Forgive Them, Forgive Them Not

Since early childhood most of us have been taught to be fair, and to try and treat everyone without prejudice or bias.  So, regardless of their background, skin color, nationality, gender, age, or religious beliefs we treat everyone with the same respect, love, and forgiveness.  Or do we?

The truth is a bit harder to swallow.  In fact, the way we treat people is mostly hidden from our own self-examination.  In other words, according to how we ‘think’ we are, we are fair, even-handed, and try to show everyone the same level of love, respect, or forgiveness.  But, sadly, this is rarely the case.  And worse – we don’t even know we are doing it, most of the time.

I know you are skeptical, so let’s try a few examples to see if we can get our ‘self-examination’ radar kicked off again.

Imagine you are the parents of a teen girl, aged 19 – 22.  If it makes you feel better, she has just graduated from college.  She let’s you know she is going to bring her fiancee home to meet you.  Alas, she has gotten herself engaged without your knowledge or permission, but you feel you have no choice, but to support her decision.

You are prepared for whatever may come next.  But, are you really?  What if the ‘boy’ is from another country?  Another race?  Came from the slums?  Has just been released from prison?  For the sixth time!  But, no, you are prepared to treat him just as a part of the family.  Just as if he was the same race, background, and was studying to be a doctor.  Right?

Probably not.  But, you might argue there are circumstances where equal treatment is not possible.  But, who then becomes the judge for when we should apply equal treatment, or unequal treatment?

Let’s take another related example.  You are an employer at a company, and you have two men working for you.  One is very hard working and good at what he does, but you know very little about him.  The second is not quite the hard worker, but still good.  And, he is also your son’s football coach, and teaches your Sunday School class on Sunday morning.  Your boss comes to you and says, “Listen, I’m sorry to tell you this, but you must let one of your workers go.  We simply don’t have the funds.”  Of course, you layoff your son’s football coach, as you want to keep the most valuable player.  It is sad, but its what you must do.  Hold it.  Reality says that probably is not going to happen.  Whatever justification is required will dictate you layoff the worker you don’t know much about, regardless of how well he performs.  After all, he is your son’s football coach, and what would the church say if you laid off the Sunday School teacher?

The truth is that while we would like to think we treat everyone the same, it simply is not true, at least most of the time.  Still not convinced?  Let’s try this one —

You are a man and you are in a fine restaurant.  The waitress comes by, gives you a big smile, and provides excellent service.  Do you give her more attention than you would a male waiter?  Do you tip more?  If you are a woman, turn it around.  While most would never admit to partiality type of treatment, I have witnessed too many instances for it to be coincidental.

Basically, we all have our own built-in biases and experiences that influence how we act toward others.  It becomes quite challenging for us to reign in our natural feelings, and to treat everyone with the same love and respect.  Whether we acknowledge it or not, certain ones are granted special favor.  Even more, we tend to forgive them if they do us wrong.  While there are still others we do not forgive.

Our loved ones could steal half-a-million dollars from us and we would find a way to forgive, but let the paperboy try and steal 50 cents, and we will hold a fiery grudge against him for 20 years.

So, where do we turn to find answers to this dilemma?  Well, of course, Jesus is the prime example.  He treated his 12 disciples with such fairness and even-handed treatment that no one knew who the traitor was until the deed was done.  This means that although Jesus said that Judas was a ‘devil’, Jesus treated him no different from the rest.

But, you might say, didn’t Jesus show partiality with the “inner circle”, consisting of Peter, James, and John?  From one view it might be seen as partiality, but from another it is not.  It is not clear how these three got to be Jesus’ inner circle, but one possibility is that Jesus did not pick them, but they picked themselves.   They stayed closer.  They listened more.  They didn’t want to miss anything.  They became the inner circle through their own initiative and devotion to Christ.  If you think they received special treatment you might be missing the fact that of all the disciples Jesus corrected Peter more than any of them.

To understand Jesus’ devotion to saving as many individuals as possible, you only have to look at the discourse between Himself and Pilate.  While you might think this is an ordinary conversation, it is anything but that.  This conversation had elements of evangelism in it, right up to the point where Jesus would say no more.  Why did He silence Himself, and refuse to talk further with Pilate?  Because Pilate might have let Him go had He continued to have the discourse with Pilate, and that would not have been the will of the Father.

If you knew you were going to be condemned to death by a ruler, would you be as nice and accommodating as Jesus was with Pilate?  I probably would not.  Would you care about his soul?  I probably would not.  Would you say, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do?”  I probably would not.

Jesus forgave them for beating Him, pulling out His beard, spitting on Him, for mocking Him, and for crucifying Him.  That’s what it would mean for us to find a way to forgive those who have treated us wrong.   Quite a challenge, I would say.  But, if we only forgive those we love, we really are no better than the rest of the world which does the same.

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One Response to “Forgive Them, Forgive Them Not”

  1. Barbara McGuire Says:

    Boy, this was an excellent blog! Wish every person in church could read this. Great food for thought. I, myself, have to pray daily that the Lord will help me to love the way He does and to help me see people through His eyes because I cannot do it within myself. I really enjoyed this read! It’s a reality check for all of us! Blessings…

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