Seeing the best in life's challenges

Unforgivable Sins

on May 7, 2012

Allowing people to see who you really are, means letting others see that you are not “perfect.”

This is not necessarily an either/or proposition or even that big of a deal.  You can open up a little bit, let someone see your more acceptable “faults” and they are still most likely to accept you and maybe even love you.  This strategy is a pretty safe bet for most of us.  We can find a pretty good balance doing this, and keeping certain imperfections or experiences to ourselves really isn’t that big a deal.  Why rock the boat?  In many cases, there isn’t any dramatic big secret to keep, so it’s easy enough to get along and fit in.

But let’s go back and take another look at my initial statement.  What about being “perfect”??

Maybe it’s not that we want people to be perfect, it’s more that we want them to be as we EXPECT them to be.  Within the “acceptable” range, we can tolerate some quirkiness, some minor indiscretions, maybe even one major slip that has been forgiven.  There might be a sordid past, but if a person has obviously learned their lessons, they are not really “like that.”  We forgive and forget, especially with those we know and love.

Usually, we choose to spend our time with others with whom we have a lot in common, who are in the same social circles, so we are less likely to run into serious incompatibilities or surprises.  We give our friends the benefit of the doubt.  After all, they are “like us” and we know that we are basically good at heart and don’t mean any harm, so they must be the same.

When we surround ourselves with others who are similar, it’s easier to sail along without disruption.  If you avoid conflict and differences, you don’t have to deal with them.

But then there are the Unforgivable Sins.

Child molestation.  Rape.  Murder.  Adultery.  Abortion.  Homosexuality.  Teen pregnancy.  Criminal activity.  Domestic violence.  Drug use.  Drug dealing.  Drunk driving.  Smoking.  Suicide.  Being an atheist.  Being Muslim.  Corporate Greed.  Laziness.  Bullying.

As Christians, we are told not to judge yet we don’t think that applies to unforgivable sins.  Few will find fault with condemning child molesters, rapists, terrorists, and murderers.   They should get what they deserve.  But that is still judging.  I have heard people rant with passion about many of the above categories.

You might not like that I am putting murderers and homosexuals, for example, in the same list.  I do not personally think these categories of people are in any way the same, except that they both get condemned.  In fact, I don’t like categorizing people at all – I put them in categories to illustrate how we label, judge, and dismiss large groups of individuals, and we do it all the time without thinking about it.  And most likely, if you are reading this, you don’t consider homosexuality to be an “unforgivable sin.”  But how about murder and child molestation?  Do you really think those can be forgiven?

What’s on your list of Unforgivable Sins?  Obviously, not everyone’s list will be the same.  Whose list is “right”?

As one goes down the list, the level of condemnation starts to get fuzzy, especially if you have had a personal experience in which you or someone you are close to has had to grapple with that particular “moral issue.”  It’s also obvious that each Unforgivable Sin is unique.  I’m guessing many people would be tempted to spend some time arguing why certain ones “should” be in the list and others “shouldn’t”.  Who is “right?”

Granted, many of the categories in the list represent the “extreme” issues.  Let’s get back to being perfect or meeting expectations.  Maybe you aren’t worried about those major issues, but what about the minor Sins and Expectations? How well-defined is the box you would like others to fit into?

I find Ernie Fitzpatrick’s thoughts on forgiveness very interesting.  He asks, “What if God doesn’t forgive, because God doesn’t judge?”  “Can you handle such love?”  My question to you is:  Can you offer that kind of love?

What Ernie is saying, is that to God there is no such thing as an Unforgivable Sin.  Wait, doesn’t that sound familiar?  I’ve heard that somewhere before….

In a culture that condemns certain “sinners” forever, shuns them, bans them, does not tolerate mistakes or differences, there is NO WAY OUT.   Once a person slips up or doesn’t fit in (or worse yet, gets labeled), self-preservation kicks in.  If possible, mistakes are hidden.  There is the fear of being found out, and holes may be dug.  Some will continue to deny the obvious (i.e., Jerry Sandusky) to the point of absurdity.  Others will take their own lives.

Most important, in a zero tolerance atmosphere it is very difficult to get help, to focus on prevention, to find support, to come up with solutions.  So situations and problems, and the potential for more problems, dysfunction, misunderstandings, repeat behavior, all get worse.

Sarah McBride’s story proves there is a different way to handle perceived Unforgiveable Sins.  We can throw away those lists, and stop expecting others to be just like us.  Instead, we can be open and focus on understanding people as individuals.  We don’t have to be like them and they don’t have to be like us.  We don’t even have to hang out with them or be their friend, if that doesn’t feel right.  And yes, maybe it’s easier to accept Sarah than some others.  After all, she’s a super great person, well spoken, honest, brave and accomplished.

But what about the others we have condemned as unforgivable, for whatever reason?  We don’t have to condone bad behavior and violence.  Yet we can fight to make the world a better place without the need to condemn, especially with anger and contempt.  We can always choose to react with compassion first.


The video that can be found at the following link complements this discussion.  I ordered the book Practical Wisdom today, and am looking forward to reading it!


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