Let’s say we live in a village at the edge of a jungle. We know full well that there are dangerous tigers in the jungle, carnivorous tigers licking their chops and waiting for the opportunity to pounce on their next prey. There’s one tiger in particular, with his sleek orange coat and distinctive growl who catches the attention of the villagers. He has huge jaws (might I say very huge, the most huge in the jungle?) and even sharper fangs. He prowls the outskirts of the village making periodic forays to assess his chances of procuring his next meal. The people report sitings, and some become restless. “We’ve got to track down this tiger and stop him now,” some cry. But how? There really isn’t much that they can do. And haven’t they all been told that their village is tiger-proof? There are guards, after all, and warning calls designed to prevent any roque tiger from entering.
But of course, we all know what happens. The tiger begins at the outskirts of the village, picking off the weakest villager first, and then another, and another. Seventeen nights and seventeen villagers and the tiger circles in for its fnal kill. It happens late one night. Pounce! The tiger gobbles up the chieftain’s daughter.
Everyone is distraught. They scream and sob and tremble with the terror of what is yet to come. They gnash their teeth in fury at the tiger. They rant and rave at the guards for their failure to protect them. Some shake their heads and say, “We should have seen it coming,” or “We should flee to the village up north.” What no one says is “We should forgive the tiger and seek reconciliation.”
Why is that?
Well, for one thing, it’s because forgiveness and reconciliation are difficult in the midst of an ongoing threat. You don’t talk about forgiving a tiger when every night it implements a new atrocity.
But more importantly, forgiveness seems meaningless when it comes to tigers. In its traditional sense, forgiveness entails moral judgment, and as much as we fear the tiger and hate what it is doing to our village, we cannot judge the tiger for being what it was created to be. It’s pointless and a waste of our spiritual energy. Furthermore, we’ve been given instructions that it sometimes behooves us to remember, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you.” Judgment rests with a Presence that is wiser and more compassionate than my own.
“WTF!” everything in me wants to protest in righteous anger. “Of course you should judge something so blatantly evil as this tiger.” But even as I write, I know my rancor is not good for my soul. It keeps me awake at night and ties my stomach in knots. It will not prevent the tiger from exacting its toll. I can rant and rave and share a hundred Facebook posts, but there are far more effective ways to respond to a dangerous tiger in our midst.
In this time of grief and chaos I need to use what spiritual gifts I have to help in burying our dead and comforting those who mourn. I am also called to take my turn at tiger watch, giving my time and money to the effort to keep this beast from carrying out his vicious mission- not just today and tomorrow, but as a lifelong commitment. I’ll try to set whatever traps are needed to capture this tiger and prevent it from using those huge jaws and sharp fangs against the most vulnerable among us. And I aim to do whatever is within my power to engage in the political process and make our village safe from the next tiger who ventures out of the jungle.