There has been a very disturbing trend in our nation during the last couple of decades. While there has always been a tendency to rush to judgment over certain events, condemning someone whether or not they are guilty, the new trend is to make this tendency standard practice. The condemnation and judgment then lead to negative actions. Waiting to hear an explanation, waiting for proof of guilt, or even waiting for an apology no longer seem to matter. And if you fail to follow the collective thinking or encourage others to wait for more information, you are in danger of the same condemnation and judgment.
Is this trend pleasing to God? What does our Savior think of “cancel culture” and the rush to judgment? What do we do if someone apologizes or asks for forgiveness for a public sin? Our culture now essentially tells us that we must not forgive or forget someone’s action whether or not they are sorry for that action. It is more important that they receive “justice” from the majority. Unfortunately, that “justice” is often revenge and leaves our nation’s laws and presumption of innocence out of the equation. This type of “justice” always leaves God and His Word out of the decision-making process.
In the Book of Matthew, we read, Peter came up and asked Jesus, “Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother when he sins against me? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but I tell you as many as seventy-seven times (Matthew 18:21-22 EHV). Jesus then went on to tell the parable of the unmerciful servant. The point was to show Peter and the other disciples, along with believers of all time, that forgiving our neighbor is not optional.
Get rid of every kind of bitterness, rage, anger, quarreling, and slander, along with every kind of malice. Instead, be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:31-32 EHV). Those words can be difficult to hear and often even more difficult to live. The key to us forgiving others is the end of that passage: just as God in Christ has forgiven us. We did not and do not earn forgiveness from God. Jesus earned it for us and paid for it with His life. In faith we repent of our sins, and in faith we receive the forgiveness earned for us. When we consider ourselves and the countless times we have sinned against others and against God, how can we fail to forgive our neighbor?
As our culture continues to “cancel” others whether or not they have apologized for their actions, it is our privilege as Christians to stand apart from the culture. It is our honor to wait for explanations and listen to apologies. And it is our joy to forgive, just as God in Christ has forgiven us.
Rev. Paul Fries