Many times on The Voice of One I have expressed my concern over the spiritual ruin our culture is courting. My biggest concern is not racism, sexism, classism, or any of the other things society is morbidly obsessed about. What keeps me up at night is the accusation and unforgiveness running roughshod over America today. We imagine we can purge ourselves of evil by firing people, tearing down statues, boycotting, and the like. Social media lynch mobs run from one virtual hanging to another. Despite the virtue of our causes, I fear we are just damning ourselves in the end.
Jesus said, “For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing” (Matt. 6:14-15). Think about that: Jesus offers no escape clause, no extenuating circumstances. Whatever has happened to me or been done to me, Jesus says forgive. Period.
Someone might respond that people who have suffered injustice are angry; they need justice. I agree, and when I am mistreated, it makes me angry. But I would push back: political outrage, property damage, media assassination, storming government buildings, and public defaming are not justice and will not bring anyone the healing they need. Only forgiveness will begin that process. Forgiving people are the only people who are truly just; they own that they are guilty of no less than the one who injured them. Many in our society only decry the sins of others. This isn’t justice, it’s denial and hypocrisy.
Christianity teaches that everyone has sinned. The playing field is level. Because of that, everyone can be forgiven freely through Jesus (Rom. 3:23-24). If God offers such free and full forgiveness, who are we to withhold it from others?
Again, someone might protest that those who have perpetrated injustice need to own up to the evils they’ve committed before their victims forgive them. I agree that we should all own our wrongdoing, whatever it is. But forgiveness isn’t dependent on someone admitting they’ve wronged us. Jesus didn’t give us that option or model it. Jesus forgave us while hanging on the cross—suffocating—before anyone acknowledged failure or guilt. “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” (Rom. 5:8).
I realize not everyone can hear this message. It’s intoxicating to feel you’re on the “right side of history.” This is a status-addiction that’s hard to kick. It is also harder to work yourself into a lather when eye to eye with another person who is flawed like you. Righteous indignation thrives through dehumanizing labels like “oppressor / oppressed.” Forgiveness doesn’t allow for such categories. Instead, we are all only human and in need of mercy.