Are Christians the Least Forgiving People on the Planet?

“I could be a really good Christian if it just weren’t for other people.” ~ unknown

As research for an upcoming book project, I recently posed this open question to anyone who wished to respond:

Do you believe Christians are more forgiving of sinners outside the church than they are to their own “brothers & sisters” inside the church? Example: If a man or woman had an affair as a member of the church body, would members be less forgiving of them than they would to someone who was not a church member? Are Christians nothing more than cannibals who devour their own?

Sweden Zombie Walk

The question was prompted by a recent story in Christianity Today, titled “Going to Hell with Ted Haggard.

The response was overwhelming. Read of few of these unedited reader comments, and feel free to add to the interesting (and very civilized, I might add) discussion…

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Maybe not cannibals… but they do have a way of shunning for a real long time. Even then, the whispers continue.

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Now this is just my opinion … I think yes, if you truly ask for forgiveness of your sins, I think it would then be a sin of the fellow church members to not forgive you … nobody lives a perfect life … isn’t it also a sin to judge others ?

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cannibalThe measure of grace that we show is usually directly correlated to how close to home the sin occurs.

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As a general observance, I don’t see the majority of Christians being very forgiving at all, to either party. However, personally, I tend to be grace-filled/forgiving more to believers who are truly repentant and not as much to unrepentant believers … as for unbelievers. It just depends on the situation and how close it hits home for me (see comment above). I say all of this realizing that my feelings on forgiveness are subjective and not at all what they should be, obviously.

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I am one of those folks who doesn’t lead the life that most Christians would approve of, but I do my best, and I have faith that grace will save me from any of my earthly mistakes.

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I have to keep going back to your question! Romans 3:23 tells us that everyone sins. I believe that to be truth. Each of us, daily, makes mistakes. But I believe that we are to hate the sin and love the sinner. So that is why Gal 6:1 makes sense to me. We are to restore those who have made bad choices.

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I’m not going to quote any bible passages but I do know that good christian people make cannibalmistakes and sin frequently. But is it also not a sin to judge people? Especially when you have not personally walked in their shoes. I grew up in a christian family with parents that were truly heaven-sent. But I know what it is like to do something so against what you were taught and wish you could just crawl under a rock or make time turn back. From my experience, the guilt I experienced was worse than anything anyone else could do to me due to the fact I was a christian. What I’m trying to say is, instead of judging each other, christian to christian, why can’t we just be there for each other. Sometimes that’s all people need. The problem is between them and their God after all.

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In theory, they should be. In reality, unfortunately it doesn’t happen that way most of the time. The hypocrisy of those that CLAIM to be Christians blinds the view of what being a Christian should be so often. And I’m definitely not saying every Christian is like this; I’m saying those that are, ruin the true meaning of what being a Christian is about. I know this doesn’t answer the question, but I think this is why so many people lose faith.

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If we could all be saved and have no further fears of making a mistake or committing a sin, why would Jesus have stressed the importance of fellowship? Am I not to be just as good an example to my fellow Christians as I am to a sinner, up to, and including, the understanding and forgiveness that all of life is one day at a time? Not one of us, whether or not we are at church every time the doors are open, is perfect. I depend on my church family to lift me up in prayer and mercy just as I do each of them.

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We are in the Kingdom because of Redemption. It’s God’s best work. I’m compelled to believe it should be ours as well. Awesome discussion.

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Generally when folks are judgmental and unforgiving, I believe they are frightened of their own vulnerability to the action they are condemning, inside, as well as outside the church. Which is less forgiving? Not sure. I suspect that it us good Christian people. Somewhere through the centuries church membership became confused with Pharisee-ism, where we get to decide who is in, and who is out. It makes us feel safe if we see someone else step in it.

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Don’t think I can add anything that hasn’t been said, but I enjoyed reading this feed & seeing a discussion carried out the way adults should speak with one another!

What would you add to the discussion?

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My Advice to John Edwards

The image at the right says it all about how many Americans feel about John Edwards today.

Many wanted him to pay for his transgressions, but as the analysts have said, there’s a big difference between being a criminal and having some major shortcomings in life.

Dear reader: Are you perfect? None of us is.

I was a political fan of John Edwards for many years. I believed he represented a new generation, of sorts, and a new way of thinking. I voted for him in his first presidential campaign, and although I wasn’t exactly fired up about John Kerry as a presidential candidate, I did vote for the Kerry-Edwards ticket.

Edwards now falls into the category of those who many Americans love to hate: Bernie Madoff, Casey Anthony, O.J. Simpson (who’s still searching for his wife’s killer), Octomom and many others.

