Cain, the dominant first born son of Adam and Eve, hated his younger brother, Abel. Cain’s hatred knew no limit; he invited Abel to a secluded area and killed him. The resulting desire for revenge, led to Cain’s ultimate exclusion. The community would not offer forgiveness nor forget. Cain may have been banished from the community, but the people were still slaves to revenge (Gen.4).
Instance of wrong-doing occur all the time. If the wrong doer is repentant, they are more likely to be forgiven. But what happens when there is no repentance? The victim and perpetrator are imprisoned in the bondage of mutual exclusion; united in a wilful relationship of mutual hate. This toxic relationship, if left alone may never end, but spiral out of control.
People demand instant revenge when they are caught in the endless spiral of revenge, which gives birth to violence. Both parties view the same incident from different point of views and fail to find common ground for dialogue. One party sees itself as simply seeking justice, while the other may perceive the same action as taking revenge or perpetrating injustice. A “just” revenge leads to a “just” counter-revenge. Revenge also continues to spiral out of control because our actions are irreversible; even God cannot alter them. And so the desire for revenge seems irreversible. The only way out of this predicament of irreversibility is forgiveness.
Forgiveness breaks the power of the memories of the past; it sets us free. This act transcends the claims of the justice and brings the spiral of revenge to a grinding halt. Forgiveness creates an opportunity for reconciliation. We should forgive even if the other person does not ask for forgiveness; this will halt the spiral of revenge. No wonder Jesus Christ prayed from the cross for those who crucified him, “Father forgive them (Luke 23:34).”