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Forgiveness must be granted before it can be felt, but it does come eventually. Itleads to a new peace, a resurrection. It is the only way to stop the spread of theevil.When I counsel forgiveness to people who have been harmed, they often askabout the wrongdoers, “Shouldn’t they be held accountable?” I usually respond,“Yes, but only if you forgive them.” There are many good reasons that weshould want to confront wrongdoers. Wrongdoers have inflicted damage and, asin the example of the gate I presented earlier, it costs something to fix thedamage. We should confront wrongdoers—to wake them up to their realcharacter, to move them to repair their relationships, or to at least constrain themand protect others from being harmed by them in the future. Notice, however,that all those reasons for confrontation are reasons of love. The best way to love
them and the other potential victims around them is to confront them in the hopethat they will repent, change, and make things right.The desire for vengeance, however, is motivated not by goodwill but by illwill. You may say, “I just want to hold them accountable,” but your realmotivation may be simply to see them hurt. If you are not confronting them fortheir sake or for society’s sake but for your own sake, just for payback, thechance of the wrongdoer ever coming to repentance is virtually nil. In such acase you, the confronter, will overreach, seeking not justice but revenge, nottheir change but their pain. Your demands will be excessive and your attitudeabusive. He or she will rightly see the confrontation as intended simply to causehurt. A cycle of retaliation will begin.Only if you first seek inner forgiveness will your confrontation be temperate,wise, and gracious. Only when you have lost the need to see the other personhurt will you have any chance of actually bringing about change, reconciliation,and healing. You have to submit to the costly suffering and death of forgivenessif there is going to be any resurrection.No one embodied the costliness of forgiveness any better than DietrichBonhoeffer, whose story I recounted in Chapter 4.2After Bonhoeffer returned toGermany to resist Hitler, he wrote inThe Cost of Discipleship(1937) that trueforgiveness is always a form of suffering.My brother’s burden which I must bear is not only his outward lot, his naturalcharacteristics and gifts, but quite literally his sin. And the only way to bear thatsin is by forgiving it in the power of the cross of Christ in which I now share….Forgiveness is the Christlike suffering which it is the Christian’s duty to bear.3In April 1943 Bonhoeffer was arrested and imprisoned. He was eventuallymoved to Flossenburg concentration camp and executed just before the end ofWorld War II.