Let's take another moment to examine this idea of forgiving a mass murderer.
You have heard people talk of our need to "forgive" the young man who brutally murdered 32 people at Virginia Tech.
Once again I think that words are important because they communicate ideas. The wrong use of a word very often leads to misguided and wrong opinions and those lead to wrong responses or actions. Such is the case with this talk of us having to "forgive" this or any other person who does someone else grievous and often deadly wrong.
As you know, I am a pastor and a person who takes the teachings of Christ seriously and a person who is just as challenged as you are in applying them to one's own life.
First I would note that Jesus DOES command us to forgive. In teaching us to pray, there is that clear part that says "...forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us..."
But take another good look at that command. It does NOT say that we are to forgive those who sin "against others" but who sin "against us." This leads us to the first responsibility Jesus lays on us of WHO we are to forgive: those who sin "against us" personally.
From this, it is clear from the teaching of Jesus (as well as common sense, at least to those who still have theirs!) that a person NOT directly sinned against DOES NOT have either the right to forgive that wrong-doer NOR the responsibility to do so.
Now don't get all worked up! I'm not done yet!
Think about it: If Person A sins against Person B, what right does Person C (who was not DIRECTLY wronged) have to absolve Person A of guilt and need of punishment? Example: If someone steals your identity and ruins your credit, what right or responsibility do I have to forgive them of this grievous wrong? NONE ! The wrong was done against you, not me. And what does my "forgiveness" of them accomplish for them? NOTHING! In fact, it may just give them reason to do it again to someone else, since I am in such a mood as to forgive them, like nothing happened!
"But, but", some of you will say, "but I know about what happened to that other person and it hurts me that they did this wrong, so I have to forgive them!"
Look, there is a HUGE difference between the harm that person did to someone else and the side affects it has on you. They are NOT the same thing and so the response is not exactly the same.
True, if you are emotionally effected you have to respond PROPERLY to the evil done or else you will either become a basket case or you will become bitter. But the issue is NOT having to "forgive" the wrong-doer but choosing not to allow hatred and bitterness to govern your life, nor to poison other people with your excessive anger at wrong and evil!
Now let us also note that the parents, siblings, spouses, etc of those who were murdered at V. Tech. WERE directly affected by this young man. They will have to deal with the grief and pain. But is FORGIVENESS what they need to express?
You cannot "forgive" a dead person, folks!
Let go of the garbage psycho-tripe that you have been taught! You cannot "forgive" a dead person for there is nothing that it does to HELP them! They are DEAD! And YOU are not God, who alone can forgive sins finally and ultimately.
The purpose of forgiveness is NOT PRIMARILY for your benefit but for them. It's purpose is to "clear the slate" and make it possible for renewed friendship and fellowship. But how can you have restored fellowship with a dead person?
Forgiveness's effect on you is totally SECONDARY to the issue of forgiveness! As needful as having a forgiving, gracious attitude is, as wonderful as the relief that comes from true forgiveness, it is SECONDARY to the purpose of forgiveness.
Let me give you an example: Let's say someone abused you as a child. Let's say all your life you were never able to come to grips with confronting them about their sin. And they never repented of it, they never asked for forgiveness, they never expressed grief over what they did. And you know that as a result you either had little or no relationship with them of any value. NOW, let's say they died. NOTHING has changed in them and yet psycho-babble says, "Now you can forgive them!" WHAT? WHY? Are you going to absolve them eternally of their unrepented sins? Have you forgotten that they also sinned against God in doing this to you, that you are not the only one they wronged but a holy God as well?
"Oh, no, you misunderstand", says the psycho-babbler, "forgiveness is about letting go of the past and moving on!"
Once again, words have meaning and to make forgiveness about YOU is to destroy the very essence of forgiveness as a concept!
No, the need is not that you forgive them but that you choose not to dwell upon it any more, leaving that person in the qualified hands of Almighty God who is the Judge of the universe. It is now past. That person is now in the hands of God who will justly judge and punish them for their sins. Let go and let God take care of them (Romans 12, later part of the chapter, read it, PLEASE!) God has BETTER things for you if you will allow Him to handle the issue now! His peace can be yours now.
So in closing on this post, let's stop using the word "forgive" in relation to a dead person. Instead let us apply the truth to our hearts that we need not concern ourselves with the dead because they are in God's hands now.
He can "wipe away the tears from your eyes" as you choose to focus on His will for your life and His love for you, rather than the hurts, direct or indirect, from those who are now dead.