Mending Fences: Where Does Forgiveness Fit in All of This?
I’m tired of the current news cycle. No one is innocent. Right principles coupled with wrong behavior are rendered to be little more than armchair quarterback ideals. The only way any of the racial tension, the political fanfare, and the social media “whatever-ness” will end is for someone to step forward and say, “I was wrong. I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”
One of the most powerful bits of instruction I’ve ever heard with regard to reconciliation went something like this, “If you are 2 percent wrong in a conflict, you need to take 100 percent responsibility for that 2 percent.” The sentiment is that typically, in human conflict, no one is 100 percent innocent. This stands true in divorce, in racial conflict, even in court cases.
So, how are we to respond to someone who has wronged us, or someone whom we have wronged? If we have done something sinful against another person, Scripture makes it clear that we are to apologize and ask for their forgiveness. If they refuse to give it, that issue remains between them and God. The principle stands on the other side of the coin as well. If someone asks us for forgiveness, it’s our responsibility to hear their case and be honest with them regarding whether or not we actually forgive them at that point in time. If we do, we should tell them. From that point forward, we work not to allow that misstep to interfere with mending our relationship. If we don’t forgive the person, it’s our responsibility to tell them that also—and to pray that one day we can. Once we do forgive that person, it’s also on us to let them know.
Notice that I didn’t use the phrase “Forgive and forget”? It’s unbiblical. God is not an old senile man in some forgotten nursing home who conveniently forgets to take his medication. When Scripture says God “casts our sin as far as the east is from the west” (paraphrasing Psalm 103:12), it means he no longer holds our trespasses as a “lien” against our account. When God forgives, He forgives completely. Likewise, it’s not our job to behave differently than our just God would in any situation.
What I’m most concerned with through all of the cultural division that is being propagated today is the condition of our relationships. Do we care about how our relationships (as Facebook-esque as they may be) exist in this world? The number of damaged and unreconciled relationships that existed presocial media was bad enough. What is perhaps most disturbing is how far off the message of the gospel our current view of relationships has become.
The Son of God died on the cross to reconcile your relationship with the one and only Holy God of all. You didn’t want to have anything to do with cleaning up your life, and yet he did it anyway. How does that image fit into the NFL demonstrations? How does that image fit into the modern mutation of Martin Luther King Jr.’s noble beginnings?
I don’t believe the biggest issue we’re facing right now is whether or not a football team stands or kneels during the national anthem, as tacky as it may be. Our bigger issue is how the United States is going to begin reconciling its one-on-one relationships between family members, neighbors, friends and coworkers.
Jim Richman is an author, speaker, and outdoorsman. He is Editor-in-Chief of Journal of a Christian Sportsman, a blog for Christian outdoorsmen from around the world. To find out more about Jim, click here.
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