Way of forgiveness

Sep 15, 2014 by

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Are we forgetting the Jesus way, so at odds with the Old Testament spirit of vindictive justice? Jesus proclaimed repentance and forgiveness. He literally commanded that, in order for me to be forgiven my wrongs, I need to forgive those who have wronged me (Matt. 6:14-15; Matt. 18:21-35; Col. 3:13). We are asked to forgive even those who have not requested forgiveness. Such forgiveness is difficult, as Carolyn Holderread Heggen notes in Sexual Abuse in Christian Homes and Churches. Yet forgiveness is ultimately the only way for an individual to finally let go. With forgiveness in mind, may the time of lament during the 2015 Mennonite Church USA convention be a time of weeping with those who weep, who have experienced the physical and emotional abuse of myriad abusers, many of whom have not repented. But may nobody single out, scapegoat and so abuse vindictively one specific person such as John Howard Yoder, who has already been disciplined, who repented, apologized publicly and was again accepted back into fellowship, for whom we rejoice (Luke 15:7). “Let the one who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at him!”

Leonard Gross
Goshen, Ind.

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  • Herbert Reed

    It is not correct to refer to the examination of John Howard Yoder’s transgressions as “scapegoating.” A scapegoat assumes the guilt of someone else. By his own admission, Yoder was guilty of many of the accusations which were made. Yes, Yoder needs to be forgiven. But in addition to forgiving Yoder, there needs to be repentance by institutions for actions which enabled and covered up abuse and thus inflicted additional pain on the victims and allowed the abuser to continue to abuse. There has to be accountability before there can be understanding and understanding before there can be restorative justice and reconciliation. Not allowing victims to give voice to the abuse continues their victimization. There is little doubt in my mind that full accountability of Yoder’s abuse and the enabling and cover up has not yet occurred and moving on before that happens does a disservice to past victims and potential future victims of other abusers in powerful positions. Before Jesus said “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” he wrote in the dust. There has been a lot of speculation as to what Jesus wrote in the dust. Was the woman actually a victim and Jesus was providing some accountability by identifying the abusers?

  • John G Kaufman

    This is not about the victims forgiving John Howard. This is about us (the church) coming to terms with our complicity in allowing all these people to be abused. The process now is for all of us who shied away from asking, “How could a church that I’m a part of allow this to happen?” When we (the church) can own our shortcomings in protecting the victims, confess, repent, and heal; then, we might be able to assist others in their healing. Telling the victims to forgive and move on is like telling them that this current controversy is their fault. This all was caused by John Howard’s immoral and abusive behavior. We all need to commit to building policy and procedures to make all church settings as safe as possible and to supporting those who are abused.

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