I once knew a person who sexually abused a family member. Years later he felt that he was rehabilitated from this prior offense and should be forgiven by the family, including the child he molested, and granted re-entry into the family with no conditions. His family was willing to have some limited, well-boundaried relationship but they were not comfortable having him around the children. They found ways to specifically address these issues with a clearly spelled out relationship plan. This infuriated him. He began a letter writing campaign to instruct them about forgiveness; threats were made. Eventually orders of protection were issued. He was outraged. All contact was lost.
From my way of thinking about this, the guy was at a minimum presumptuous. I am not sure about what the family members were thinking during all of this but from a distance it seemed like they were very decent people who acted in a spirit of forgiveness. They did not shun him or try to hurt him in any way.
However, they also safe-guarded the family. This to me seemed wise. Some offenses are so egregious that the consequences for these offenses last a lifetime. This is difficult to accept but it is true and I think on occasion appropriate.
Although we had a few conversations on the subject, he never grasped the concept that relationships were conditional AND these conditions do not violate God’s command to love. When we learn that someone is willing to harm us or another person, we become responsible for making wise decisions about future contact. If we teach someone that we are willing to be hurtful, we cannot expect them to ignore this action no matter how many times we say we are sorry.
Again, these are difficult issues and I have certainly chosen an extreme example. We have countless lesser offenses that are even more confusing to parse out. Are we too sensitive? Is this really as inappropriate as I feel it is? What does forgiveness look like in this situation? Does it also mean the relationship can return to “normal” or does it require some shifting and a “new normal”?
What kind of difficulties have you run into when trying to love as God loves?