Hatred, Forgiveness, and Justice (Guinness)

carpe diem cover image In chapter 5 of his excellent book, Carpe Diem Redeemed, Os Guinness makes a great point that true justice does not have hatred as its fuel:

…Hatred poisons society and holds the hater captive as mercilessly as any ancient Pharaoh, Southern overseer, modern tyrant, or sexual predator.  Will the United States ever transcend racism and sexism?  Certainly not through the ways in which racial and sexual politics are being waged now.

Booker T. Washington exemplified the way of the gospel in shining contrast with many of today’s racial and sexual activists.  Freed by Abraham Lincoln from slavery in Franklin County, Virginia, Washington was remarkable for his complete absence of any bitterness.  ‘I was resolved,’ he wrote, ‘that I would permit no  man, no matter what his color might be, to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him…I pity from the bottom of my heart any individual who is so unfortunate as to get into the habit of holding race prejudice.’  In strong contrast, he wrote, there were those then (and there are those today) who make it their business to  keep stoking racial wrongs in the public square.  ‘Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances because they do not want to lose their jobs.’

Born in slavery and facing the dark rise of the Ku Klux Klan, Booker T. Washington knew the degradation of slavery all too well and hated it as an institution – as we should hate racism today.  The stark contrast between the spirit of such great African American champions and that of many of today’s racial activists is stunning.  These great ex-slaves and oppponents of slavery knew that freedom that begins in the heart must never issue in hate, whereas activism that is not free in the heart only compounds hate even as it claims to fight hate.  Justice pursued with hate leads only to more evil and even greater injustice.  To be reconciling and restorative, justice must be pursued with an eye to the possibility of genuine repentance, genuine forgiveness, and genuine reconciliation – and thus with hearts that are freed from bitterness.

The past is always present.  It is certainly not dead.  But forgiveness and reconciliation can draw the poison out of hate so that the past no longer kills the present but liberates it to go forward freely into the future.  Through repentance and forgiveness, the poison is prevented from spreading.  The ball and chain is broken.  Reaction needs no longer follow action.  Even before the end of time, the past can be redeemed in part, with the evil acknowledged and contained.

Os Guinness, Carpe Diem Redeemed, p. 95-6.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015

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