Anthony Weiner infamously sent out pictures of his anatomy to various women and through them to the world. This is to say nothing of the infidelity to his wife in doing so. He apologized in some manner, resigned, and went away from the public eye.
That was until he saw an opportunity to run for Mayor in New York City. The pundits asked, “Will the people of New York give him another chance?” The answer was given through poll after poll. Yes. This week, it has come out that his infidelities extended long after he resigned from office last time. And so the question returns, “Will the people give him another chance?” My guess? Yes. And strangely, most commentators agree. Why? They say, “We are a forgiving people.”
Is that really it? Are we as a people just that filled with forgiveness to offer to people? Are we just that gracious? Or is the truth that we simply don’t take sin that seriously? It is not that we are willing to forgive but that we just don’t recognize sins like these as a big problem in the first place.
We tell Anthony we will welcome him onto the ballot not because we have deemed him repentant and forgiven him of his sin. We welcome him back because while we think his actions a little embarrassing, we don’t truly find them sinful, at least not to a level that sets them apart as worthy of rebuke. After all who hasn’t flirted a little with someone who was not their spouse? Who wouldn’t show of a body like that if they had it? Who hasn’t used their power to influence people for their personal desires?
It is not that we say, “We forgive you of your sin.” We really just say, “What you did is no big deal. Let’s move on.” Otherwise each of us would have to deal with our own sins also. We know that with the measure we judge we would be judged ourselves. And that would be painful to the point of death. It would reveals that we are not okay either. It would cast questions about our worthiness for certain tasks as well. Who wants to do that when we can instead just say like a confused adolescent trying to fit in, “Well, everybody else is doing it.”
Forgiveness is perhaps the most misunderstood word in modern times. Forgiveness is not just saying things are okay. It is not just moving on to end conflict. Forgiveness deals with the dirty and deadly nature of sin head on. It recognizes it for the ugliness it is and then dismisses its due penalty. It says that the act is not okay but that it is put away. We learn this from God. He never once has said that a sin is okay. He calls it damnable and then for the sake of Christ’s death casts it far away never to be seen.
We Christians should be careful how we use the word forgiveness. Jesus is forgiveness and therefore to misuse the word is to take his name in vain.
This post is not about Anthony Weiner or his run for Mayor ultimately. The question of what actions disqualify a person from holding a position of authority must be saved for another time. This post is about making sure that we do not use the word forgiveness when what we are talking about is simply the approval of sin. We should only use it when we speak of recognizing sin as not only as embarrassing when revealed but deadly even when hidden and yet forgiven for Christ’s sake. That is forgiveness. And nothing else can substitute. Only this forgiveness gives hope to sinners like Anthony Weiner and like me.