This morning on ESPN, one commentator wondered aloud if the players and coach of the Rutger’s women’s basketball team forgave Don Imus for his racist & sexist comments after they met last night. Other television shows (news & sports) had similar questions.
Listening to these voices, a question was raised in my own mind. What would be the basis for forgiving Imus? His apology? His sincerity? His demeanor? To my thinking, none of these are sufficient. Does an apology require forgiveness? I don’t think our culture has a substantive answer to this question either.
Forgiving an offense requires someone to bear the cost of the transgression. But that someone had better not be guilty of similar (or any?) transgressions themselves, or one risks personal hypocracy or corporate “winking” at wrongs.
In my experience and journey, I have encounter only one sufficient source of true forgiveness. That is in the person of Jesus Christ. He forgave those who did him wrong while he was being tortured and killed by those same people. His death – that of a true innocent – paid for my sin and the sin of the world. By trusting in his death as payment in place of mine, there is someone who has paid for my sin. And not only mine – but anyone and everyone else. (Yes, it’s truely reckless grace!)
This means that I am now released to forgive others when they wrong me. I need not hold them for payment for their sin against me. I have been forgiven; I am now free to truly forgive others. Not a winking at wrong or overlooking an offense, but recognizing that whatever offense has been done against me has already been paid for by the death of Jesus Christ. I have a true reason to forgive.
Of course, the death of one man alone would not be sufficient to pay for the sin of everyone, unless that person were completely innocent and representative of more than one person but of the entire human race. It seems to me that the resurrection of Jesus Christ points to him as being this representative, but that is for another post.
Meanwhile, I truly do hope that all of the participants in the recent Imus-Rutgers episode would be able to find a true source of forgiveness, restitution, reconciliation, and renewal. That is my prayer.