Redemption and Forgiveness in This World

Several years ago, I chaired a search committee to find a new director of a non-profit institution. We enthusiastically sent to the board for approval someone we thought was a terrific candidate in so very many ways. We then discovered that he had in the past falsified something on his resume. As I recall, it was something unimportant, some extra degree that would not have made a slightest difference to his getting the job. But, integrity and trustworthiness being necessary characteristics of the position in question, we decided he was disqualified from consideration. I remember struggling at the time with the question, wondering whether our judgment based on his past sin was too harsh.

Another incident occurred more recently that raised the same question. A friend with a high position in his field engaged in a criminal act. Not a particularly serious criminal act (in fact, it was fairly minor), but one that showed bad judgment given his position. When the incident became public, he resigned from his position. He has been unable, as of yet, to secure another position in his field.

The issue I struggle with is how we deal in this world with people who have committed acts we label as wrong (which may or may not be criminal in a legal sense). I’m not here talking about ultimate forgiveness for our sins. We know that God always welcomes us back if we have contrition for the wrongs we have committed. I’m concerned with how we react in the here-and-now.

We Christians talk a lot about forgiveness. When asked how many times one should forgive, Jesusa says, not seven, but seventy times seven. We pray in the Lord’s Prayer that the Lord forgive us as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean one offers a position requiring trust to an untrustworthy person. But perhaps it means there is a heavy burden that has to be met before concluding that because one once falsified his resume that he can never again be trusted. And I think it must mean that our presumption is that we give someone who has acknowledged committing a single wrongful act (even a criminal one) a second chance. Maybe there are some acts one simply can not recover from in this world, but that is a conclusion I resist coming to.

If it wasn’t too long a label, I’d tag this post as an “I’m thinking out loud trying to work something out” post. So I’d be grateful for whatever thoughts anyone has on the question.