Fading of forgiveness

Catholic Bishop Barron recently picked up on Tim Keller’s recent observations about the “Fading of forgiveness” in our society today. I found this Word on Fire interview to be a challenge for me personally; while I do agree with so much of it. I’m not sure how I feel about all of it, though. I do appreciate that they try hard to insist that forgiveness does not mean putting aside necessary calls for justice and change away from systemic wrongs. Nonetheless, it might feel more authentic when coming from the mouths of those like MLK or others who lived under such injustice. Perhaps it’s appropriate that large portions of society are rightly still in the throes of anger? My main critique might center around the thought that while “social justice” cannot be the only drummer we should attend to, it nonetheless may be premature to preach forgiveness if justice has not yet been sufficiently attended to. Especially if the preachers have never themselves been victims. So I do appreciate that they draw on Hannah Arendt, MLK, and Mandela for many of these insights.

In that vein, so much of what is said here does ring true. What does anybody else here think?

You can jump to about 5 minutes in if you don’t care for all the banter before they get down to business.

One quotable thought (just based on my recollection): “Anger and blame is the new crack-cocain of our culture.”

There is a part-two to this episode as well which was released just several days ago.


It’s also episode 296 on the “ Word on Fire “ podcast. Which I will most likely listen to at least the first part on the way to work today. Social justice, systematic oppression, and who is and who is not a victim and who is and who is not misplacing anger is all super complex. Kind of. Some of it is pretty clear.

After listening to the podcast I can respond specifically to the podcast but this is by no means a new subject. I’ve seen people on both sides of this abuse it. I’ve seen people who definitely make themselves out to be a victim over everything just so they can constantly justify in their mind the angry and hate they have. I’ve also seen people who don’t understand anything about compassion of historical injustices that just gloss over a issue and basically say, “ so what about everything in history just pull up your pants and get over it” type mentality.

When I think of the Bible though two verses come to my mind.

The one verse about not sinning in our anger. I think this is a straight forward literal command. Just because we are angry does not mean we can sin. We are not supposed to seek wrath. We definitely see people who have a lot of legitimate reasons to be angry expresses it through sin. Such as no matter how angry systematic oppression may make you no one has a right to approach random strangers on the street and hit them in the back of their head and you should not smash someone’s car window over a sticker that say Biden or Trump. But forgiving someone does not mean bending over backwards or being friends which them. You can be righteous by ignoring them. You can be loving to your enemies in need without being their bestfriend that chills with them.

The other verse is don’t let the sun go down while still angry giving the devil a foothold. This is not literal. It’s more abstract and philosophical than a actual command. Such as if I’m done wrong 10 hours before sunlight and you’re done wrong 4 minutes before sunlight it does not mean I had all day to processes it and you’ve only a few minutes. It means don’t let anger consume you. Don’t dwell in bitterness and allow your heart to be hardened. Otherwise you’ll find yourself justifying hate without cause.

Some things I have mixed feelings on. Like burning down empty buildings and cars on the street during a protest. Often these marches are 100% justified. Such as the Trevon Martin story. It’s mind blowing to me that a racist adult man can stalk a kid and repeatedly chase them through the streets because he thinks the kid does not belong there and then the kid fights back and the guy shoots him and it’s called self defense. I don’t see how the stalker chasing a kid can call the kids reaction violent and so he has to defend himself. It’s very angering. It’s still very angering. It’s angering seeing justice repeatedly being undercut. Like that white college guy that raped the Asian girl and then got sentenced to just 6 months and released after after 3 because “ he’s a good kid from a good family and Fox has good plans for him he just needed a wake up call” type mentality.

So marching often makes perfect sense. But the questionable part is the occasional building burning. I see two sides. What do you do when you are the weaker party and you can’t actually overthrow those causing you harm and the majority of Americans are either apathetic or just keyboard warriors and so the abuse keeps happening again and again. When you March and protest and nothing seems to change. When peaceful protestors are arrested , gassed and so on. If it takes burning a building down to get people in the community to care is that problematic.

I mean if it was me and me and my family and friends was being overlooked and harmed outright and the majority of the town did not care and my loved ones kept dying what would I do. If I had no where to run because it’s the same everywhere. If I burned down one persons car and suddenly everyone was like “ hey oh crap make sure they are treated fairly becsuse I don’t want my car burned down next” is it really bad. That’s where I don’t have a firm opinion.

But I’ll listen to the podcast nonetheless.

It is one thing to march down a street setting fire to trash cans to get attention and quite another to march down a street and bust into a liquor store. Those are quite different things.

