Yesterday morning you managed to run a stop sign and crash into my wife’s vehicle, leaving both her and our four-month old stranded on the side of the road. We have witnesses, we have statements, a description of your car, and a piece of your headlight that you left behind at the scene.
Obviously you did us wrong—once by hitting my family, and twice by fleeing the scene. Justice has not been carried out.
But I am here to tell you something bold. Something so bold, even some of my Christian brothers and sisters will be upset with me.
I forgive you.
I forgive you for leaving my family behind at the scene without checking on them and I have chosen to not consider the “what-ifs.” “What if my wife had been injured?” “What if my son had been thrashed around?” The good news is (and I thank God for this) that my family is fine. Sure, my wife felt the after-effects of the event later that night, but altogether she’s doing well. I am not going to hold the what-ifs against you because that’s all they are: “what-ifs.” In this case, contemplating them would only make me pointlessly angry.
I forgive you for the damage you did to our car. It’s not covered by our insurance and will cost a bit of money to fix—more money than we’re willing to invest in it actually. It is fortunate we have acknowledged the fact that we may need a new car over the next few years and that the idea of buying one was not a complete and total surprise. Though you have forced our hand to do this while we are not in the greatest financial state, I still choose to forgive you.
I’ve been told that if we could find you, we would be able to sue you up to a thousand dollars—but neither my wife or I want to do that. As I try to put myself in your shoes, it seems to me that you must be in a difficult financial state of your own. Since you fled the scene, my guess is you do not have the proper insurance to cover the accident (or that you’re covering yourself for some other reason). Therefore, my family does not wish to make your financial state any more difficult than it currently is, even if we do have the full authority to do so. As I put myself in your shoes, I realize I too have ran stop signs and driven recklessly at times. As I put myself in your shoes, I see myself as having the capacity to be like you. As Henri Nouwen says:
“Compassion grows with the inner recognition that your neighbor shares your humanity with you. This partnership cuts through all walls that might have kept you separate. Across all barriers of land and language, wealth and poverty, knowledge and ignorance, we are one. Created from the same dust, subject to the same to the same laws, and destined for the same end. With this compassion you can say, “In the face of the oppressed, I recognize my own face. And in the hands of the oppressor, I recognize my own hand. Their flesh is my flesh. Their blood is my blood. Their pain is my pain. Their smile is my smile. Their ability to torture is in me too. Their capacity to forgive I find also in myself. There is nothing in me that does not belong to them too. Nothing in them that does not belong to me. In my heart I know they’re yearning for love and down to my entrails, I can feel their cruelty. In another’s eyes I see my plea for forgiveness and in a hardened frown I see my refusal. When someone murders, I know that I too could have done that. And when someone gives birth I know that I am capable of that as well. In the depths of my being I meet my fellow humans with whom I share love and have life and death.”
Obviously, what you did was not right, and I hope that you will not do it again should you find yourself in a similar situation. But regardless of what you did, my Savior Jesus calls me to appeal to the backwards politics of the Kingdom of Heaven and extend to you the grace, mercy, and forgiveness that you don’t deserve. He points to the cross and reminds me of the bloodshed on my behalf even though I didn’t deserve it—even though I put the nails through those hands. He asks me to turn the other cheek, to offer you my cloak, and to go the extra mile. He draws in the dust that makes up my life and asks me if I am without sin.
I drop my stone.
I forgive you.
And I ask my Savior to do the same.
May you be blessed and come to know (or rediscover) the great love of the cross,