Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Forgiveness is Action, Not Attitude

This past Saturday, I was in a small group with my pastor.  The lesson we are studying is about manhood, which I am willing to listen and see what the lesson has to say.  So far, I haven’t been too impressed, largely because this pastor seems to take post-modernist takes on manhood and Christianity.  In any case, we were talking about unpacking your baggage.  And then one of the old cliché that is common in modern Christian circles came up: that you have to forgive those who wrong you even if they have not apologized.

I don’t know when this bastardization of the meaning of forgiveness came about, but it is frustrating to see it.  I know what they mean: that you have to “forgive” your neighbor in your heart if they have wronged you.  In other words, you have to let go of your resentment toward others and just move on.  You know, to not let your hatred consume you as it does you no good and ultimately, it is baggage you don’t need.

But I view forgiving someone as an action, not a feeling or an attitude.  I see it like this because God Himself forgives some and does not forgive others.  He makes it quite clear that those who do not acknowledge Jesus as His Son and that His Son redeemed mankind for their sins will go to Hell (whatever that may be).  If you do not believe this, then you are not a Christian.  It is really quite simple and, yes, it isn’t all that fair either.  His world, His rules.

This is one of the things that has caused men to leave churches all over the country.  When you change the meaning of an action into a feeling, then you appeal to the feminine rather than the masculine.  This causes men to stop going to church as they have no interest in exploring their feelings.  Most men, as far as I can tell, have a good handle on their emotions.

Forgiveness is action.  Yes, hatred is for what is evil, but it is not for other men and women.  So you should not resent those who have wronged you because it does you no good.  At the same time, this does not mean that you have forgiven them if they have not apologized for their wrongs.  It is a response to an act of restitution not a feeling you have.

I am by no means innocent of holding on to resentment toward others.  It’s an easy thing to do.  I have lived with terrible hatreds and been forced deal with people who have wronged me and made no apologies for their behavior.  I have not forgiven them.  But I given up on my hatred of them.  There is no point to it as there is nothing I can do about them.

The key here is that there is a difference between action and attitude.  I think the mere fact that the modern church has lost this distinction is one of the reasons it is stagnant and offers nothing of value to the general public at large.