Should we forgive God when life seems to be unfair? What do you think?
I am in the process of writing a review of R.T. Kendall’s book, Totally Forgiving God: When it Seems He Has Betrayed You. Some of you may have noticed that Ed Stetzer posted the forward he wrote to Kendall’s book last week. I have a review copy of Kendall’s book and the idea of forgiving God is a subject I am thinking about anew.
Kendall defines forgiveness in this way:
Total forgiveness means letting everyone who has hurt us in any way off the hook. This includes God if we feel He has hurt us by allowing what He did (emphasis his, 179).
To be fair to Kendall, he is emphatic that God does not make mistakes. His goal is to encourage people who feel that God has betrayed them to forgive God.
I still have a lot of work to do on the review of Kendall’s book, but in the mean time, his title brings up an old question. Is it appropriate to forgive God? Kendall is by no means the first to suggest we should forgive God. In Unpacking Forgiveness I interacted with Lewis Smedes’s position who insisted that there are times when it is legitimate to forgive God. Smedes wrote:
Would it bother God too much if we found our peace by forgiving him for the wrongs we suffer? What if we found a way of forgiving him without blaming him? A special sort of forgiving for a special sort of relationship? Would he mind?
Smedes included the following as a part of his argument:
There is an old, old story about a tailor who leaves his prayers and, on the way out of the synagogue, meets a rabbi.
“Well what have you been doing in the synagogue, Lev Ashram?” the rabbi asks.
“I was saying prayers, rabbi.”
“Fine, and did you confess your sins?”
“Yes, rabbi, I confessed my little sins.”
“Your little sins?”
“Yes, I confessed that I sometimes cut my cloth on the short side, that I cheat on a yard of wool by a couple of inches.”
“You said that to God, Lev Ashram?”
“Yes, rabbi, and more. I said, ‘Lord, I cheat on pieces of cloth; you let babies die. But I am going to make you a deal. You forgive me my little sins and I’ll forgive you your big ones.’”
The Jewish tailor grabbed hold of God and held him to account.
Later, Smedes adds:
I think we may need to forgive God after all. Now and then, but not often. Not for his sake. For ours!
I will post my answer to the question, “Should we forgive God?” in the future. But, first, I’ll give you a chance. Should we forgive God? No quoting Unpacking Forgiveness yet – - let’s hear your thoughts.