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The Mueller report, Columbine, and forgiveness: What Good Friday means today

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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The Mueller report, Columbine, and forgiveness: What Good Friday means today
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The long-awaited Mueller report was released to the public yesterday.

The reaction has been as partisan as we would expect. The president’s supporters and his critics are both using the report to claim vindication for their positions. Analysts are already speculating on ways the parties will use it in the 2020 election cycle.

We should not be surprised by this polarized response. Our culture has jettisoned absolute truth and objective morality, claiming tolerance for all viewpoints as our highest value. But this goes only halfway: many demand that we tolerate their views but feel no obligation to tolerate ours.

Years ago, a wise friend explained to me the three steps of political success: (1) convince people they have an enemy; (2) convince them that they cannot defeat their enemy; (3) convince them that I will defeat their enemy if they vote for me (or give me money, or do whatever I want them to do).

In our zero-sum, for-me-to-win-you-must-lose culture, is there a better way forward?

“Columbine” is now a category

The twentieth anniversary of the Columbine massacre is this Saturday.

On the morning of April 20, 1999, two teenagers began shooting fellow students outside Columbine High School in suburban Denver. They killed twelve students and a teacher and wounded twenty others before killing themselves.

Tragically, “Columbine” has become not just a name or an event but a category.

According to the Washington Post, 226,000 students have been exposed to gun violence at school since the Columbine shooting. At least 143 children, educators, and others have been killed in assaults, and another 294 have been injured.

The threat to our students is clearly not over. More than 130 schools across Denver closed Wednesday as authorities searched for a woman reportedly obsessed with the Columbine massacre and deemed a “credible threat to the community.” She was later found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

School shootings have become so common that a support group, the Principals Recovery Network, has been formed to help principals whose schools experience such tragedy.

Combining love and accountability

How can the Columbine survivors and families of the victims best respond to Sunday’s tragic anniversary? The answer is relevant not only to their grief but to our polarized society as well.

Jesus instructed us to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27–28). He also taught us to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

Does this mean that we do not hold people accountable for their sins? Absolutely not.

When someone sins against you, you are to “go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone” (Matthew 18:15). If he will not listen, you are to “take one or two others along with you” (v. 16). If he refuses to listen to them, “tell it to the church” (v. 17a). If he refuses to listen to the church, he is to be removed from the community of faith (v. 17b).

If the sin is criminal in nature, the state is to punish as “an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4). And the ultimate judge is God himself: “Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord'” (Romans 12:19).

The Mayo Clinic on forgiveness

According to the Mayo Clinic, “When someone you care about hurts you, you can hold on to anger, resentment and thoughts of revenge—or embrace forgiveness and move forward.” Mayo reports that refusing to forgive causes us to become depressed, live in the past, bring anger and bitterness into every new relationship, and lose purpose in life.

Of course, to forgive does not mean to forget. Those who survived Columbine can never forget that horrific day. Nor does it mean to excuse the shooters for their heinous crimes.

Forgiveness means to release them to the God of justice and honor the dead by living faithfully.

Rather than identify people exclusively on the basis of party or position, let’s see them as God sees them—souls for whom Jesus died.

The same is true with regard to the political animosity of our day. Rather than identify people exclusively on the basis of party or position, let’s see them as God sees them—souls for whom Jesus died.

Our gracious Father calls us to be bold but also forgiving (Acts 4:31; Ephesians 4:31). He wants us to speak biblical truth with conviction but also to love those with whom we disagree (Ephesians 4:15).

“Full of grace and truth”

On the first Good Friday, Jesus prayed from his cross for those who nailed him there (Luke 23:34). He died for them and for us: “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

Our Savior was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14, my emphasis). Let’s follow his example today.

NOTE: Have you seen Biblical Insight to Tough Questions?

It’s our weekly YouTube series that tackles the challenging questions Christians face.

This week, I’m discussing how we know Jesus is the son of God.

I pray it’s a blessing to you. Please let us know what you think by commenting on the video on YouTube.