Look around at any gathering--whether it be a sporting event, a
civic meeting, or a worship service--and you will likely see
representatives of two groups of people. On one hand there will be
someone who has caused grievous harm to another person by physical
mistreatment, emotional abuse, sexual victimization, violence, or
any number of other ways. On the other hand will be those who have
been harmed by just these same evils.
While the two groups are inextricably linked, and while it is
far too often the case that an individual can be both abused and
abuser, nonetheless the two groups stand before God with very
different sets of needs. In Christian theology, however, we have
approached these very different sets of personal situations with
one vocabulary and one solution. Traditionally, we have had only
the language of sin to describe these very different human
predicaments. What's more, we have offered but one solution to the
problem, the two-way transaction of God's forgiveness of sinners.
Yet when one person harms another, that action not only violates
God's will, but also unleashes anguish and misery in the victim,
scarring his or her soul. We are right to speak of the sinner's
need of forgiveness, but we have forgotten to take the next step:
to seek healing for the victims. Having drawn the map of salvation
for sinners, we have left it to those who have been sinned against
to find their own way to wholeness and peace.
Andrew Sung Park argues that it is time for the church and its
theology to face this issue and work toward its remedy. It is time
to give a name to the suffering of those who have been sinned
against and to seek their healing. He proposes that the Korean
religious term han can serve as an instrument in this endeavor.
While it is an intricate concept, in short han can be defined as
the psychic and spiritual hurt caused by unjust oppression and
suffering. As the church seeks to play its distinctive role in
healing the wounds of abuse and violence, the idea of han can be a
powerful tool. It can allow pastors and other caregivers to explore
the depths of anguish that victims experience. It can illustrate
the fact that, having sinned against their victims as well as
against God, the perpetrators of violence and abuse must seek
salvation not only by asking for God's forgiveness, but also by
working for the healing of those they have wronged.
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