The God Squad: Forgive mass murderers? Two responses

May 03, 2013|By Rabbi Marc Gellman

My request that readers share their opinions about whether or not we should forgive the surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect generated a flood of articulate and deeply moving responses. Here are just two examples, followed by my response:

Why we should forgive the Boston bomber:

As a Christian pastor, I believe and I teach that Jesus clearly admonishes us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). He also teaches that if we don't forgive others, then God will not forgive us (Matthew 6:15). I strongly believe that we can and should offer forgiveness, while at the same time seeking justice through the courts in order to find peace and healing for our bodies, our souls and our nation.

I know it's not always easy for us humans to forgive others, especially when horrific crimes are committed. However, the difficulty of the task does not exempt us from trying to pardon another person in our hearts. Though granting forgiveness may not occur immediately, it can take place in God's time if we seek His will and guidance. I believe we should take seriously our calling to be the "salt and light" of the Earth, which means that, as believers, we're to look for ways to develop further the kingdom of God on Earth.


Thus, we shouldn't wait until all the conditions for granting forgiveness are favorable, for that may never happen. Failing to encourage forgiveness, however undeserved it may seem, will only allow more bitterness, anger and fear to fester in us. Thus, I encourage you to remind readers that peace and hope are possible, provided we allow God to help us forgive other sinners, just as we have been forgiven. — J., Durham, NC, via

Why we should not forgive the Boston bomber:

No. Not until we first forgive Adam Lanza, James Holmes, Jared Loughner, Nidal Hasan, Timothy McVeigh, Osama bin Laden and Adolf Hitler, none of whom I would ever forgive. To forgive any of these human monsters would be to devalue the lives of the innocent, decent people they killed and maimed. — R., Plainview, NY, via

My response:

I think J. has touched on a profound point that if we do not forgive, it corrodes our own souls and makes us less able to embody God's loving words and abundant compassion here on Earth.

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