When we first met her she was a trim 120 pounds with long hair and a beauty of attitude we still enjoy. A year before we met her, she took a work break from the local hospital where she is a nurse. Her husband joined her as they left the building for a walk and some fresh air.
A young man was drag racing down the street, coming their direction. When another vehicle got in front of him, he swerved to avoid it and smashed into this young couple.
The young woman has had many surgeries, still sees double, and has limited energy. Pain is a constant companion. Her husband injuries were not as overwhelming, but still substantial.
Fast forward one year to our move into their community. We started attending their church, got into a small group with her parents and became aware of the situation. Her parents invested weeks and months nursing her toward normal living because even fixing dinner was exhausting. I remember when she made a trip to the grocery store, which was heralded as a happy accomplishment.
A few months afterwards, there was an arraignment of the reckless young dragster. He did not seem remorseful or repentant about what he had done. The family was stunned by the cavalier attitude of the court. “First offense” surfaced more than once in court that day; leniency seemed to be in the air. Sympathy was directed to him, not the young woman who lived with daily pain.
One can understand the dilemma of the parents and the young Christian couple. While struggling to forgive, they were troubled by the mood of the court. “Shouldn’t the penalty fit the crime?”
A few balancing thoughts:
More Happening More was happening than appears on the surface. The Living God is at work in every human life on earth, without exception.
Consider an example of that. On October 2, 2021, Marilyn and I drove to Otsego, Michigan for a re-union with Jim & Susan. They were young people in our church youth group 45 years ago. We had not seen them in a long, long time. Conver-sation flowed as Jim reviewed how he became a believer in Christ. Jim said to us, “After a Sunday morning message, you came off the platform and asked me, ‘Wouldn’t you like to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?’ I declined.” A few days later, another Christian put the same question to Jim. He still refused.
In the days that followed – as we geared up for youth meetings with Karate evangelist Mike Crain – Jim believes the Lord told him, “You will submit to Me tonight [at the meeting] or you will not make it home alive.”
We had no idea that was going on below the surface. Much is happening that is not visible. People will not tell us very often what is actually happening in their lives. We hide behind masks, wanting to be well thought of, when in reality we are all terribly ruined by sin.
Cry Me a River The young man’s lack of remorse was tough to tolerate in that first appearance in court. One would think he would ask forgiveness of the young couple. That he would admit he had been wrong. That he would seek to demonstrate his remorse. Nothing.
Some may remember the old song Cry Me a River. It was about a man who had broken up with his girlfriend and sometime later wanted to re-unite. The woman — wanting to test the sincerity — sang, “Cry me a river” of tears to show the genuineness of your intentions. “I cried a river over you.”
I recall a man who had gotten into trouble touching girls and young women. He did some jail time. When he returned to our Small Group, of which he was a part, he said (1) all the right things about repenting, (2) a monitor was on his computer and phone to eliminate porn, and (3) he made himself accountable. But there no tears, none of the emotions of repentance.
Our small group debated whether or not we wanted him back in the group. Some took a hard line, others argued, “Tears dry up. His sin was months and months ago.” While some actors can cry on command, most of us can’t fake that. Here were some S.G. people wanting him to replicate his emotions from eight months ago, like he was only 20 minutes from his sin. He couldn’t do it and it was unrealistic of those Christians to expect it. Tears dry up. God is at work.
Faith to Leave it Alone Romans 12:19 promised that God will repay abusive, offensive, sinning people. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.” I’ve always imagined God including the following thought as the logic behind of this verse, “If you try to get your own vengeance, I will back off and let you try, but if you want Me to take care of it right, then leave it to Me.” Or, “Trust Me to correct this person on My own schedule and My way.” We are challenged to have the faith to leave the problem, the injustice, the suffering to God. Oh for faith to leave it alone.
Forgiveness vs. Pardon God tells a given individual Christian to forgive others for the benefit of that Christian. Why? So the Christian can find peace of mind and not lie awake at night re-living the hurtful events. Forgive and move on, knowing God can bring correction when and if He decides the other guy was indeed wrong.
But pardon is not ours to give. A son of friends attended Michigan State University. He was beaten up by a fellow student. Injured. Time in the hospital. But within a few weeks resolved to forgive the violent person. He spoke to the offending man. When he went to the police station to have the charges dismissed, the police refused. Individual freedom is our to give; society’s pardon is not. Do we have the faith to leave society’s verdict to God through the courts?
The Moral Fabric of the Universe Over the years as I have experiences injustice and suffering. So have you. Romans 2:9 has balanced off some of my thirst for a pound of flesh.
There will be trouble and distress for every human
being who does evil.
Period, No exceptions. We may not be aware of the trouble and distress evil people experience, but God promises that this is how He runs His universe. He had built this into the moral fabric of the universe. It would mock God (Galatians 6:7) if sin was not punished. Believing that, we have peace.
More is happening than we can possibly know, stuck as we are in today. How will God use our sins and the sins of others against us in the decades to come . . . in the lives of people who are watching us . . . in the spirit world which is closed to us (Ephesians 3:10; also see article You’re in the Movies) There is more happening than we know.