A question arose in the national American conscience last week, a question that is, at its core, a Christian one, though we would not so boldly label it as such or even immediately recognize it for what it is. But it is a cry that we, as the church, must hear and answer, for we alone know the answer that is in the Truth.
The question was this: can a man remain impartial, believing himself to have been wronged by someone or something? Can he have a vision that sees with sober eyes what is before him, without running it through the lens of his own wounded heart?
In other words, is forgiveness real?
That's the question, no matter how many politics we wrap around it. And it's a question, too, of more than just politics. It's a question of the human spirit, of human nature, to its very core. Are we, as human beings, more than our emotional reactions? More than our personal experiences? More than our most self-centered selves?
The argument essentially arose like this: in a he-said, she-said on full public display, both sides came out in passionate defense of their own position. When what he said denied what she said and he revealed some measure of passionate anger and defense, the cry came that he would never be able to justly and fairly evaluate anyone or anything that arose from any camp seemingly related to hers - to women, to certain political persuasions, to certain social issues, etc. He would always and forever be stamped by this experience, and therefore, he was unfit.
He, of course, never said this about himself or about his perspective; it was merely assumed. It was assumed because it is the basest of all human interactions with one another, and we know that the old adage is somewhat true: hurt people hurt people. If this man was hurt, it's only natural to assume he would be vindictive about it and, in turn, hurt others. On purpose. For spite.
Never mind, of course, that no one ever asked if the same was true of the woman. This is the politics at play. No one asked if she, believing what she believes and believing herself to have been wronged by him, could ever fairly evaluate anyone of his sex, political persuasion, social conscience, etc. That's really neither here nor there in the conversation about forgiveness, but it's important to point out to anyone willing to keep their eyes open to what politics really does in our world.
But back to this - the question remains. Is it true? Are we our basest selves? Are we nothing more than wounded human beings out to wound others? Is it impossible that we could be wounded and not do some wounding of our own? Should we expect that everyone among us is carrying around some baggage that inhibits the way that he or she encounters the world?
Or is there, perhaps, something else that we ought to take into consideration?
As Christians, we talk a great deal about forgiveness, although I think it's also true that we practice it far less than we preach. True forgiveness, anyway. It's considered foolish in the eyes of the world, and for the very same reason as outlined above: it's just naturally expected and assumed that we would seek vengeance, not peace; that we would be vindictive, not gracious. After all, is not forgiveness just a fear of confrontation? Is not forgiveness just backing down from a fight? Is not forgiveness just rolling over and refusing to fight for yourself?
It is not. Forgiveness is far more dynamic than any of these would suggest and it is a true measure of a man's heart. Not only that, but forgiveness runs far deeper in the human fabric than vengeance, for we are beings created in the image of God, and God Himself is a forgiving God. So despite what our fallen human nature would have us think, the question should not be, "Is it possible?" The question should be, "Are we willing?"
Because forgiveness is possible. It's incredibly difficult. Challenging. Hard. But it's possible.
So let's go back to the question. Is it possible for a man to have sober eyes for the world before him when he believes himself to have been wronged by that world? Can he see the world for what it is without his own baggage in it, for the chance to bring something beautiful and wise and fair into it? It is not only possible; it is glorious.
And it is much, much needed in this world.
Though this story begins with a political scenario, the discussion we're getting into isn't really about politics. Please don't let yourself blur the lines as we continue down this path for the next few days. This is about the human heart, about what God has created in us and gifted in us, about how we can live together with one another out of our most beautiful selves, not our basest ones.
Forgiveness is important. It is real. And it is beautiful. Let's talk about it for a few days. Shall we?