Saturday, July 19, 2014

How Not To Be Forgiven

A more current version of this post is available here.

Forgiveness is the great equalizer. In extending Christian forgiveness, we acknowledge our own ongoing sins and failures and accept back those who have sinned against us in the knowledge that we, too, will fail them tomorrow and will go on failing them until the Lord returns.

Forgiveness makes every person my equal and everyone my brother or sister in the only sense that equality can ever be attained on earth and in the only sense that, from a human perspective, really matters.

But some people will not be forgiven.

The ‘Enlightened’ Will Not Be Forgiven

The progressive will not be forgiven because he does not acknowledge the concept of sin. The modern mind, intoxicated with the Spirit of the Age (a spirit that names itself ‘tolerance’ but is closer to an oblivious lack of discernment), unselfconsciously divides his world into three classes of individuals: Victims, Haters and the Enlightened:

Victims: ‘Victims’ cannot help themselves. They are what they are, and whatever actual age they may have attained, they will always be children in the eyes of their would-be benefactors. To the Enlightened, racial minorities are Victims (unless they are Jews); women are Victims (unless they are religious, conservative or anti-feminist); the poor are Victims (unless they are trying to change their status through hard work rather than handouts); sexual deviants, of course, are Victims; addicts are Victims; criminals are Victims; and so on and so forth.

Victims require endless tolerance, financial assistance and infinite latitude. No level of depravity from within the Victim class merits a negative reaction because a Victim is not to be blamed for what he is and what he cannot change. The Victim cannot be forgiven because he is not responsible for his actions.

Haters: ‘Haters’ also cannot help themselves. This is because they are ignorant and badly in need of education (or execution, depending on the mood of the progressive; I’ve seen both options enthused about, the latter usually on Twitter where the progressive doesn’t stop long enough to remind himself that in his haste to express his opinion he has inadvertently revealed his true agenda).

Haters are conservative, religious, white, rich, and usually male (unless someone normally considered in the ‘victim’ class espouses religion, conservatism, or traditional values, in which case progressives treat them even worse than those they label merely ignorant).

Haters must be shouted down and accused of racism, sexism or homophobia until they apologize for their intolerant behavior and submit to reeducation. Or burn at the stake, if the laws of the land allow. The Hater cannot be forgiven because he is unforgivable, if that concept has any meaning to a progressive.

The Enlightened: Over these two classes of permanent infants stand the ‘Enlightened’.

The Enlightened One is the sole arbiter of a ‘truth’ that excludes the notion of sin (though the content of that ‘truth’ changes almost weekly). For the Enlightened, forgiveness is a concept that forms no part of his language. Haters are to be crushed, Victims are to be indulged, but nobody can be forgiven. Because they possess the truth and are in their own minds ideologically neutral, operating above and outside the fray, the Enlightened neither forgive nor seek forgiveness for themselves.

‘Enlightened’ people require a complete reformation of their worldview before they can ever start correcting their practice.

The Unforgiving Will Not Be Forgiven

For some people, forgiveness is not a part of their experience because they refuse to genuinely and completely forgive. They acknowledge the idea of forgiveness in principle and even the Bible’s specific teaching on forgiveness, but somehow every wrong that takes place against them occurs accompanied by circumstances that, to them, reasonably preclude complete, heartfelt and final discharge of the wrong done.

This is usually expressed with words like “I can forgive it, but I can’t forget it” or “She said she was sorry, but she doesn’t really mean it”.

You may disagree with me here, but I suspect that the person who can’t forget something has not truly forgiven it. The moment you reoffend against them, your previous, ‘forgiven’ sins are trotted out and revisited: “You ALWAYS do that!”, “Why do you ALWAYS [fill in the blank]?” and so on. The resentment and anger that characterized their response to your original failure is still present.

God is not like that. He says, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” 

I suspect we are not to be like this either. The Lord tells us that if our brother:
“… sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” (Luke 17:4)
Seven times a day sounds like the sort of chronic sinfulness that might reasonably cause us to write off our brother as incorrigible, or to have cause to ‘remember’ his sins. But persistent sin is precisely the sort of thing we are to forgive when the sinner asks for it. Forgiveness of others is a prerequisite to experiencing forgiveness ourselves. It is not up to us to decide whether our brother is sufficiently sincere in his expression of repentance for our taste, whether he has made adequate atonement or groveled to our satisfaction.

The Lord has not left that judgment to us.

James says, “We all stumble in many ways”. The Lord said we are to forgive “from the heart”. Those who will not truly forgive have forgotten these words.

Unforgiving people require a reformation of their practice in order to really understand the Christian worldview they have embraced.

Those Who Won’t Ask For It Will Not Be Forgiven

For some people, forgiveness is not a part of their experience because they refuse to ask for it. Oh, they acknowledge that they do things that they shouldn’t do, but they do them because they are ‘human’, not because they are sinners. They are willing to be excused but not forgiven.

They see their sinful behavior as intrinsic to their person rather than as an action or thought they have engaged in that ought to be rejected. It is part of their nature. It makes them who they are. They want to be loved, not in spite of their sin but for it, because they cannot and will not give it up.

This is usually expressed with words like “I have to be myself”, “It’s who I am”, “But I was born this way” or “Don’t you love me for ME?” (where “me”, “myself” and “I” include and embrace all the things I refuse to stop doing).

Such people fail to distinguish between personality and character; between the genetic package they were handed by God at conception that cannot and need not be changed and the ongoing work of the Spirit of God in the heart of the believer to reform speech, thoughts and behavior, and ultimately produce Christian character.

Sins are character issues. Our personalities may incline us to them but do not compel us to perform them. We may have a predisposition — even a genetic predisposition — to this or that particular sin, but our natural impulses are not gods before whom we are to grovel and whose every whim we are to obey. They do not define us and we do not cease to be ‘ourselves’ (whatever that may mean) when we give them up.

James said “You do not have because you do not ask”. That most certainly includes forgiveness. The Lord himself declared, “Ask, and it will be given to you”.

But it is impossible to receive forgiveness if you don’t acknowledge your need of it.

*   *   *   *   *

All manner of sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people”, the Lord said. Forgiveness is available to everyone, for absolutely everything.

But some people just will not be forgiven.

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