Michael Berg and Forgiveness

I told everyone in an earlier post I was going to tie my Christian message to politics and today I found the perfect example.

Terrorism is the most horrific political issue of today’s world. How do we approach it as Christians. Do we hate our enemies and seek vengeance? I think that in allowing hatred and vengeance to consume us we are playing into the hands of the terrorists. Carolyn the author of nside the Mind of a Maniac once mentioned (in another thread) that a favourite saying of her’s was “Resentment is like swollowing poison and waiting for the other person to die.” while resentment is not totally synonymous with vengeance it is part of the overarching hatred that spawns a heart of vengeance. The essence of the quote to me is, like a disease, by consuming hatred we allow it to consume us.

How should Christians respond to Evil? I think the key is in the following verse. Romans 12:21 Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

To relinquish hatred is very difficult but is it possible and how? This is how our personal faith can have a political impact. Lets look at the example of Michael Berg who’s son was beheaded in Iraq. Berg is against the war in Iraq , and in an act I find both awesome and incredible, he forgave his son’s murderers, but admits it was not easy, he says;

“I learned that forgiveness is like quitting smoking cigarettes,” , “Sometimes, the evil gets to you, and you have to quit all over again.” “Sometimes, you have to forgive over and over again.”

This act was inspired by his faith that says;

Matthew 18: 21-22
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

We may not be able to live up to the example of Christ but we may be able to live up to that of Michael Berg.


5 thoughts on “Michael Berg and Forgiveness

  1. I like the way you’ve been fleshing out your pacifist philosophy recently. Perhaps your views haven’t changed, I just haven’t heard them before. But my impression is, you’ve been giving this some thought and filling in some previously unmapped territory.

    That’s a great quote about forgiveness being like quitting cigarettes!

    We may not be able to live up to the example of Christ but we may be able to live up to that of Michael Berg.

    I would phrase that differently. I would say that Michael Berg lived up to the example of Christ, and showed us that we can do likewise.

    Not that we’re capable of moral perfection, of course. But, like Berg, we can rise above our natural human impulses to do what Jesus would have done in our place.

    That said … I hope I am never ever put in the place that Berg was put in. I don’t know how well I would pass such a severe test.

  2. let me ask you guys this: I recently heard that “an eye for eye” was not an act of vengence, but a way of not allowing vengence to get out of control; is that right?

  3. Misanthrope:
    Yes, that interpretation of the passage is correct.

    The commandment is intended to put an upper limit on punishment. It forbids an escalating response: “You tore out one of my eyes, so I’m going to tear out both your eyes and chop off your hand to make sure you regret your actions.”

    I assume the commandment is the origin of our legal principle, “the punishment must fit [i.e., be proportionate to] the crime”.

  4. Regardless of the edict an eye for an eye, it seems Christ fulfilled the need for this form of retribution as he says in;

    Mathew 5:38-42

    38″You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

    Of course there are other ways to look at this verse, then its straight forward extension of the rules to limit vengeance even further than the original edict. Some have said that the “but” could be interpreted as “also,” but are we not simply justifying our desire for vengeance?

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