I speak of this fluff piece by Christianity Today called, “It’s Time to Forgive Each Other Our Pandemic Sins.”
First let me say, yes we should forgive a family member or neighbor who gave way to fear. Forgive a pastor who shut down for a few weeks out of an abundance of caution. Forgive human frailties and weaknesses and infuse all those relationships heavily with grace. Forgive the vaxxed and the unvaxxed alike. People are mostly emotionally driven creatures just trying to do the best we can with what we got at the time. Be compassionate, be filled with grace, let it go.
I have the Holy Spirit within, I know perfectly well when I am holding an unjust grudge or resentment versus when I need to turn away and just shake the dust off my feet.
Here’s my primary beef with the article, the phrase, “forgiving the hard calls that people had no choice but to make with imperfect knowledge.” Or perhaps, “The pandemic was hard. Navigating the complex medical, political, legal, economic, theological, and humanitarian concerns was difficult.”
Here’s the issue, I am not a person to be “navigated” by others. I am neither a child, a psychotic, nor a criminal who must be subjected to someone’s “hard calls.” I don’t care one whit about your complex and hard navigation of life. I also get to deal with hard and complicated things, but I have never felt the need to take away people’s civil rights, to violate humanitarian codes, to apply force to civilian populations, and to conduct medical experiments on them.
Nope, never again.
Forgiveness has a lot of components, but one aspect of it is restoration, reconnection. I don’t wish to be restored or connected to those who seem to believe their anxiety trumps my sovereignty. I have no desire to shake hands and sing kumbaya with those who failed to respect my autonomy and threatened me with arrest, job loss, and assorted other bullying tactics.
I don’t want restoration with those who believed they were entitled to ban loved ones from hospital rooms and let the elderly die alone. I’m not interested in forgiving those who actually locked the disabled in their rooms for months, severing all contact with the outside world. Yes, that actually happened and I want those in charge criminally charged.
Actions have consequences. Everything is now different. I am different. Let’s just “forget and forgive” works well when we are talking about things like someone forgot to bring the whip cream to the picnic. It doesn’t work so well when your behavior completely altered the nature of reality and forever changed the course of someone’s life, if you didn’t just outright cost them their life.
I also happen to believe that forgiveness is not really mine to extend, it belongs to God, to Jesus. Interesting how this article flows so smoothly between “it’s time to forgive,” right on over to “let’s declare pandemic amnesty.” Forgiveness and amnesty are two completely different things. Amnesty is a pardon, it means to never be held accountable. I don’t believe the Lord works quite that way. I don’t fully understand all the theological implications, but God is just. That means that no way does He grant full amnesty to those who commit crimes while demanding that victims of those crimes just suck it up and pay the bill.
I myself have been blessed with an infinite amount of grace, mercy, and forgiveness, but never amnesty, never complete freedom from the consequences of all my actions. I have had a myriad of, “hard calls that I had no choice but to make with imperfect knowledge.” Not once have any of those “hard calls” involved subjecting people to medical experiments or collapsing the economy. Also, having “imperfect knowledge and hard calls to make,” has never been a defense, an excuse, or a means of avoiding accountability. Like, if you go walk out in front of a bus at best you will suffer serious injury. One can be completely forgiven, it can be a total accident, but one is still going to be in rehab and physical therapy for some time. Those of us who are Christians never really lose sight of the fact that Christ died for us, that He was tortured and executed. Through Him we have forgiveness but amnesty, a pardon without cost? It cost Him everything. He paid a price. There was no “amnesty.”
One last thing from the article, “navigating the humanitarian concerns was difficult.” No it was not. Like everything else in life it is a simple matter of putting Jesus in the driver seat rather than your own authoritarian impulses. You ain’t the navigator.