We live in the time of internet rage. When some messes up, or more likely they have been discovered to have messed up many years ago, an army of individuals descend upon twitter and lets the world know what they think about. And what they think it rarely kind.
These rage fueled tweets can give the impression that this is a healthy way to respond to conflict and disagreement. Often the individual will be so shamed that they will make a public apology, or they will get fired. But even though this is normal for our culture, this should not be normal for a Christian.
For the Christian forgiveness is normal. When we have argued or fought with someone, retribution should not be our first thought. Now, if you are anything like me, that sounds impossible. How can we forgive someone who has hurt us? Isn’t it right to make them feel the pain that they’ve caused us? I’m afraid the answer is, no. In the Lord’s prayer forgiveness is assumed: “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us” (Matthew 6:12).
But why is forgiveness normal for Christians?
Because of the character of the God we serve…
“The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”Numbers 14:18
Within the Lord’s character he weaves together justice and love. He judges and he forgives. If he did not judge then the forgiveness he offers would be pointless, if he did not forgive then none would be able to stand. Our motivation to forgive comes from the fact that the God we serve is a forgiving God.
But more then that, our God is forgiving and he has forgiven us. This is simple Christian truth. The Christian ABC, and yet it is revolutionary. Through the cross those who believe in Jesus, you and I, have been forgiven (Ephesians 1:7). This forgiveness is extraordinary when we remember that alone we are rebels and sinners who deserve God’s judgement, and yet receive his love!
It is because of this undeserved forgiveness that all believers in Christ have received, that forgiveness is normal for a Christian. We who have been shown great love, show great love. We who have been forgiven deeply, forgive deeply. Paul instructs us to “forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). This does not mean forgiveness suddenly becomes easy, but it does give us one massive reason to do it!
In our current cultural moment rage may seem like the right way to respond to disagreement and conflict, but as we have seen it is not the Christian way. Neither though is it the beautiful way. In the world of rage, you can never make a mistake, and if you have then you better make sure no one finds out about it or that is your whole life over. But who can honestly say they have never made a mistake! Imagine a world built around the Christian normal. People are allowed to be honest about their mistakes and apologize for them, they then find forgiveness and together the two parties can work towards reconciliation. Isn’t that a more beautiful world? That is the world God is inviting you to create.