In teaching about the power of forgiveness, Jesus cited the example of the one who was forgiven of much and compared the response of that forgiven one to another who was forgiven of little. See Luke 7:37-47. What does this story tell us about the power of forgiveness? Is it not that when we forgive someone of a most heinous offense, our forgiveness elicits the most powerful response or reaction in the perpetrator. How unlike our normal thinking. Usually we feel like those who wrong us the most are the least likely to be positively affected by our forgiveness. The worse the crime the more hardened the sinner is our automatic assumption and the less we are likely to feel the sinner will be altered by our forgiving them.
As a counterpoint, we need only look to the aftermath of the church shooting in Charleston, SC, some months back. This crime was immediately followed by an expression of forgiveness from the injured families and the associated congregation. Out of that powerful example of forgiveness, the SC government responded by eliminating the display of the Confederate battle flag as part of their official state symbolism. Where years of complaint had failed to move the authorities on this subject, a simple but unusually powerful example of forgiveness did move them. Forgiveness of this magnitude could not be ignored; it simply overwhelmed the observing officials.
We are now and have been throughout our history in the business of responding to various offenses with aggression and violence, contrary to the biblical notion that forgiveness is more transformative and effective in diverting further offenses. Whatever our personal bias against forgiving the most offensive among us, we should all be able to see that history demonstrates the absolute futility of trying to out hate the haters or effectively isolate ourselves from them. Another option is clearly needed. Didn't Jesus suggest as much?