As much as this does have obvious political application, let’s keep this (or any) thread from going too far specifically into BLM or the current partisanship wars. The actual message discussed is more on forgiveness and our overall societal posture towards or against that as it has been historically rooted in Christianity. All the latest stuff is (I think they are suggesting) but one of the symptoms of the greater underlying issue. I’d encourage anybody to listen to the linked video (or podcast you found) before trying to go down too many hot-button rabbit trails. (Of course it’s hard to entirely avoid those either …)

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I listened to the first one. I think it’s obviously tied with political agendas as well. For me my post is not about BLM. Not even with mentioning Trevon or thr burnings. Was just linking to two common events about two events that everyone should be aware of. The majority of people don’t even know Trevon sparked BLM and those same people link every protest with BLM when the majority are not even actually part of their organization and it’s became a catchall for anything racially motivated about oppression and overcoming it.

I think some of the guys opinions are spot on. I do believe that victimization has become a badge of honor. I do believe that many people are just looking for ways to be offended and they constantly bounce from one emotional outburst to the next without even attempting a legitimate solution.

With that said , unless he improves it in the second part of the discussion, he was also oddly strongly in favor of critiquing victims than calling out oppression. Some of it I disagreed with. I’m not sure what he meant when he said “ choose to be offended by a word” but in my mind it was the N word and he was essentially undermining the anger blacken and women would have over the world. But even with that the context I am seeing it is as someone using that word in a negative way. I’m picturing some white guy with american flag shorts , a handlebar mustache and mullet with a heavy ski try even accent saying it as a insult and someone overhearing it and getting mad and this guy , the host, just saying relax man it’s just a word.

I guess it could be in relationship to should a white person song the word if it’s part of the lyrics of a song. With that I take no issue. I personally won’t because I don’t like rap and I think that in general the slang within it is something trashy and I don’t want to be associated with it. Regardless if it’s ends in er or a. Same as just because hip hop popularized calling women “ b “ does not mean I’m going to adopt it as part of my vocabulary despite I do cuss and have no remorse ofer cussing and believe it’s perfectly fine.

As I said I have no idea who the host is. Never heard of him as far as I know. He’s not someone though that I imagine I would look to personally on how to handle this area of contention. I would like to know more about that man he mentioned in Iraq though. Or maybe it was iran. I’ll have to find his name and look into him.

But again, I think this host went far more out of his way to critique victims than to addresses the oppressors and I think that essentially places them in a position to not be able to really make much of a case. I think it’s target audience seems more like semi oppressive sympathizers than those who have faced problems.

He was referring to what most today would still think of as “micro-agressions”. Using the N-word or calling women by the ‘b’ word are not simply ‘mere’ slights by any decent standard today. He was calling into question our cultural choices to take offense at even the slightest of mis-steps that somebody might innocently still use in conversation. Using the words you’re bringing up is no longer innocent in the slightest by anybody today.

I agree with you that victim-blaming is out-of-bounds. I think Barron was anticipating that charge too as he at least attempted to reinforce the legitimate calls for justice that may still be needed.

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Forgiveness needs refreshing every 7 x 70 time of offense. Out loud. In public. To the offender.

I don’t have much to add here other than to say that it always feels so self-satisfying to stand in judgmental self-righteousness pointing the figure … until God (or maybe the forces of chance) can put our footsteps in a path where we discover that we can do exactly the same rottenness or even worse. “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.” (Lamentations 3:27).

Anyway, there is a saying that when you point that finger, you’ve got three fingers pointing back at you.

Another thing is recognizing the difference between regret and repentance. Regret is to see how costly some action was. Repentance is understanding why we were wrong, why it offends God, and a genuine desire not to do such things anymore. I grant that there is very little or no way to tell the difference by external signs, other than time and chance.

by Grace we proceed

Not when you use the army knife hand xd.

I just listened to the interview, and I hope to listen to the second part later.
It would be difficult to keep politics out of this because the issues of victimization have been thrust beyond the influence of the church. Forgiveness is supposed to be reparative. There are populations that have much to forgive, but history and modern demonstrations offer no assurance that forgiveness will lead to change, because the act of forgiving looks more like remaining in a place of oppression.

There is something systemic here, too, and it continues into the part when they discuss the awareness of self. I agree with Bishop Barron that it is important to develop a sense of self to be able to give of self. And becoming self aware also enables people to realize that maybe they weren’t sinning and don’t need to ask to be forgiven for whatever is causing them shame, they may realize that in the system they live, they’re simply not meeting the expectations for the group in power that is demanding assimilation and subservience, and willing to be the doormat role for the more privileged.

