What happens next, though, is beyond comprehension. God forgives him.
God forgives, it’s what He does. He is irritatingly, irrationally, maddeningly gracious, and although we can’t truly be sure of what the state of Adam Lanza’s soul is right now; we can be sure that if he had asked God for forgiveness, God would have forgiven him.
That is nearly unthinkable.
That is who God is.
God is right.
As much as we don’t want or like to think about it; murderers are humans. Just like all who sin – murderers, rapists, thieves, liars, dictators, and all the rest – they’re all humans. They all had mothers who looked down into their eyes and wondered in amazement at the life in their hands. They all had fears, hopes, things that made them happy and sad. Many of them had genetic or psychological problems that they had no control over which caused imbalances that they didn’t know how to handle. Some went through horrible and abnormal circumstances that caused them to approach reality with a psychological limp. Others were just like you or I who made one seemingly rational decision after another, following, in baby steps, a path that anyone of us, under similar circumstances, might have followed. Walk a mile . . . They are people. People that God made, who God loved, and who God died for.
We as a society love progress. We like to think that generation after generation we are building toward something. Something good; something righteous. I believe that what we are building toward, whether we know it and admit it or not, is utopia. We all want to live in a world where we love our work, where suffering is at a minimum, where people don’t die too young, where evil doesn’t threaten our lives, etc. etc. But we will never reach that utopia until we understand, as a society, that God and His irrational forgiveness is right.
By definition, utopia is a place where evil does not exist, or is, at least, kept to a minimum. To de-humanize is evil. To forget that criminals are humans is evil. Forgiveness is a necessary component of utopia, and we can never build that perfect society without it. Further, we cannot embody God’s Spirit if we cannot follow in His forgiveness. The parable of the servants and their debt comes to mind. We cannot rightfully call ourselves Christians if we don’t follow in the steps of Him who died for liars, thieves and murderers.
God forgave Ahab.
God was right.