by Father Mike Stubbs
Sometimes, people will confuse forgiving an offense with condoning it.
When the person committing the offense accepts responsibility and says, “I’m sorry,” the person who was hurt will sometimes then say, “That’s OK. It’s all right.”
But that is incorrect. It is not all right. If it were, then it would be permissible for the person to continue to commit the offense. That is true, whether it is the case of physical or sexual abuse in a family, bullying at school, or injuries on a much lesser scale. It is wrong for us to enable the offense to go on, even if we are the victim.
Instead, it is our responsibility to prevent evil whenever we can, whether the evil is directed at another person or at ourselves. That means that at times, we reprove another person. In doing so, we are showing love for that person. That is why one of the traditional works of mercy is: “Admonish the sinner.” Besides this work of mercy directed toward the sinner, there are two others which pertain to this topic: “Bearing wrongs patiently” and “Forgiving injuries.” Together, they should arrive at a certain balance.
Sunday’s first reading — Lev 19:1-2, 17-18 — instructs us: “Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen, do not incur sin because of him.”
What sin does the text have in mind? If we scold someone, that action may make us feel superior to that person. We might take a certain pleasure in that person’s discomfort, schadenfreude at their predicament. Leviticus calls us to avoid that approach.
Leviticus places this caution about reproving our neighbor in the context of not hating them, but, instead, loving them: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Conversely, “You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart.”
This passage also forms part of Leviticus called “the Holiness Code,” a list of commandments directed toward the people of Israel so that they might “be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.”
We arrive at holiness by imitating God, who is all holy.
God forgives sin, while not condoning it. On the contrary, God does all that is possible to prevent it. That is why Leviticus calls us to do the same.
If you wish to know how God deals with us, look at how God instructs us to deal with one another.