C.S. Lewis once said,
“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”
Over the last couple of weeks, I really started to think about forgiveness and what it means not only in the life of a Christian, but also in broader terms for society.
Escalation of Incivility
Part of my job is to pay attention to the news and grab the “hot topics” of the day so a radio show host has something to talk about for three hours. Over the last week, I was disheartened by what seemed like a push for the general public to do away with civility.
For example, Eric Holder stated, “When they go low…we kick them!”
Or take Hillary Clinton who said, “If we are fortunate enough to win back the House and, or the Senate, that’s when civility can start again.”
But this disturbing talk isn’t just emanating from high-profile political figures on the left. There’s been those on the right of the political spectrum that aren’t helping at all. For example, GOP Pennsylvania candidate for governor, Scott Wagner, released a video where he was threatening to “stomp the face” of his opponent.
Wagner has since taken the video down.
It seems as though there are some who wish to do away with civility, are not interested in forgiving “the other side,” and are just looking for reasons to excuse violence.
What Does The Bible Say
One could argue that forgiveness is one of the main themes in Christianity. Jesus went to the cross and endured the full wrath of God the Father so that we may be forgiven of our own sins.
It’s a Spiritual Mandate
It is because of Jesus’ sacrifice that God makes it a spiritual mandate. It’s clear through Mark in 6:15 that, “But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
In fact, there is a parable about an unforgiving servant found in Matthew 18:21-35. In order for us to receive forgiveness from God, we need to forgive others.
We Should Forgive Even When It Isn’t Asked For
Luke 23:34 states, “And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.”
The people gathered around Him, casting lots for his clothes, didn’t ask Jesus for forgiveness. And yet, He asked God the Father to forgive them. If Jesus is truly the center of our lives and we are His disciples, then we should conduct ourselves like Him.
In Luke 23:34 what do we see? We see Jesus forgiving His enemies as He hung on the cross dying. If He can do that, think of the things we can forgive in others.
It is the Best Way to Keep the Peace
1 Peter 3:9-11 states, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.”
While the above verse does not explicitly reference forgiveness, it is through the releasing of anger and bitterness in forgiveness that peace can be made between individuals.
The Physical Benefits of Forgiveness
- Healthier relationships
- Improved mental health
- Less anxiety, stress, and hostility
- Lower blood pressure
- Fewer symptoms of depression
- A stronger immune system
- Improved heart health
- Improved self-esteem
Dr. Voddie Baucham once said in a lecture about why there’s evil in the world, “Too many people think the problem is OUT THERE!” The idea is that someone else needs to change. Someone else is the problem. Sadly, I think this mentality has spilled over into our political discourse as well as into other avenues of our culture.
None of this is new of course. Political and cultural tensions have been around for centuries. God in His infinite wisdom not only understood the spiritual ramifications of unforgiveness, but also the physical and social problems that arise when we choose to remain bitter and angry over everything from the smallest slight to the latest outrage on our televisions.
We measure whether or not someone deserves to be forgiven based upon how they’ve slighted us or offended us. However, we should forgive others not only for our own physical well being but because it is mandated by God Himself.
Frankly, it’s not about you or me. It’s about Him.
He is the only judge who will judge with righteousness, He is the avenger, He will repay.
Forgiveness doesn’t start when “THEY” do it first. Forgiveness starts with you and with me in our own lives both online and offline. We must each make the conscious decision to forgive the unforgivable in others. It’s the only way to stop the cycle of escalation in its tracks.