Christians forgive murderers even after mass shootings (COMMENTARY)

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Mourners engage in a group prayer on Dec. 5, 2015 at a makeshift memorial for victims following the shooting attack in San Bernardino, Calif. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Sandy Huffaker
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-CHRISTIAN-SHOOTING, originally transmitted on Dec. 7, 2015.

Mourners engage in a group prayer on Dec. 5, 2015 at a makeshift memorial for victims following the shooting attack in San Bernardino, Calif. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Sandy Huffaker *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-CHRISTIAN-SHOOTING, originally transmitted on Dec. 7, 2015.

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(RNS) There is a striking facet of the recent tragedies that shines brightly amidst their grim darkness: The witness of Christians who, in the face of evil, have displayed the love of their savior and the forgiveness he alone can bring.

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  • John

    The power of forgiveness. Thank you for the article.

  • Forgiveness is overrated. And it spurs immoral behavior.
    It is too appreciated – and expected – by the violent offenders, which ultimately encourages even more crime.

    All perpetrators of evil assume they will be forgiven by someone. They have already forgiven themselves.

    It would be more useful if the lives of the victims were the only focus – and forgiveness left to matter of privacy … or the wind.

  • Scout Rebel

    So the battle picks up. Different armies, different weapons.

  • Scout Rebel

    Forgiveness is for the victim not the perpetrator. It tells them that no matter what heinous action they have taken they can’t alter the core of who we and our loved ones are.

  • Scout Rebel,

    “Forgiveness is for the victim not the perpetrator.”

    Wrong. You are confusing Acceptance with Forgiveness. They are not the same!
    Acceptance is MORAL.
    Acceptance = recognition that one cannot change a horrible indignity.

    Forgiveness is NOT Moral.
    Forgiveness = granting the perpetrator a chance to freely assault others again.

    Forgiveness drops charges. These Christian who say they are “forgiving the perpetrators” are NOT dropping charges – Christians are sloppily misusing language.
    If they truly forgave all these criminal perpetrators our society would be a living hell!

    Thank goodness Christians don’t really mean a word of what they are saying.

  • Without God, there is no basis for morality, Max.

  • Raf

    What amazing will power and love. Thank you for keeping Jesus words and forgiving them for what they done. I know they caused you pain and make you hate but you conquered that and choose to forgive. Once again I will say well done and thank you for keeping true to Jesus word.

  • @Phil Walker:

    Morality doesn’t come from gods. Religion gets morality from us – not the other way around.

    Humans create gods and decide which morals to give them. That is the evidence.
    There is no evidence of gods creating anything.

  • Chey

    “Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.” -Wikipedia
    I think this is more what the article is about. This is what Jesus taught his disciples to do if someone offends them or sins against them. He even forgave the people who hung him on the cross and falsely accused him. The comment that it’s more about the offended than the offender is certainly correct in this respect. It’s so the offended can move on with their lives free from bitterness and anger. This type of forgiveness in no way lets the offender off the hook in regards to consequences – the offender made a choice and there are laws that govern actions.

  • @Chey,

    You are describing “Acceptance” not ‘forgiveness’.

    To forgive is to set the perpetrator free.
    “Forgive not 7 times but 70 times 7” – JESUS. It is immoral nonsense.
    And Jesus knew it because he does not forgive anyone, anyway
    “Execute them all” – Jesus, (Luke 19:27)

    Religion complicates everything.

  • Brian

    Forgiveness isn’t only for the other person; it’s for you. Holding anger and resentment is like drinking poison and hoping the other person gets sick. Forgiving another person doesn’t even mean that you have to tell them about it, see them ever again, or excuse their actions. It means you are letting go of the hurt, and if possible, that you wish the best for the other person, ‘the best’ being that they turn from their ways.

    Your words sounded familiar to me; it is what I would have said about criminals in my twenties and thirties, when I was agnostic. Time and circumstances have caused me to rethink all of that. Keep seeking the truth, wherever it leads.

  • I think that it is possible to prove that you are wrong. Atheists are people without any belief in God. Yet they are drastically underrepresented among the inmates of federal prisons. If moral behavior requires belief in God, one would expect that Atheists would be over-represented among prisoners. See:

  • Rob Schwarzwalder, the author of this article, wrote: “… Christians who, in the face of evil, have displayed the love of their savior and the forgiveness he alone can bring.”

    What you seem to be saying is that Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Agnostics, Atheists, and other non-Christians are intrinsically incapable of expressing forgiveness.

    I am an Agnostic. I forgive the author for his attack on me and on other non-Christians. This would seem to disprove his belief that non-Christians are unable to forgive.

  • Larry

    You have it backwards. God is no basis for morality.

    Any immoral act can be excused in religion if one claims to be doing it on God’s behalf.

    History is littered with evil done in the name of one’s religious belief. Evil done out of slavish devotion to arbitrary irrational authority. A morality based on “ends justifying all means”. It was so useful that dictators of all stripes either used religion to support their regimes (See all absolute monarchies, right wing dictators and theocracies); or created their own takes on religious belief to do so (See Communist leaders)

  • Jim L

    Bruce, you have the ability to choose to forgive or not, as all humans do. I too believe that a person of any faith can forgive a perpetrator who harms them. I hope I represent Schwarzwalder’s belief in that. What I think the author is refering to is that “the forgiveness he (Christ) alone can bring” is to each indiviual, every one of us accountable to Jesus Christ who will mete out justice in the end. By the way, you are a person of faith – in Agnosticism – so I’m including all belief systems, Atheism too.

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  • BRIAN,

    “Holding anger and resentment”

    Wrong. You are talking about Acceptance – not Forgiveness.
    Forgiveness is deeply immoral.

    I am 53 years old. I was a Christian for 49 of those years. I have forgiven people in the name of Christ only to see them become serial criminals and liars, never facing their personal responsibilities. I consider those people victims of religion.

    I have seen “forgiveness” ruin countless lives in my family and elsewhere. Forgiveness is the reason the pedophile priest scandals continued for centuries.
    Forgiveness is a lie because it isn’t really possible to revert to a time before the crime. Redemption is an extremely damaging concept. Never hurt people needlessly and you won’t need forgiveness. Simple as that.

    If you are victim of violence you need to find acceptance. Never forgiveness.

  • Forgiveness is what we all need in order to be in right standing with God. What separates us from God is our sin. We have a problem. God is Holy and sin must be punished. But we are all sinners and fall short of His glory. Fortunately God solved this problem for us in the person of Jesus Christ. He died on the cross and rose again to atone for our sins. He who had no sin became sin for us so that we might become righteous before God. Jesus took our punishment on Himself so that our sins could be forgiven and we could have peace with God and everlasting life. Indeed, forgiveness is the very heart of Christianity. Receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Turn away from sin. Know His forgiveness and His peace. God Bless