Forgiveness and Trust
Imagine you bought a Corvette about 6 months ago. You bought the Z06. Your favorite color on the exterior and interior, this is your dream car. Since you have owned it for six months you are not quite as protective as you were on day one. A friend of yours that has a questionable driving record asks to borrow your car. You agree after some thought, toss him the keys and you see your friend and your ride roll away. He’s your friend right; you’ve known him for years. A few hours later you get a call from your friend, their voice is shaky. He tells you where your car is and that he is ok. Fifteen minutes later you are driving down a street marked as a 20mph zone and you find your Corvette wrapped around a tree, obviously totaled. Your friend is being checked out by the paramedics but is clearly very lucky. There is no way that he was doing anywhere near 20mph. You are grateful he is alive, and well.
Fast-forward eighteen months. Your Corvette is replaced and in the garage. Your friend and you have kept things together. The awkwardness after the wreck is gone and you are enjoying an afternoon watching the game. Before your friend leaves, he asks to borrow your car.
What do you say? Why? A few weeks later you are called out of town for business. You need someone to take you and pick you up from the airport. Do you call that friend or another? While out of town your wife falls ill and you need someone to pick your child up from school. Can you have a clear conscience and have your friend pick your child up from school to be taken home? Are you concerned about the level of responsibility your friend has behind the wheel?
Now for another situation…
You love to go to the gun range; you often go with your son. There is a friend of yours from work that you know enjoys shooting as well. One day in the break room while speaking with your co-worker, you discover that he plans on going to the range over the weekend as well. You like this person so you coordinate times and plan on meeting him at the range.
The day arrives and your son and you drive to the range. While on the way you have the usual conversations reviewing the rules and safety procedures with your son. You get to the range and check in. You and your son go to the bench and begin setting up. The actions on your rifles are open, demonstrating that the chambers are empty and that the rifle is in a condition incapable of being fired as you continue your setup. Your friend arrives and begins to setup next to you. Having never shot with him before, you observe his safety procedures and notice they are different, but he’s a smart guy right?
About thirty minutes have passed. Your son and you are at the bench shooting. Your friend in the station next to you has brought a couple of rifles. He has decided to put the one he is shooting up on the shelf behind all of you and then shoot the other one that he had brought. You observed that your friend had cleared his rifle before he went to put it up so surely the one he was going to get had been cleared before he had brought it to the range right? As you are lining up for a shot down range yourself, right about the time you apply pressure to the trigger you hear a large boom from behind you. Your son and you jump. The range master calls a cease-fire and comes over to see what happened and if everyone is ok. Your friend is clearly embarrassed and you are thankful that the event was not any worse than what it was. Fortunately your friend was following rule #1 and kept the muzzle pointed in a safe direction, but he clearly hadn’t cleared his rifle before he packed it and he did not lock the bolt back otherwise the round he accidentally fired would have been ejected. Thirdly, your friend allowed his finger in the trigger guard before he was ready to place a shot. Everyone that day was very lucky. Your co-worker was asked to leave given his lack of concern for safety. He later called to apologize, and the two of you are still on good terms at work. However, would you ever go shoot with him again?
Both of these situations represent scenarios where someone obviously did something wrong. Both of these scenarios also represent situations that someone may be forgiven, but complete and total trust is likely shattered. If there are folks that we are uncomfortable allowing our loved ones to ride with in an automobile because of their history behind the wheel, are we unforgiving? Similarly, if there are those that we refuse to be around during certain types of recreation, are we unforgiving?
Is forgiveness really the right question? When dealing with those that have abused children or even your child in the past, is it possible to have forgiven them, but not trust them? Is it possible to have forgiven a friend for a car accident and not want to ride with them, or your family or children to ride in a car with them? Is it possible to be able to share a coffee in the break room with a person that you would never go to a gun range with?
If you have ever gone through a foreclosure or bankruptcy, your debt was forgiven. You no longer have to make a payment to the lender once the process is complete; your debt has been forgiven. Is the financial institution unforgiving or do they lack trust if they refuse to service a loan for you a few years after a bankruptcy or foreclosure? The bank isn’t asking for you to start paying the bills you were unable to pay again you were forgiven of that debt, it is simply refusing to take the risk on you again at that time or maybe ever.
We have a great example that was provided to us by the man after God’s own heart to show us the difference between forgiveness and consequences. When we look at 2 Samuel 12:1-15 where Nathan confronted David about his sin with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah we see this principle. In verses 5 and 6 Nathan has convicted David to anger and then in verse 7 David understands that he is the one he should be angry with based on his actions. In verse 13 after recognizing his sin David was then told that he was forgiven, but that there would be consequences. David was told that the sword would never leave his house and that the child that David attempted to hide would die. It did not take long for God to make good on is promise the death of the child and David’s mourning for his sin and child is described in verses 15 – 23. In 2 Samuel 13 then describes one of many situations where David’s family began dealing with the sword in David’s house.
Those who side with an abuser will often attack a family that is being the good watchman. The weapon of choice that is used is forgiveness, especially if the family keeping their child from an abuser is a Christian family. Know that although David was forgiven he faced several consequences for his sin. One who abuses a child and is caught must understand that forgiveness is possible while enduring consequences.
Taunts and healthy doses of Matthew 18:23-35 end up leaving parents of victims frustrated and discouraged. If we examine what happens in the text though is the text on forgiveness or is it on trust? In the text the king is settling accounts with his servants. The king was merciful to a servant who owed an impossible sum of money to be repaid. That very servant that was forgiven of an impossible debt pursued a fellow servant for a much smaller debt. The servant who had been forgiven of the massive debt was then jailed for failing to be merciful to his fellow servant. Nowhere in the text is there any mention of the king or servant loaning additional funds therefore extending trust.
Even if somebody abuses your child you need to forgive. This is a process that does not happen overnight. By forgiving you release yourself from the bitterness that can eat you up inside. This is also a process that one must guide their child through when the time is right. Forgiveness can happen with or without the offender present. The act of forgiving an offender is more for you than them.
When dealing with the abuse of your child, do not be discouraged by those that align with the one who is an abuser. When Matthew 18:23-35 is used as a weapon, remind yourself of those that you’d never ride in a car with, or do any other activity with. Do you lack forgiveness or do you lack trust? Do not let your guard down because you are afraid of the barbs thrown by those who confuse trust and forgiveness. Your instincts as a watchman are correct. Remember, be the good watchman.