Forgiving the Dead

16 04 2009

Life is short.  In fact, in the ultimate long run it’s so short as to be almost nonexistent.  Yet, we are tempted regularly to be angry at strangers and acquaintances that, for all practical purpose have no existence in the long run.  It’s like yelling at a reflection, or stomping on a shadow.  The world has been around for a long time, and God has been around forever.  We, who abide in Christ, will live a life everlasting.  The nut who cut me off on the freeway might live a mere seventy-five years, and I might have known him for mere seconds.  The anger I might feel toward this stranger might be like the enmity between God and Satan, as though it had been a war raging for eons.

Petty concerns, really.  A coworker refuses to do the worst of the work, so that the rest of us, who get paid the same, must pick up the extra work for her.  She feels she is above that sort of labor.  Irritating, isn’t it?  But, in the long run, one of two things will happen.  Either she will go to Heaven, and I must forgive her; either she will go to Heaven and repent of her evil, as will I repent of my own, or she will go to Hell, and I’ll never have to see her face again.  If she does go to the latter, rather than the former, then no rage of mine need be inflicted upon her.  By harboring vengence, not only is my unexpressed wrath but a pathetic drop of rage to the sea of wrath to come, but I defile myself in the process.  A million years into the vastness of the afterlife, such people will be as good as those who never existed in the first place.  They will not be remembered by those who go to Heaven.  They will have zero impact on the redeemed.  But, on the other hand, they are to be pitied.  How can I be vengeful against someone destined for such an everlasting torment?  Any revenge I exact does more harm to me than it does to the other person.

On the other hand, if these people who do offend us are believers, then we must forgive them, and if they are destined one day to repent and believe, then we must forgive them still, for we are destined to spend eternity in their company, and they are destined to repent of their evil.  How are we to remain unforgiving of one who has repented?  A repentant soul is so rare, as it is, that such a person is to be admired and prized.

Certainly, if we repent, then we fully expect God to forgive us.  If we do not forgive the repentant, then we don’t really deserve to be forgiven.  On the other hand, if we do not forgive those who are dead in their sins, then we are merely stomping on the graves of the dead: all of our anger is directed at a person of no eternal relevance, who has already perished, whose lot is with the forsaken.  Either way, we must forgive.

Take a long look at the arrogant sinner who has offended you.  This person will be gone forever.  Once dead, he will not have a chance at forgiveness.  You will not see him again for the rest of eternity.  Whatever he did to you could not possibly matter that much.  Let it go.

And pray to God that He forgives you for your own misdeeds, for we all have offended someone.





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