Sent in by Stephanie
One of the prevalent themes in Christianity is forgiveness; forgiveness of sins against one another, forgiveness of yourself and God’s forgiveness of us all. In my brief stint and attempt at being a Christian I have learned one thing about this theme: it is the ultimate free card and not only allows you to do anything you want but it even removes all personal responsibility from your actions.
Christians; they seem like a nice group. They are always talking about loving one another and living their lives for others and not for themselves. It sounds as though if you are living in a Christian home you would be surrounded with so much love and support that it would be almost impossible for you to feel insecure, scared and unloved. I certainly bought into that ideal and after growing up without stability and reassurance I thought there had to be something better than what I knew already.
Then I met someone who convinced me that there was. It was called the “Christian lifestyle”. Here there was love, stability and I was promised that I would always be protected, honored, and cherished. A Christian husband would die for his wife and putting her and the family first was what it was all about. Now it wasn’t perfection but it is what they all strive for, why they go to church and what the Bible teaches them. It sounded promising and I was given my first Bible and told that this was the answer to everything. I read, but what I learned from experience would be more poignant.
When my spouse did things that were hurtful to me, I would express hurt; I would cry, or simply state that I did not like what was going on. In the beginning, that was enough. I was again reassured that as a Christian husband, his primary goal was to cherish me and he would do whatever it took to make me happy. We would pray for strength and guidance and that God would make everything in our relationship better. I was comforted by the fact that the Bible was actually saying that the thing I had issue with was wrong but I was introduced to something that until now I had not really understood about the Christian life: FOREGIVENESS.
Now this sounds like a good thing and initially, I believed it was. I mean, after all, I am not perfect but overall I would say I am a good natured person and do not mean to hurt anyone. I make mistakes so if I were to do something that hurt my relatively new spouse, I would love to be forgiven and learn from my experience how not to hurt him going forward. It was somehow comforting to know he would not be holding a grudge about something I had done that unintentionally hurt him. It was also comforting to know that if I said something in anger in the middle of a fight that I regretted, that too could be forgiven. Again, I am anything but perfect and since I am new at this whole “Christian thing” I figured I needed as much grace as possible.
Then, the reality began to sink in. My husband would hurt me again and this time, it was not enough to express it and crying became a manipulative attempt to control him. Apparently you are also called to bite your tongue when upset and wait patiently for the perfect opportunity to respectfully address your wounds. Once all of this was semi sorted out, I would hear those words that I would grow to hate; I’m sorry. Now most women would love to hear this and initially I did as well; I asked for it, but then I would wonder aloud how it is we are having the same argument we had just two weeks ago and he had done the same thing and was again, sorry. This did not make sense to me. If you know something is hurtful and you love someone and they have asked you to stop, the loving thing would be to stop, right? What came next was even harder to understand: if I did not accept the apology immediately (per the Bible) I was the one not living right. Now I will admit that this was tough and I fought it at every turn. It seemed counter intuitive to me to allow someone to continue to hurt me in the exact same way without some sort of consequence and that somehow if I did not forgive this, I was the one who was not living “like a Christian”. I apparently did not understand the meaning of forgiveness. It did not matter that someone was repeatedly hurting me in exactly the same way over and over and over again. Promises to stop were broken time and time again and at each confrontation, the message was the same: “I have said I am sorry and if you do not accept it that is your problem”.
This is when it hit me that forgiveness for Christians is a free card. It allows them to do what they want to whomever they want and in the end, they ask for forgiveness from the person they hurt and God and it is done. God forgives no matter what. Then the person you hurt has a choice. If they “choose” to be fed up with what might seem like insincerity after multiple offenses, they are pitied because they are unable to forgive. The best part is, the offender actually gets to walk away feeling good about themselves and their salvation without any personal responsibility for the emotional carnage they may have left behind. That is for God and the hurt person to deal with. HOW GREAT IS THAT!!!! You can actually choose repeatedly to hurt someone you profess to love be it lies, infidelity, whatever and the wounded individual is called by GOD to forgive you immediately and you have no additional responsibility. They need not feel guilty because God has forgiven them and God asks that they forgive themselves. If the person they hurt continues to languish in pain that is their problem. They feel sorry for you but not because they have hurt you, because you can’t get over it. There is no guilt, no remorse and certainly no real motivation to change. I mean, if you screw up again, you can simply ask for forgiveness again and no matter how many times you ask, you get it.
This is when I decided that this lifestyle is not for me. It was, for a moment, somewhat appealing to me to think about how I could use this theme as well. I mean, surely that also meant that I could continue to do things I promised I would not and be easily forgiven, right? I could hurt the people around me time and again and have no real lasting consequence because I am immediately forgiven and if they can’t forgive me that is their issue to work on. How freeing is that?
Unfortunately, it also made me feel like a hypocrite. I can hear myself clearly, lecturing my two children about how they treat each other. They are constantly fighting, saying mean and nasty things to one another and every time, I am on them touting the benefits of being good to each other and if they cannot be, some clear consequences are coming from me in the form of anything from a loss of privilege to a swat on the butt. What I had signed on to teach them via Christianity was that they could go ahead and be mean to each other as long as they apologized afterwards. There was really no need to even try to change going forward as God would forgive them anyway and if their sibling could not, it is their sibling I should be lecturing because clearly they did not understand the Biblical principal of forgiveness or as I like to call it: the free card.
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)