Seize the moment…Does forgiveness mean to excuse?

Has our culture today blurred the distinction between the definitions of forgiveness and to excuse?   As a Christian, I worry that many within the church no longer understand the difference; perpetuating sin patterns within Believer’s lives.    I call this the “Tiger Woods Syndrome”.  In no way is my intention to make light of the horrific circumstances around Tiger’s life, but it is the most visible example within our media driven culture today.  A sin is committed and caught.  Public admission of the sin is made, forgiveness is requested and steps are taken to resolve the sin issues within one’s life.  And, then the media culture debates the issue.  In this case, the question was not on the impact to the lives closest to this situation, but on what it would take to restore the “Tiger Woods” brand.  I heard many talk about the fact that Tiger’s brand would rebound because of our culture’s habit of forgiving and forgetting. Within a reasonable time a  public relations campaign would restore and excuse a person for a grievous sin committed.  Sponsors and fans would return and everything would be forgotten.  One sports celebrity even made the comment that these things happen all of the time and the public would move beyond it.  I contend that our culture defines forgiveness in a way that not only is the sin forgiven, but the lifelong hurt to others is swept under the rug and excused.  I worry about this message and how our culture translates that into all situations big and small.    My greatest concern is the impact on Christian values.  Many within the church are defining these values within the context of a secular worldview.  For those within the church who challenge this modified view, the attack can be brutal. 

Case in point, Fox News commentator Brit Hume ran amuck of the secular worldview when he commented on the Tiger Woods situation. Hume encouraged Woods to turn to Christianity for the forgiveness he really needs citing that it is the only religion where redemption and forgiveness can be found.  “I don’t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith,” Hume said. “So my message to Tiger would be, ‘Tiger turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.”

The secular world responded, Tom Shales of the Washington Post reacted and advanced one of the core principles of the secular worldview. “If Hume wants to do the satellite-age equivalent of going door-to-door and spreading what he considers the gospel, he should do it on his own time, not try to cross-pollinate religion and journalism and use Fox facilities to do it.”   (taken from entry by Mike Ruffin)

The Bible defines forgiveness as only coming when you or I turn to Christ with a repentant heart and seek His forgiveness for what we have done.  Does that excuse us from the hurt we might have caused?  NO.  Can that be swept under the rug? NO.  We must own the outcomes of our sin and accept the repercussions it has caused.  Godly men and women seek forgiveness with a repentant heart, but they do not excuse themselves from the outcomes of their sin nor should they expect that to happen. I worry that we are becoming a culture where the word accountability has no meaning.  Are we living lives without the accountability our Christian faith requires?  Where there is no accountability, the meaning of Christian forgiveness has no value.  C. S. Lewis said, “forgiveness does not mean excusing.”

 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” (Ephesians 1:7)

Thank you for reading my blog.  I would love to hear your comments or thoughts on this issue!

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