What about Forgiveness?

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 1:48 AM

In my recent post about President Clinton, something disturbed me about the response I saw here (and response elsewhere to the President's statements). I've noticed this before, but it really struck me this time. “Where is the forgiveness?” kept running through my head. It brought to mind a lyric that Steven Curtis Chapman wrote for a song called “The Change”:

What about the change What about the difference
What about the grace
What about forgiveness
What about a life that's showing
I'm undergoing the change, yeah
I'm undergoing the change

It occurred to me that often times, especially in politics, we get so wrapped up, we don't have a life that is showing the change.

Consider the case of President Clinton. There is no getting around it: Clinton made lots of mistakes. He made some of what we tend to think of as “big” sins. He was not really helpful to Christian causes.

But, let's especially focus on that “big” sins thing. My Bible doesn't have a “big” sins category; Jesus blew that concept away. Consider what he said during the Sermon on the Mount. President Clinton committed adultery, yes, but according to Jesus, “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28) President Clinton lied, but I think I can safely say anyone who said they never lie would have to be lying to say that.

Even if we could avoid falling into the types of sin Mr. Clinton often gets condemned for, we ought to still consider the cost of sin. “[T]he wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), the Apostle Paul reminds us. No, it isn't the wages of the really big, get on national TV sins is death. It is simply the wages of any and all sin. We are all in the same boat.

Indeed, “[a]ll have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) In other words, “[t]here is none Righteous, no not one.” (Romans 3:10) Yes, we are all sinful and dispicably marred by sin in the eyes of God.

We need forgiveness to fix that problem, and speaking of forgiveness, we are also reminded that “if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14) and “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2)

It should strike us as ironic that we, believers in something that revolves around the concept of forgiveness of sin, can't seem to forgive sin. It is fine for us to say “hey, this is wrong — that's sin,” but it is very very wrong for us to go around condemning people and not forgiving them. It may be politically handy to do so, but not Biblically right. Yet, I think President Clinton could come out tomorrow in sack cloth and beg for forgiveness from the nation and it wouldn't do any good at all. (I say all this keeping in mind that I have been as guilty of condemning him and others as anyone else.)

President Clinton has been condemned by Christians for years. Five years after his attempted impeachment we are still busy condemning him and certainly not forgiving him. Why is that? Does God keep condemning us for past sins? Does he take years to forgive us? No! Yet we judge others, such as Clinton, with a holier-than-thou attitude. What kind of example does that present to the world? What kind of testimony does it give when we talk about forgiveness but show nothing of it? Where is that Change?

This is coming out far more jumbled than I had hoped, but I guess what I am trying to say is that it is time to forget what is politically beneficial and worry about what gets the important goal accomplished (bringing more people into a relationship with Christ Jesus). I fear that in our maneuvering to get more votes we may do so at the price of losing souls.

So, it seems to me — to bring this back to where I started — that when President Clinton says something nice, we shouldn't be so quick to start the condemning process again. That just makes us look (and in reality, quite possibly be) hypocritical. We certainly wouldn't want that type of behavior directed toward us. In the recent case, as Kevin pointed out, he didn't have to say anything nice, but he did. We should have said something nice in return… did we?

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1 comments posted so far.

RE: What about Forgiveness?

Ah, yes, the age old question: Can we separate our political discussions from our spiritual discussions? Should we? Let’s consider the possibilities.

Spiritually, Clinton sinned, and did so very publicly. He quibbled and wobbled on it, and never once confessed nor repented in an equally public manner, as far as I know. God’s grace is extended to all sinners, secret and private, great and small. It’s there for the taking, but cannot be grasped with one hand while keeping a grip on sin with the other. Forgiveness requires two hands to take hold of it. I can feel all sorts of warm and fuzzy, but that won’t change his standing before God. Let’s call sin what God calls sin, and condemn it.

Politically, Clinton clearly raised partisan concerns above the welfare of the nation. Even some of his fellow partisans have said that, so it’s not a matter of political squabble. He most certainly harmed the nation, and the Office of Presidency, and did so deliberately. Only because of our degraded political culture did he stay in office. It is only a matter of historical accuracy to continue denouncing his term. To continue using him as a byword of political sleaze is as much an attack on his party as himself. Just for the sake of balance: he’s in the same class as Nixon.

Could I act civilly and respectfully while denouncing his sins and his crimes? Of course; that’s demanded of Christians. You are right to ask that we turn down the heat of intemperate language. What I say about him in his absence I should be able to say to his face, and in the company of his friends (assuming they were civil enough to let me get away with it). And as soon as he breathes a word of repentance on either level, I’ll declare my forgiveness, based on the Word of God.

Posted by Ed Hurst - Jul 30, 2003 | 6:54 PM- Location: Rural Southeast Texas

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