It’s often goes without notice, with any conflict, that people who refuse to forgive usually have good reasons. The offending party may be, in fact, hazardous. A friend once sat at mother’s kitchen table and explained that there is a difference between trust and forgiveness. When hurt, it’s easy to become drunk on anger. But, then we often attempt to sedate our anger-drunkenness through abused wife complexes and encourage the beating to continue. A mother can do this as a way to survive, even rebuking her children who try to stand up to the abusive father. Too often, this disaster is viewed as “forgiveness”. Letting a murderer walk, no matter how “sorry” he is, isn’t merely about our own feelings towards him. It’s about our need to protect other innocent people from future harm. Our own pain can easily lead to narcissism and we no longer consider needs of others. We easily think that, in order to “forgive”, other innocent people must be put at risk. From that warped view of so-called “forgiveness”, neither option to “forgive” or “not forgive” seems attractive. We tend to either encourage further abuse or try to return abuse for abuse. This situation clouds our vision and is often at the core of why many people do not reconcile their differences. They simply cannot.
We all know we should forgive, but, with the dust yet unsettled, sorting through the vague differences between forgiveness and trust is often beyond our ability. Many times, we’d gladly repent for wrong we have actually done, but we don’t want to let go of truth because that would risk harming others. We stay angry because we don’t know the difference. Conflict needs clarity—to know what issues are truth and what vices come from our own pride and arrogance. Left to ourselves, we often either throw out our babies with their bathwater or else keep the babies swimming in their own filth. This is the dilemma of conflict and reconciliation.
We aren’t the first people to have such problems. This is the human problem, sin. It’s beyond us. We can’t solve it on our own. It has gone on for millennia. And it is from this problem of society that people cry out for someone we call a “Judge”.
History tells of many societies where conflicts arose amidst anarchy. Soon, people identify individuals among their society who can answer their questions and help restore their broken relationships. Two warring parties will agree to submit themselves to the opinion of another—in their supposed “arrogance” they remain willing to take orders from a third party, verifying the notion that we often maintain our controversial opinions because of our inner desire for justice. We would rather take orders from another person than merely have our own way. Staying in conflict is difficult and unpleasant. We would rather move forward, even if it’s on someone else’s terms. This is normal for most people. Those who don’t submit to such wisdom are accused of something more heinous: Contempt of Court. Most of us want a judge. It’s why counties elect their own judges and sheriffs.
History is also filled with rulers who first began as a private judge. The Book of Judges records events where a judge would lead a leaderless people out of oppression. Moses also performed this duty: After leading Israel out of slavery, he settled their disputes. His father-in-law recommended a hierarchy of judges so those with greater wisdom could reserve their time for more difficult disputes. This is the work of a judge.
In the spiritual sense, what does a judge do? He leads us through the haze, sorting-out our marbles, helping us make our way to forgiveness. Forgiveness is a plight that requires sound judgment. We need a judge to decide for us so that we can all move on. Judgment is both a ministry of Forgiveness and its foundation. Without Judgment there can be no Forgiveness and ultimately, for the redeemed, Forgiveness flows only and always from Judgment. What we often interpret as a lack of forgiveness is actually symptomatic of a lack of judgment.
From this paradigm, of our own conflict, we see why Christ’s leadership over us as our Judge is a blessing. Judgment is itself a Grace. He is not only our Bridgroom, not only our King, but we also get to have Him as our Judge.
Therefore, to find our Way forward, we can only begin by calling out to our Judge. Conflict is like a horror story: Salvation is not in the room. We need outside intervention. We must call on the Lord to save us. Only in that distress call can we ever hope to receive the answer that leads to Life. This is one of the first reasons why we pray, together.
We must assemble, come together, offer up our complaint to He who is Worthy to Hear. He knows our hesitancy. He knows our cry. He can answer. But because He is a Just and Fair Ruler, He will only render His Judgment of Forgiveness if we raise Him up as our Judge. Like in stories of old, even God will only Judge us if we ask Him to.
So, let us ask for His Wisdom and Good Judgment. Let us petition that He would send His Judgment on us. His Judgment is our only Hope.