Motives for victimization are difficult to assess, and on social media it seems like we are quick to determine that people just want value and honor. Do true victims want to be painted as strong? As weak? Or as humans with an identity not determined by everyone else? We should listen to them on this one.
I’ve seen some people with privilege use social media to draw out some kind of weakness or victimization to remain relevant, to not lose their value to others. One situation was personally difficult for me to deal with because I’d experienced something very similar to a friend who was constantly posting about something tough, but I worked through the difficult time with my close, chosen people, and I didn’t enlist a fan base for affirmation. It did feel like my situation was less valuable because I didn’t make a public deal out of it. It was an issue that I think needs to be treated with empathy, but we can use these issues for our own value. Its hard to determine. But my situation was nothing like abuse, not something with systemic denial. So for me, that was something that was just a preservation of value that was already granted to someone.
Others might not have ever been treated with value, and find that it’s because they’ve been assigned to the systemically shamed position in society so that others have unquestionable value to maintain.

The honor-shame pendulum is definitely swinging far. When the Judeo-Christian values were more influential, did the American (or Western) church (I’m making general statements here, I understand) build bridges and repair relationships, or did we maintain and fossilize what gave us a sense of value at the expense of others, whose only option was to assimilate and forgive the privileged without being given anything in return? As mentioned in earlier posts, marches might not balance the pendulum out, but a burning building might be what it takes to wake people up to necessary changes.


My point, see above, is the constant, loud, public invocation, ‘Father forgive, for they know not what they do’.

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I agree, but I don’t think we should go to bed angry. That can’t be godly, can it, even if it’s godly anger?

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I am sure it does not matter. It would be ridiculous to presume we can just turn our emotions off. If someone tried to kill my cats an hour before sundown, you can bet I’ll be mad for several nights.

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That exhortation is there to be sure. And I’m also pretty sure it isn’t meant to be yet another legalistic rule, but an illustration of how important this is to God. There would be times when (if opportunity presented itself) it would be shamefully regrettable for you to not clear something up immediately (not waiting another minute much less thinking you have “license all the way to sunset.” And other times when opportunity for clearing something up between you and another may not happen for days (although that must be pretty rare in these days of constant communication). In any case - the safe conclusion from the matter is that reconciliation between you and someone else is more important to God than whatever piety you have on offer while kneeling with gifts at the altar.

Think of it this way - a young man is worried that his sweet heart about whom he is passionate is distancing herself from him for reasons unknown to him. He won’t rest until he’s resolved that - he will travel to the ends of the earth if necessary and spend his very last dime. Apparently God feels that way about us and wants us to have something of that urgency about each other too. We don’t sleep well if we’re forced to retire with such things unresolved about our loved ones. If your children are fighting, you as a parent desperately want them to make up and love each other again.

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No, it’s don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Singing “What a Friend we have in Jesus” to yourself works pretty well before you go to sleep.


I obviously don’t know how to hold a knife to do jobs other than cutting vegetables or meat or whittling a stick. Still, I think the fingers point back at an oblique angle. :grin:

I often play with moving my finger-pointing way over to the side so it only gets my arm, or aim it high too so it only gets part of the joint of my hand. … but it kind of looks a bit funny.

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The military knife hand is a joke. They point all the fingers and thumb at you.


I am glad you posted on this, @Mervin_Bitikofer . I was actually just thinking in the same vein. I had recently read “The Hiding Place,” by Corrie Ten Boom, and was thinking of asking how many others had seen examples of forgiveness that reminded them of that, and of Christ’s “Father, forgive them.” It’s an incredible healing, no less than it was 2000 years ago.

Betsy and Corrie Ten Boom’s Christlike forgiveness of their captors and the murderers of so many Jews is an inspiration.

My parents were great about forgiveness, too, modeling theirs on Christ’s free forgiveness.

I wonder if there’s anyone else who can point out amazing examples–religious or not. Thanks.


Think about it this way: the safe conclusion is that God is more passionate about our finding our rest in him, trusting him as our Father, and anger disturbs that trust and rest.

There is also the notion that anger develops from fear, and…

The most frequent mandate in the Bible is “Don’t be afraid” or one of its several variations – “Fear not!”, “Be anxious for nothing”, “Fret not”, …

Anger is a form of self-defense. It is fear-based. Anger is a response to fear – a response to a perceived or real threat.


I just finished listening to Part 2: How to Forgive People, and it’s as good as or better than Part 1. Thanks! Now I need to check out Keller’s article. :slightly_smiling_face:

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“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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