Even though Edwards was essentially acquitted of the criminal acts of which he was accused, he still loses. He has to get up each morning and look at himself in the mirror, his family life is desecrated and his love of politics is forever out of reach.

As he left the courtroom last week, Edwards said he believed God is not finished with him. That’s true enough. He’s a brilliant man (despite making bad decisions), the second half of his life is yet in front of him and he’s a passionate man (though his passions may have been misdirected for a season.)

I’m hopeful for John Edwards. I hope he can re-frame his life into something good. In the meantime, I’d suggest:

  • Plant a garden and watch it grow, and listen to the spirit that speaks inside you.
  • Read the Bible, especially the stories of the great men who fell, yet God used them in miraculous ways, and listen to the spirit that speaks inside of you.
  • Go off, and be alone (there probably aren’t many friends to socialize with right now anyway) and listen to the spirit that speaks inside of you.
  • Start running each morning, and as you watch the sunrise each day, listen to the spirit that speaks inside of you.
  • Throw darts at the map, South American, Africa and Asia come to mind, go to the places your darts find, see how the people live, get a worldview and become a missionary in those places and listen to the spirit that speaks inside of you.
  • Pray for your kids daily, never give up on them loving you again, and listen to the spirit that speaks inside of you.
  • Take a long break from the news. People are going to say bad things about you for a long time, but what they say really doesn’t matter and it doesn’t define who you are and what you can reframe yourself to be, and listen to the spirit inside of you.
  • There will forever be consequences. Some of which you’ll live with a lifetime. Know that God’s not punishing you. It’s just life here on earth. And listen to the spirit that speaks inside of you.
  • Don’t ask for God’s forgiveness on a daily basis. If you’ve asked, and really meant it, He’s already done it. It’s over. And listen to the spirit that speaks inside of you.

As for the New Yorker headline above, crumple it up, set fire to it and watch it burn.

I’m pulling for you, John. We all make mistakes.

The Holy Spirit: Our Bastard Stepchild?

“It is better for you that I go away. If I do not go away, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, will not come to you. If I go away, I will send Him to you.” ~ John 16:7

Notice the last sentence in that verse. “I will send HIM to you.”

God the Father.

God the Son.

God the Holy Spirit.

Seems the Spirit is the last one to get our attention. We put Him at the bottom of the list.

We count the Spirit as one of the Trinity because the Bible tells us to do so. But why do we so often view Him as the lesser of the three, an occasional afterthought, when John tells us in the verse above that it is better for Jesus to go and the Spirit to come.

Another translation of that verse says: “It is expedient for you that I go away.”

Though Jesus now sits at the right hand of the Father in Heaven, it’s the goal of most Christians to follow Him and to become more like Him. How do we know Jesus if he’s away in the Heavenly realm and we’re here on earth, and why was it better for Him to go away?

Jesus’ task on earth was completed on the cross. It is a finished work. The job was done, and thank goodness for that.

But we do well to remember that God himself took on our humanity as Jesus the Son, and by His own choice He limited himself by becoming man. Jesus (as man) could not be all things to all people, in all places at all times.

In other words, if the Lord Jesus were here today in His human body, He couldn’t be where I am now and where you are at the same time.

But there is one who can, and is.

If the “headline” on this post makes you uncomfortable, I join with you in that discomfort. I mean no harm and no disrespect. It makes me uncomfortable because it points out my failure, and moreover, my sin.

So many times, I’ve heard people in church say … ‘the Holy Spirit was really present in our service today.’

Are we guilty of viewing the Spirit as some magical energy force, more powerful at one time than another, choosing to “show up” at one moment and not the next? Is He just some heavenly fog that we eagerly await to descend upon us and transfigure the moment? Is He just some spiritual portal through which we must pass to touch the face of God?

I’m guilty.

A pastor in my hometown was courageous enough to ask this question to his congregation last  Sunday. His question stopped my thoughts dead in their tracks. Why would I long for the Spirit to show up and do a great work in my life when he’s already right there, all the time? He lives inside of me.

He grieves when I violate my moral consciousness. He disciplines me in love when I go against His will, but He stands beside me at all times and loves me because I belong to Him. The deal is done.

Somewhere along the way, we’ve gotten things wrong. We’ve bought into the idea that the Spirit is some transcendent force or power – some notion just beyond our grasp and reach. We hope and pray that He will show up and move us on Sundays.

We’ve learned it all wrong, and so now, we have a lot to un-learn.

I know I do.

Thank goodness for the Better Way, and let the lessons of un-learning begin.