Opinion: Me too! And Grace
By Richard Hitchcock
To begin, all who know me well know I live at the bema of grace. I’ve heard the statement, “You didn’t get what you deserved!” I reply, “I don’t want what I deserve.”
That being said, I have a few observations that I’m sure will rile someone, somewhere. Sorry. The fact is that we, as a society, have come to a point where we need to examine some things. That being the joy and necessity of grace.
Like it or not, our country was founded in the afterglow of the Puritan movement in England and elsewhere. A component of that was the recognition of certain Christian tenets. For this discussion—the tenet of grace. As a definition, grace is the unmerited favor one gives to another.
You hit me. My reaction could be to hit you back, say “it’s ok” or say “I forgive you”.
The first reaction, hitting back, is what I’ll come back to in a moment. The second reaction “it’s ok” isn’t true so dismiss it. The third reaction is forgiveness.
The response of forgiveness presumes that I can bear the burden of the injury and unload it somewhere else. Or, in Christianity ON someone else. The Christian doctrine says God bore the injustices of the world and, as his representatives, we do the same as he squares the accounts on our behalf. Christians and the Christian world society of the past had the ability to look at wrong and absorb it within the deep bucket of forgiveness. It was never perfect—Christians never have measured up to the standard. But forgiveness lay at the root of issues. You did wrong. I forgive you.
In our current post-Christian world not having God or more to the point not having Jesus as God creates some inconvenient issues. The main thing is that we’ve lost the idea of a problem bearing God, a God who says he’ll handle the rough stuff. Consequently, we’ve lost the ability to off-load the injustices we incur from one another. We can’t say to the person who hit us that we forgive them because our only remedy is to carry the injustice on our back. And that’s a heavy load.
And injustices happen. Every day. To everyone. We get and give—we are all equal opportunity injustice givers and receivers. Some injustices are more grievous than others, true. The Me Too! Movement, the Catholic abuse scandal and other virtuous movements have rightly shed light on injustices long hidden, ignored and excused. Conveniently wrong behavior has been winked at. Hopefully no longer or more realistically a bit less.
But what do we do when we expose wrong? Forgiveness is passé or impossible. And we don’t want to personally bear the weight of another’s injustice. So, as a society, we are marching back to the idea of LEX TALIONIS, the law of retribution. More commonly known as “an eye for an eye”. Your lost job for my injury. Your lost opportunity, your jail time, your something! Just so long as I get my “piece of flesh” for the wrong I’ve incurred.
If this is where we are, we need to dust off old Hammurabi or Moses. Both had a long list of approved remedies for wrongs incurred. A finger here, a leg or arm there, maybe a death. It was a gallant attempt to mete out justice on some equitable basis. It kept and would keep society from lurching from one guilt to another without some established quid pro quo.
It’s going to be a hard world. A lot of figuratively fingerless people. Or. Or, we can recapture the idea of forgiveness. You did wrong. That’s not ok. But, I forgive you. I can because I have been.