Friday, February 6, 2009

The Shack - Day 5: Confessions, Forgiveness & Reconciliation

One of the most moving sections of The Shack is the healing that begins to take place in the heart of Mack. His time with the Trinity and the experiences he lived during that short weekend had a cleansing and restorative effect on him. God gave Mack the opportunity to sit as judge over the world. In his grief over the guilt of humanity, including that of his children who would need to pay for their sins, Mack cries out, “Could I go instead? . . . I’ll go in their place. . . .Please let me go for my children, please, I would be happy to . . . Please, I am begging you. . .” (164). Sarayu approvingly said to Mack, “Now you sound like Jesus. You have judged well, Mackenzie. I am so proud of you!” When Mack confessed his confusion about any judgment he had pronounced, Sarayu explained: “Oh, but you have. You have judged them worthy of love, even if it cost you everything. That is how Jesus loves” (164; See Hebrews 12:3).

But there was more. Mack’s lost and pain had made him stand as judge over God. He ultimately held God responsible for Missy’s death and could not embrace God without reservations. Sarayu explained: “It is you humans who have embraced evil and Papa has responded with goodness.” “Give up being his judge and know Papa for who he is. Then you will be able to embrace his love in the midst of your pain, instead of pushing him away with your self-centered perception of how you think the universe should be. Papa has crawled inside of your world to be with you, to be with Missy” (166; notice how Papa is now spoken of as a ‘he’; see Page 91).

As Mack began opening his heart to trust in Papa he received the unexpected gift of seeing Missy playing in what appeared to be heaven. The next few pages of the book are heart-warming, and a powerful picture of our future destiny with redeemed loved ones in eternity (166-179; read his description of the true nature of the Church on page 179).

But, the process of healing for Mack was far from over. He is confronted with two challenges necessary to finish his journey to wholeness and restoration: forgive his father, and forgive Missy’s murderer. Mack’s sentiments to Papa revealed his lingering deep hate and resentment regarding his little daughter’s murderer: “Redeem him? . . . I don’t want you to redeem him! I want you to hurt him, to punish him, to put him in hell” (228).

Papa reminded Mack of Jesus’ death and payment from the law’s demands for obedience and of his love for all men. “. . . he too is my son. I want to redeem him” (228). God’s love and compassion for even this serial killer was deep: “But I do” [love him] . . . “not for what he’s become, but for the broken child that has been twisted by his pain. I want to help you take on that nature that finds more power in love and forgiveness than hate” (229). Papa reminded Mack of the destruction that unforgiveness had caused in his own life (228-229).

Some have criticized Young on this emphasis of forgiving someone who is unrepentant. However, both Jesus, and Stephen forgave those who killed them even though they had not asked for forgiveness (Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60; See also Eph. 4:32). The forgiveness talked about in The Shack was therapeutic; it would prevent Mack from carrying endlessly the hate that filled his heart for his dad and for Missy’s murderer. However, I do believe that we are exhorted to “forgive one another” our sins (Eph. 4:32), even when those we forgive have not acknowledged their own sins or repented. That doesn’t mean that we are not responsible to ask for forgiveness from God and those we hurt, but that the person we have offended can release us from our guilt against them. It opens the door for us to come back with a repented heart and to have the forgiveness applied to us in time. The potentiality of forgiveness, we could say, can be extended from our part to others, and will be applied and enjoyed in time by the repentant sinner.

Tomorrow I’ll finish this review with some concluding thoughts on The Shack and will discuss what other Christians are saying about the book.
Shalam Shalum (stay healthy, at peace and prosperous) in 2009

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