I used put a lot of stock in the word of people who I perceive as being good Christians. Not about taste things. If Coble told me that I needed to listen to this new Rush album because it’s awesome, it’s going to take a little bit of convincing. But about people. And I’m going to use Coble as an example because I do trust her assessment of people. If Coble said, “Oh, you need a new roof? This guy goes to my church and he’s great. You should call him up and see if you can afford him,” I would take that to heart. And if I learned that this roofer raped three women, I would expect Coble to be shocked and embarrassed. I would, in fact, expect her to be learning this terrible information from me, because I would not expect, no matter how wonderful the dude seemed now, for Coble to give her good name to recommending a person who might be a danger to me.
But lately I’ve noticed this disturbing trend where a person (A) is demonstrably a bad actor and obviously could pose some… danger might be too strong a word, but let’s say “problem”… this person could pose some problem for me. And the person (B) who is neglecting to warn me about the bad actor’s previous behavior is doing so because of Christian forgiveness. See, B knows A has issues, perhaps even issues B has had to deal with, but B, for the sake of his religion, has forgiven A.
That, to me, is fine. Forgive away.
But the part I am becoming more and more uncomfortable with is that, while I agree that “forgiveness” in a Christian context should mean that the slate is wiped clean–person A is free to go forth and sin no more–I don’t think person B should withhold information that would cause me to feel cautious around person A, just because person B has forgiven A.
Again, let’s go back to the rape example. Maybe person A raped person B’s sister. Maybe even A went to prison and got religion and has turned his life around. Person B has forgiven A (and let’s assume this is with his sister’s blessing. She has also forgiven A, just for the sake of this example.) and now that person A is looking to get his life back on track, person B is going to recommend person A to me for some task or reason. Person B vouches for person A.
And I believe person B, not realizing that this is not a situation in which A is an actual good person, but in which B knows A could be dangerous but B is trusting A not to be.
I don’t want to be put downstream from that, you know?
But I don’t know what forgiveness looks like otherwise. I mean, I know forgiveness and forgetting aren’t the same thing. But it seems to me that, if you’re still bending your life away from the person who’s wronged you, then it’s not really forgiveness. But, on the other hand, does forgiveness have to come with endorsement?
I don’t know. I’m not sure I’ve actually ever felt honestly forgiven and I’m not sure I’d know how to openly and honestly forgive someone. (Which, again, may be another reason I left the church). But I do know that, if I forgave someone who wronged me and that made you trust that they were good and safe to be around and they hurt you, I would feel like part of that hurt was caused by me giving you the wrong impression of that person’s safety.