Thursday, June 01, 2017

What Are the Boundaries of Forgiveness?

Are there actions or attitudes for which we will not forgive people? Well-publicized stunts or statements that horrify and cross societal lines of decency like a "comedian's" posing with a bloody head of a politician or a rock singer calling for violence against a national leader stir frenzied retorts. If a perpetrator apologizes in the midst of widespread public outrage, many question the sincerity of that apology. A man is convicted of identity theft; a women is convicted of sex with a boy who was her student at local school. We find it difficult to trust. You learn that your physician also performs abortions, or that a high school friend exploded a bomb at an abortion clinic. A friend married someone of the same gender, or another friend condemned that action. Last year, I read a social media post that identified being against divorce and remarriage as the most important indicator of faithfulness to Christ. Here is the question: What do you do when any of these people or the people that they oppose (if you agree with them) start attending the church where you worship? What do you require as proof of repentance? What are your conditions before you will forgive? What do you believe are the limits of God's grace? Some of the situations mentioned above might require different responses; a few might have legal requirements that present challenges to any assimilation. What would Jesus do? He reached out and touched lepers. He told an adulterous women to "go and sin no more" after quieting a group of men that wanted to stone her to death. He told a parable of a father who forgave a rebellious son and celebrated his return with a party (His other son did not appreciate the celebration). He also rejected some who could not commit fully to discipleship. I do not intend to minimize the horror of sin. I do ask how well we handle forgiveness. I question how well we help the fallen get back on their feet. Are the boundaries we set the boundaries that Christ sets? If we think that they are, have we considered carefully the arguments of those who disagree with us? How well do we comfort those whom God has called to salvation? How do we protect those who are vulnerable if they fall back into sin? What are the boundaries of forgiveness?

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