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Lodi pastor to bombing suspect: I forgive you

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Posted: Wednesday, April 24, 2013 12:00 am

Dear Dzhokhar:

It has been a hard week. You hurt a lot of people in Boston and around the world. The injuries to both body and soul will last the lifetimes of the victims. I cannot begin to fathom what events transpired that provoked you to participate in such evil. Ultimately, it doesn't matter.

Almost every day in my prayers, I have asked God to "forgive my sins as I forgive those who have sinned against me." It will take me a long time to fully forgive you, but I do forgive you. There will be weeks that I will have to forgive you every day, but soon my forgiveness of you will become permanent. I can only imagine the frequency of forgiveness that will be given by those whom you hurt more directly.

While I don't understand what motivated the evil behind your attacks in Boston, I do understand what motivates such forgiveness. Love, the opposite of hate, gives forgiveness its power. Without love there can be no forgiveness. It is love, not hate, which overthrows oppression, binds the world into community, and forms civilizations which recognize the basic human rights and dignity of each individual.

Forgiveness is an act of strength, courage and triumph. Terrorism is an act of weakness, cowardice and failure. Terrorists are not heroes. Heroes give their lives to stop oppression and to protect the innocent. Terrorists kill the innocent to make a point. Heroes are motivated by love. Terrorists are motivated by hate.

Love is stronger than hate. This is why non-violent movements motivated by love often achieve their goals against oppression and hatred.

The U.S. Civil Rights Movement, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez and others, the work of Ghandi leading to the independence of India, and the marches led by German Lutheran youth groups in opposition to the Berlin Wall are examples of the power of love and non-violence over oppression and hatred. Terrorist attacks have never won or done anything to advance their cause.

Love forms the foundation of all legitimate human religion. I am a Christian. Whenever I take time to consider the profound love and forgiveness given to me by my God I am strengthened to love. Usually, love is thought of as a matter of the heart. Love for family, one's spouse, a good friend are mysterious, powerful emotions. But love can also originate in the head.

Jesus said, "Love your enemies." When he said this, he wasn't speaking of a warm, fuzzy emotion. He was speaking of an unconditional love, one that is not based even on the condition of emotion. Love in this context means a willingness to care and provide for another regardless of our personal emotional state.

When religion gets twisted, love is replaced by hate. When this happens, it is no longer a religion but an ideology of evil.

Love can be a choice, and I am choosing to love you by forgiving you. My forgiveness of you is the triumph of love. As I forgive you, I am telling you and the world that your recent actions will have no power over my future.

In many ways, my forgiveness of you is a selfish act. My forgiving you is not based on any remorse, or sense of guilt or desire which you may have for forgiveness. My forgiveness of you does not mean that what you have done to me is OK. My forgiveness of you does not mean that I will forget what you have done. But by forgiving you, I am letting you know that I am moving forward with my life and that your actions will not govern how I live in the future.

You hurt me. You hurt the people of my nation, and you have hurt all of humanity. What you did was wrong, mean, hateful, dumb, spiteful, ignorant, cowardly, insane and evil. But I forgive you, because love is greater than the evil which you have perpetrated.

It doesn't matter if you want it or not. Love wins. I pray that you will learn this and then live a life of love. If you ever desire a conversation about that, please contact me.

Love,

The Rev. Mark Price

Senior Pastor, St. Paul Lutheran Church

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