I don't want to live in a world where Bill Cosby is a rapist. But neither did Andrea Constand, or anyone else he assaulted, and they weren't given the choice. So here we are. Another cultural icon, a beloved family actor and television personality, exposed as a broken, twisted man who took advantage of countless women for his own pleasure. Leaving them scarred and broken and silenced. And once the news settles, we're left to contemplate the Bill Cosbys in our own lives.
Can we hear Jesus saying, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." ?
It burns me, but if God is going to forgive me, then who am I to withhold forgiveness from anyone?
Here's the thing about forgiveness: it's not a feeling. It's not an emotional state, like you're at peace with something. And it's not conditional on your healing either. It has nothing to do with "getting over" something, or even with seeing justice being served. Forgiveness is the decision that someone doesn't owe you something anymore. It's release.
And that's what makes it so bloody difficult because we have been robbed and violated, there is a void that needs to be filled. We do need to be made whole and complete once more. Someone has taken something from us.
But the one who caused the injury is not the one to fill the void.
That's what's so despicable and horrific about un-forgiveness: we end up binding ourselves to the very person who wronged us, the person we cannot trust and want to have nothing to do with. It's the devil's ultimate joke on all of us, "Not only will I attack them all their lives long, wounding them in ways that make them lash out at others, but I'll also convince them to hold on to one another in bitterness forever!"
Un-forgiveness is the gift that keeps on giving. The wound that keeps on wounding.
When I look at these courtroom photos of Bill Cosby, I am grieved that a man will run from his sin for so long, all the while being torn apart by his guilt. You can see it on his face, behind his eyes. The agony, the shame. Yet he still seems unrepentant. My prayer for Bill, and for all our personal Bills, is that in his incarceration he will humble himself and experience the extravagant grace of Jesus Christ, who washes away all sin and calls even the most wayward of sons and daughters home to a place of peace and healing.
And my prayer, a thousand times over, for all of us who have been abused, raped, silenced, sidelined or violated in any way by anyone, is that we would find healing and restoration for the trauma and the decades of shame, in the arms of a God who loves us, and is with us, and has cried every time we have cried. That our wounds would be healed, that our voices would be heard, and that our deep agony would be salved by the only one capable of restoring all things, Jesus Christ.
And my hope also, truly, is that forgiveness will extend to Bill Cosby specifically. That his victims will make the conscious choice to say, "Bill, you have wounded us, we cannot trust you, you are not safe... but you owe us nothing. We release you to a higher authority. I am trusting your future to God, and I am trusting my future to God also. I am taking out the hook that has bound us together. The devil will not have the last laugh out of your choice to wound me. I am walking away in freedom. You are forgiven."
Not because he deserves it, or because he should get some special treatment... but because if he can't be forgiven, then who can?