In the days leading up to the anniversary of the terrorist attack on New York’s Twin Towers the news media are full of stories about how our lives have changed as result of that deadly event. Make no mistake about it. Much has changed, and not for the good!
Even in Canada, which was not directly in 9/11’s crosshairs, the costs have been high. Economist David MacDonald estimates in a report published by the Ottawa-based Rideau Institute that we’ve spent an additional $92 billion on the various Canadian national security organizations. For instance, the Canadian military’s budget has practically doubled since the Al-Qaeda attack in 2001.
Now, however, Osama Bin Laden is dead. And we’ve stopped our combat role in Afghanistan. So, the Rideau Institutes wonders aloud why Canada should continue to spend this estimated extra $10 billion a year on our national security?
I guess the simple answer is… because Al-Qaeda and its ilk have never said they’re sorry for targeting and killing some of our own people who were in the Twin Towers that day as well as thousands of our neighbours who also happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Al-Qaeda and its various franchise Islamic terrorist organizations have expressed no remorse, admitted no guilt, and sought out no forgiveness from those families whose loved ones were blown to bits or burnt alive. So how can we as a people afford to just “forgive and forget” what continues to be a clear and present danger?
I suspect David MacDonald, the Rideau Institute, and other liberal “progressive” types are morally confused about when it is appropriate to forgive and forget past sins.
Alexander Pope wrote that “to err is human; to forgive, divine.” So if forgiveness is a divine character trait—and indeed it is—then we would do well to consider how and when God applies it.
There was once an ancient Middle Eastern people who deliberately sowed terror amongst their neighbours. They were sort of like Al-Qaeda today, but militarily that ancient people were far more dangerous in comparison to the modern terrorists. They were the Assyrians—renowned in antiquity for their cruel, blood-soaked terror tactics. You can still see some of what the Assyrians did in nauseating graphic detail preserved such as skinning their captives alive in a series of startling wall-carvings that formerly decorated the Assyrian king’s palace walls in Nineveh and are presently at the British Museum in London .
According to the Scriptures, the God of the Bible eventually had enough of the violent Assyrians, and sent His prophet Jonah to give them 40 days to clean up their act or face a divine “shock and awe” campaign (cf. Jonah chapter 3). Surprisingly, the Assyrian leadership listened to this denunciation of their violence and felt guilt for their actions, and took the warning by the prophet seriously. As the Scriptures noted, the Assyrians “turned from their evil way” (Jonah 3:10).
The Assyrians repented. This means they actually changed their behaviour and made an attempt to do what was right rather than what was wrong. In response to that change in attitude and behaviour, God decided to abort His plan to destroy them during that generation.
As this example demonstrates, there is a price for divine forgiveness. That price is a change in attitude and action by the guilty party. With repentance and a real effort to change one’s actions, there can be divine forgiveness for any sin including that of terrorism or any other form of murder-inducing hate.
On the other hand, the whole story of Noah, the Ark, and the Flood illustrates that God’s mercy doesn’t extend to the morally corrupt and violent who refuse to acknowledge their transgressions and who refuse to change their bad behaviour (cf. Genesis chapters 6 & 7).
Yet we have the spectacle occasionally played out in our media by some who would forgive a murderer who has expressed no remorse and made no effort to atone for his or her sin. There are far too many who fail to understand that the moral act of forgiveness is not the automatic entitlement or right of those who committed an immoral act—unless such forgiveness is earnestly asked for and sought by the offending party who committed the wrong.
Forgiving people who don’t personally atone for their sins makes the statement that, “Repentance isn’t really necessary.” Can anything be more immoral than encouraging evil by refraining from any condemnation of those who commit it?
The day after the Columbine High School massacre, a group of students announced that they forgave the killers. A short while after the Oklahoma bombing, some people put out a call to forgive Timothy McVeigh. And on September 12th, on several American campuses, college groups pleaded for forgiveness for the terrorists responsible for the horrific events of the previous day.
These weren’t just misguided gestures of compassion. They were serious sins with potentially tragic consequences. Evil unchallenged is evil condoned. To forgive and forget, as Arthur Schopenhauer so well put it, “means to throw valuable experience out the window.” And without the benefit of experience’s lessons, we are almost certain to be doomed to repeat them. http://www.aish.com/ci/s/911_Forgive_and_Forget.html
Clearly it must be understood that forgiveness is not indifference to wrongdoing or evil of all sorts whether major or minor. Forgiveness is not wishful thinking. Rather, under the correct conditions, forgiveness can be a catalyst to effect real, positive, spiritual change for the good. Forgiveness can be a means of reconciliation between the one who did wrong and the one who was wronged.
Read carefully this instruction by Jesus of Nazareth concerning when it is appropriate to extend forgiveness:
Jesus said to his followers, ‘Things that cause people to sin will happen, but how terrible for the person who causes them to happen! It would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large stone around your neck than to cause one of these little ones to sin. So be careful!
‘If another follower sins, warn him, and if he is sorry and stops sinning, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in one day and says that he is sorry each time, forgive him” (Luke 17:1-4 New Century Version).
It is sad to note that a significant percentage of the Islamic terrorist prisoners (approximately 20%) who initially supported the September 11, 2001 attack, and were later released from U.S.’s Guantanamo detention facility returned to Al-Qaeda’s ranks to fight once more. Some of these have subsequently been killed in firefights with Western soldiers in Afghanistan. They saw no need to repent and ask for forgiveness for starting the cycle of pain and suffering that began at the Twin Towers ten years ago. So the fight against evil must go on.
We must remember that the sort of forgiveness that Jesus envisioned required a desire to change and grow, a desire to live in the light rather than darkness, to embrace good and not evil. Forgiveness should only be granted upon genuine repentance. Otherwise you’re only aiding and abetting an evil-doer.