Forgiveness vs. justice

Remember the shocking incident that happened in April of this year at the Mall of America? The one in which a 5-year-old child was thrown off a balcony? The boy survived despite his injuries, thank God.

Now, the man who threw the boy off the balcony has been sentenced to 19 years in prison, seemingly a very light sentence, all things considered.

The aspect of this situation that seems to have become de rigueur is for the family of the victim to publicly announce their forgiveness of the one who harmed or killed their loved one.

And then there is the usual arguing online where some denounce the virtue-signaling that has become the expected reaction from the families of the victim. Is it virtue-signaling? Or is it just a plain-and-simple misunderstanding or misapplication of Christian morality? Or — the other option — are we who find fault with the families’ action lacking in Christian forgiveness and charity ourselves, while the families are right?

To begin with, I don’t think it’s up to us, the public, to forgive something like this; we are not the ones to suffer when someone is harmed or killed —except for the small detail that our society is damaged: our faith in other people, and our ability to be trusting, are damaged if not destroyed.

But it’s not for us, the public, to ‘forgive’ someone who commits a crime like this, or to offer them something like ‘absolution’ for their crimes.

A true ‘justice’ system would have the punishment fit the crime, and in most cases, what with plea bargains, with shyster ‘defense attorneys’ who play for sympathy towards their defendant, and with many notoriously lenient judges who give a slap on the wrist to violent offenders, justice is not being served in many cases. And yet, even with a lack of appropriate punishment for the crime in question, there should be no reason for us to expend so much pity and sympathy on criminals, especially for anyone who has exactly zero sympathy or mercy towards an innocent child — or anyone else, for that matter.

Then there are those inevitable comments that we have to ”hate the sin, but love the sinner.”

Next time someone says this in my presence I will be sure to ask them for the Biblical chapter and verse. If it’s a Biblical command, as many people believe it is, let’s ask them to cite the place where it is found in the Bible.

I believe my readers know it isn’t in the Bible, and it wasn’t said by Jesus Christ. Some authorities cite Mohandas Gandhi as the one who taught it. But his words are not binding on Christians, and that saying is not consistent with Christian teaching.

Speaking for myself, I don’t think it’s humanly possible to ”love” a criminal who has seriously harmed or killed a beloved relative, especially a helpless child. Not all of us have lost a relative in that way, but I don’t think it’s possible for us to “love” the guilty person as we love others, and I think it’s a hard burden to ask a grieving relative to carry.

Another little detail: sins don’t exist without a sinner, a person who is a moral agent who chooses to do wrong. Sins don’t exist without a sinner.

And in loving the sinner, as is the case with the relatives of a criminal, the tendency is to minimize the seriousness of what that person did, to rationalize it and make excuses. ‘Love’ which loves only the wrongdoer and shows indifference to their wrongdoing is a very narrow and selfish thing.

The psychological worldview seems to cast people as merely ‘evolved’ apes, and to make excuses for sins or crimes, demanding that we see the victimizer as just another victim.

But a wrongdoer chooses to do what he does. So how is it possible to love someone who harms a child, especially our own child? At best it might be possible to feel some kind of reluctant sympathy, depending. But love?

Perhaps God can love such people but the Bible indicates that God loves selectively. Some believe, however, that God loves even the worst human beings, or so they say, but what about Malachi 1:3? Naturally I am not going to try to argue theology here, just basic common sense, and a Biblical worldview, not one colored by psychology, psychiatry, and New-Age fluff.

In any case, I am not condemning the parents, who must have gone through great agonies after what happened to their child; I know everybody is being taught and conditioned to appear ‘nonjudgmental’, even in situations like this one, and everybody seems to feel compelled to ”virtue-signal”, to indicate that they are not guilty of the sin of ”judgmentalism” or that greatest-of-all-evils, the ”r-word.” Almost everyone adopts the worldview that the media and the educational system inculcates in us. Few people are learning Biblical Christianity. According to recent polls most Christians hold many New Age beliefs, and do not have a traditional Christian worldview. We can’t hold both simultaneously; they are not compatible.

One more thing: forgiveness has to be preceded by repentance, and there’s no evidence that the guilty party in this story has repented, or has even gone through the motions of pretending to repent. Some people say it’s essential to the families to forgive, just so they can ‘feel better’ or ”attain closure” or something. That may be so, but is it necessary to make a public announcement of forgiveness? Better to do so privately and quietly. Doing it publicly and without repentance from the wrongdoer can just trivialize the crime itself, making it look like a minor transgression that can easily be ‘forgiven and forgotten’.

2 thoughts on “Forgiveness vs. justice

  1. VA:

    I wrote a lengthy comment to this post a few hours after you first posted it. But evidently it was lost or eviscerated in the ether. I don’t have time at the moment to re-cover all those bases, but I do wonder, re: your point about the importance of a Biblical-Christian world view, whether you have ever heard of the PEERS test? I was first introduced to it some 25 years ago, give or take, and it was largely influential in my deciding on an educational philosophy and methodology suitable for my kids. I won’t add a link, as I suspect having done so before might have contributed to the disappearance of my earlier musings. Just type in PEERS TEST, and Google will do the rest. That’s all for now. Good post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Terry, thanks for your response. I’m sorry for not replying sooner but somehow I missed your post. The same thing happened with some other comments; I am just seeing them now after a couple of weeks.

      I haven’t heard of the PEERs test but I will certainly look it up. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.


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