"Bear with one another and forgive whatever grievances you may have with one another. Forgive as the Lord has forgiven you." Colossians 3:13
This review contains spoilers. Be warned.
All Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp) had to do was forgive. Because he did not, a chain of unfortunate events led him (and many others) to a tragic death.
In Sweeney Todd, Barker was falsely accused and imprisoned for fifteen years for a crime he did not commit. Meanwhile his wife (Laura Michelle Kelly) was raped by a jealous judge (Alan Rickman), and his daughter (Jayne Wisener) was imprisoned by the same man. While it may have been hard to do, all he had to do was forgive.
Instead, Barker morphs into the vengeful, brooding Sweeney Todd, a barber whose lust for blood is perfect for the sinister Mrs. Lovett (Helen Bonham Carter) who uses Todd's dead victims for her mincemeat pies. But this bloodlust leads Todd to accidentally murder his own wife, and eventually to his own death.
But had he forgiven the injustices to him (severe though they were), he would have avoided this sad twist of fate.
Jesus said "Whatever you bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven." (Matt. 18:18). In other words, since Benjamin Barker was bound to his hatred, the very hatred was bound to him. He led a dark, unhappy, friendless life and died a tragic, loney death. Had he loosened his anger, maybe his new life would have been less tragic, perhaps even joyous?
Forgiveness can be one of the most difficult things for us to do. Anger and hatred are our human response to the injustice in this world and to ours very selves. When we are hurt, our body naturally wants to react against it; it is our primal nature. But Christ came to show us that we are better than our primal nature. Forgiveness goes against the laws of nature, for it shows us a glimpse of the laws of heaven.
Paul begged the Colossians to "bear with one another and forgive whatever grievances you have with one another" just as "the Lord has forgiven you." (Colossians 3:13) I love the translation here: "bear with one another" - sometimes it simply comes down to this. We may not like forgiving each other, but we must grin and bear it - for it is the essense of the kingdom of God.
Benjamin Barker had much to be angry about. His life and all that was precious to him was taken from him in the blink of an eye. More than that, he could point to the very people who put him in this place. It is understandable why Barker become the vengeful Sweeney Todd.
But that is not our calling, if we are to be followers of God.
No matter what harm or injustice befalls us, we are commanded to forgive. For if we don't, we might be bound to the hatred that overwhelms us and our lives may never be the same. I am not saying that those who forgive will lead sunny, perfect lives; but I am saying that those who do not forgive will never lead sunny, perfect lives. Psychologists have even discovered that those who don't forgive are tortured throughout their lives, and that torture eats away at their pysche. Sweeney Todd is an extreme example of this proven phenomenon.
Jesus ceaselessly preached forgiveness. It is one of the major themes of the four gospels, not to mention countless other religious texts from around the world. Two thousand years later, we still haven't heard it enough, for vengance and hatred are still present in our world.
What freedom, what joy awaits us when we let loose our anger. Imagine what joy the world might experience if everyone did the same. What great possibilities await those who forgive!