Forgiveness might seem counter to justice and fairness, but current events show that #SecularSocietyIsNotFair and #SecularSocietyIsNotForgiving, thus fueling many societal problems.
21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
~ Mt 18:21-22
There are many examples of how society believes it knows best. Mankind continually marches on towards destruction as it touts how much more it knows than the Creator Who breathed life into the first human being.
A lack of forgiveness permeates secular society at all of its levels. A hardness has set in even where believers once were literally the most liberal-minded of all. In the end, this hardness has created neither more justice nor more fairness. In fact, it seems it has created just the opposite.
“It’s Their Own Fault”
Over and over again, I hear a lot about personal responsibility, and I hear it way too often from the elites within the Church of God organizations. After a while, it starts to sound rather harsh, however, and it really makes you wonder if there isn’t an ulterior motive involved.
Is this blaming the victim? In actuality, the notion that people are in dire straits due to their own fault assumes that the person has not done all within their capability to resolve and/or avoid the issues to begin with. In all honesty, it requires intimate knowledge of the person, else it assumes the person judging can read the person’s heart!
Is that a safe place to be? What if we were being judged for that?
More to the point, even if it was the person’s fault, what difference does it make? How many of our sins that we’ve committed are our own fault? Yet, does God forgive us or not?
Teach a Man to Fish
Everyone loves the teach a man to fish quote, it seems.
Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you’ll feed him for a lifetime
I don’t want to poo-poo the general premise, but I keep pondering: Is this proverb being abused?
Here’s my take on it:
Give a hungry man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day; teach a hungry man to fish, and he’ll eat the bait.
We intuitively know that hungry children do not do well in school. However, do we understand that hungry adults to not learn well either?
In a religious setting, I’ve heard messages blasting “the world’s” effort to spread what they understand of the Gospel. First, it seems obligatory to point out that it is only part of the message (if we give them any credit at all, that is). Then, we blast them for feeding and clothing the people and making them sit through a sermon.
I have to wonder, though, do we understand that people who are cold and hungry do not listen and respond well to any message? Even Jesus, the ultimate example of a preacher, sat down crowds to feed them. Often, He healed publicly when it was quite obvious that those being healed just did not “get” it (quite like many today, in fact).
And yet, who is getting their message out the best? The COGs with their hospitals? Oh, wait … The COGs with their grand initiatives to feed and clothe the poor? Oh, wait … No, the evangelicals and even the SDAs are better at spreading their message and understanding the basic concept that people who are in pain, hungry and cold cannot absorb any message at all.
And, perhaps it is obvious, but not addressing physical needs just plain does not show love!
16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?
~ Jas 2:16
Does anyone else want to flat out say, “Well, duh”?
We live in a world of extremes, and those extremes rub off on God’s people so much that it is pitiful and downright shameful. No, you give someone a fish to eat, and then teach him to fish.
Otherwise, it becomes an excuse to do nothing.
And, how many tell people to go to the world for assistance? Yes, I understand we pay taxes for various social programs, but has anyone noticed that they just plain don’t work very well? These are the systems of the world. Where is our inner humanity?
Don’t get me wrong. If you are in need, you should go out and find assistance. However, once again, doesn’t the fact that such programs exist become an excuse to do nothing in the minds of some?
Furthermore, the fact that some in the Church will both say that the right thing is to teach a person to fish yet tell them to go to handout agencies is a lesson in cognitive dissonance if I ever saw one. It is also a convenient way to justify doing nothing.
It is time to admit that hardness of the heart is a sin, and some of us have been infected by it.
The biblical model is that we take care of our own, and this expands out in an ever widening circle until it encompasses all humanity. Paul admonished that a man takes care of his own family (1Ti 5:8), and the OT teaches us that we are not to turn our backs on our “own flesh” (Isa 58:7).
The Death Penalty
The death penalty is often views as “cruel and unusual punishment”. Yet, the convoluted means by which offenders are dealt with is far worse than simply ending the suffering of the offender.
What is the end result of putting our own views of morality above God’s? We cage people up for the rest of their lives, ensuring that they will never be productive members of society. In some cases, they have nothing better to do than either think up ways to escape or otherwise cause trouble with endless legal entanglements.
Even lesser offenders are dealt with in a very inhumane manner. In fact, their plight is often worse. They are virtually marked for life. They are let out, and recidivism is quite high. No wonder. If someone has a record, how can they make an honest living when no one will hire them, no one will give them housing, and frankly no one cares? They may as well re-offend, do whatever they want and go back in. At least there, they have three meals a day and a roof over their head.
Yeah, but the death penalty is cruel and unusual? The problem is nipped in the bud.
Furthermore, the biblical model does not have people sitting around in jail being unproductive. If they steal and owe anything, they work it off. This requires a means for them to be productive members of society. It forces the issue.
Also, the biblical model enforces the forgiveness of debts at regular intervals. Nothing is more stupid than not employing someone because they have had debt issues. Seriously, don’t people seek jobs because they need money? This isn’t cognitive dissonance; this is hypocrisy.
Granted, the old fashioned chain gangs were a type of enforced slavery, and the Bible forbids causing fellow citizens to serve with rigor (Lev 25:39-43). However, the Bible does not condone an attitude of swinging from one extreme to another, and it specifically gives guidance for repaying debts no matter how incurred.
Forgiveness Covers Sins
8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
~ 1Pe 4:8
As I’m sitting here, listening to the news, it seems that protests and riots have dominated the news for the past few months. Has it been worse? Well, 1968 was a record year for street violence similar to what we are seeing today, so this is not exactly anything new.
And, frankly, that should alarm us. When are we going to wake up and understand that society is crumbling, and the core reason is that we have put God’s view on love, forgiveness and morality in general out of public view? We as a nation have shunned Him in public!
The consequences, I believe, will eventually be a revolution. That’s too bad, too, because revolutions most often wind up with a worse more corrupt government in place. The American Revolution was a very unique type of revolution, and even that took a lot of time and effort to stem what is the usual result.
What modern revolution has made things better? Egypt? Yemen? The only partially successful revolution I can recall in my lifetime is the breakup of the Soviet Union, but even that is debatable given today’s world scene.
And yet, the only real thing that stands in the way of people getting along is the lack of godly love and actions towards one another. Grievances are held against each other, and some have made it a lifestyle to nurture grudges.
Love covers a multitude of sins. What we have forgotten as a people is that this cuts both ways. We forgive because we are forgiven, and none of us is inherently more righteous than another. We don’t forgive in order to condone, but we forgive because we want our sins forgiven with the same zeal we forgive others. It is an attitudinal way of doing unto others what we would want done to ourselves.
Things have always been tense, which makes it difficult to appreciate that things are getting worse. People are more hardened. They do not blush at sin (Jer 6:15). God is pushed out of sight and out of mind.
The question is whether or not we are allowing ourselves to let that hardness rub off on us.