Pastor Tim Keller has written a new book on forgiveness. He believes the therapeutic age and cancel culture have created a crisis with the Christian practice of forgiveness. He sees therapeutic forgiveness as more of a private emotional practice rather than dealing with one’s own sinful response to being sinned against. And because of our cancel culture, many young people question the need to forgive. They don’t know how to forgive, nor are they even sure they should.
Keller observes, “There’s a cultural moment here where I think forgiveness is very important to talk about. We live in a culture that is very fragmented, polarized, there’s an awful lot of anger, and people are really after each other. Forgiveness is not in the air.”
According to Keller, four actions are involved in real forgiveness:
1) “…Name the trespass truthfully as wrong and punishable, rather than merely excusing it.”
2) “…Identify with the perpetrator as a fellow sinner rather than thinking how different from you he or she is… will their good.”
3) “…Release the wrongdoer from liability by absorbing the debt oneself rather than seeking revenge and paying them back.”
4) “…Aim for reconciliation rather than breaking off the relationship forever.”
Keller examines common obstacles to forgiveness, including the influence of social media and how today’s therapeutic age focuses on self-interest. He invites readers to consider Christ to better understand how he atoned for sin, and to follow Christ’s example. “Don’t let yourself be twisted. Take in what Jesus Christ has done, put your little story about what people have done to you in the big story of what he did for you, and you’ll have power you need to grant forgiveness.”
My concern in this blog is for men to be learning a “lifestyle of forgiveness.” In the Lord’s Prayer, forgiveness is the only petition repeated: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matt 6:14). Jesus then warns about living in unforgiveness. “But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive you” (v. 15). A forgiving heart is an open heart. There is no grace for a closed heart that is turned in on itself in bitterness or revenge.
By carrying our sins in his body, Jesus can heal our relational wounds. Those who forgive are the real healers in our culture. “He personally carried away our sins in his own body on the cross so we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. You have been healed by his wounds!” (I Peter 2:24). Paul reminded the Colossians of their calling. “Be even tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.” (Col. 3:12-13 – Message).
I believe God is raising up a whole generation of “strong-hearted” men. These are men who have processed the arrows that have pierced their hearts. They are learning to walk the way of Jesus. “Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate when people say unkind things about you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God wants you to do, and he will bless you for it” (I Peter 3:9-10). These are the “walking wounded.”
Above all don’t allow yourself to be caught up in the cancel culture. Men with “strong hearts” will not allow themselves to be victims. By the grace of God we move beyond anger and self-pity because Jesus is our healer. “Lord, help us learn better how to forgive – by your grace and power.”