Forgiveness Requires Repentance

“Forgiving and being reconciled to our enemies or our loved ones are not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is not about patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong. True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the hurt, the truth. It could even sometimes make things worse. It is a risky undertaking but in the end, it is worthwhile, because in the end only an honest confrontation with reality can bring real healing. Superficial reconciliation can bring only superficial healing.” Desmond Tutu

I posted the above quote to my Facebook feed recently. When it comes to forgiveness and reconciliation, I like to pay attention to people the Desmond Tutu, who lived through some rather horrible stuff in his life but could still chart a course towards forgiveness and reconciliation.

Since the insurrection of January 6, 2021, there have been calls from some quarters for unity and forgiveness.  That is great, and I applaud those efforts. However, if there is to be any unity and if there is to be any reconciliation, those responsible for not only committing the acts of violence but those who incited it.

In my sermon this past Sunday, I quoted Dietrich Bonhoeffer concerning what he calls “Cheap Grace.” As part of the definition, Bonhoeffer says that Cheap Grace is “The preaching of forgiveness without repentance.” Yes, God indeed forgives us but, in my understanding of things, there has to be a sense of what you have done is wrong and a sincere desire to take corrective action, in other words, not to do it again.

Thus far, there has not been any true repentance or even any suggestion of owning up to what was done. Almost immediately after the events of that day happened, those on the right, without any evidence, mind you, began saying it was Antifa that had done this. The President of the United States refuses to take any responsibility for his role in all of this and continues to spout the lie that the election was stolen from him.

Yes, it is true that holding people accountable and exposing the awfulness of what happened on January 6 may, for a time, make things worse. But as Tutu says in the above quote, “only an honest confrontation with reality can bring real healing.” If we do not hold those responsible accountable and if we do not seek to find the answers to the root of the problem, then all we do is kick the can further down the road to the next generation.

Seeking forgiveness and reconciliation is dirty but necessary work, but it is holy and sacred work. However, that work cannot even begin to start until all those involved have been held accountable.

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