Sometimes we need to be jarred by seeing the logical outcome of our line of reasoning . . .
There once was a man of great stature in the church. He knew his Bible more than the rest. Others came to him for advice. What they did not know was that this man had a secret. Emily, his granddaughter, had lived with her mother and him ever since her father had died. What Emily’s mother agreed not to see were her father’s nighttime visits to Emily’s room. Emily dreaded the night and her grandfather, the pillar of the church.
Many years past. Emily’s grandfather and mother died. Emily died as a result of her boyfriend’s beating. She was carried by the angels to a place of torment. She lifted up her eyes and saw afar off her mother and grandfather in the bosom of Abraham. She cried out, “Grandfather, have mercy on me; send my mother over here with a glass of water so that I can cool my tongue. I’m in anguish in these flames.”
But Abraham replied, “Emily, remember in your life how you struggled to forgive your grandfather and your mother for what happened to you. You never quite forgave them. You had the privilege of growing up in a Christian home. You never wanted for anything. They forgave you for your angry outbursts, your false accusations and your disruption of the family. They were faithful church goers and gave their life in service to the local congregation that you abandoned years ago. So now, they are in paradise and you, well, you know where you are. Besides all this, Emily, there a great gulf between you and and us so that they could not pass from here to you, even if they wanted to.”
Emily pleaded with Abraham, “Please, let me go back and warn my daughter. She has never forgiven her father for what he did to her just as I could not forgive my grandfather. If I don’t warn her, she will end up here with me.” Her mother and grandfather said nothing. But Abraham replied, “She has all the Christian self-help books she needs to help her see her need to forgive. If she doesn’t listen to them, she won’t listen to anyone. If she does not forgive her father, she will likewise perish.”
This fictional story is a grotesque adaptation of Luke 16:19-31. It represents, however, the unseen conclusions of the American Evangelical doctrine of forgiveness.