I Believe in a Place Called Forgiveness
con·done: to regard or treat (something bad or blameworthy) as acceptable, forgivable, or harmless
Bill Clinton brought two American journalists home from imprisonment in North Korea on August 5, 2009. Based solely on my own emotions and a few comments made by some folks here and there, I think it’s safe to say that there are those of us in the body of Christ who may be having a hard time separating their negative opinions of Bill Clinton from the very positive role that he played in securing Laura Ling and Euna Lee’s release from a 12-year prison sentence in one of the most hostile countries in the world. Naturally, that got me thinking.
I was very puzzled that day when I felt like that rush of pride over Bill Clinton being one of Arkansas’s own was out of place in my heart. I think it’s because I’m afraid that if I say what he did was good, then I am saying that anything else he ever did that I disagree with is okay, too. It’s because I don’t want to condone his previous actions. We’ve all heard/said that, right?
So I looked up the word ‘condone’ at www.webster.com in the hopes that it might shake a few things loose in my head, and I posted the definition at the beginning of this blog. First, I do not think that ‘acceptable, forgivable and harmless’ are even close to meaning the same thing, so I think that part of the definition is a little broad for me. However, I think it is also interesting to note that the definition does not indicate a person in the definition; rather, it limits its scope to actions or even presumably objects, in using the word ‘something’ as that which is bad or blameworthy. Please do not misunderstand this point: I am not making a grand statement about the inherent goodness of humanity. The Word says that no one is righteous, no not one, and I believe the Word.
Perhaps the most poignant of the observations I made as I was thinking about everything was this: the antonym of condone is…pay attention here…condemn. That’s where I had to pause and think very seriously about these two words, and what’s more, their corresponding actions. I looked at what this word condone really means, this word that we all so solemnly swear we simply cannot do, and I realized: we are all so right. We simply cannot do it. We cannot do either of these things! The Bible is very clear on the dangers of judging others and withholding forgiveness. Some argue that it appears to then temporarily lift the ban to allow us to judge what is good, what is excellent (1 Thess 5:21; Phil 1:9-10). But the words used for this type of judgment versus judgment of individuals are very different in the original text. Applied to individuals, the meaning is to condemn. Applied to judging what is good and excellent (i.e., what I should be doing as a believer), the meaning is closer to examination and discernment. Notice that neither of the passages above instruct us to judge what is evil. Rather, we are instructed: ‘Be excellent in what is good, be innocent in what is evil.’ (Romans 16:19) Again, I feel the need for a disclaimer: I am not saying we should not identify and avoid sin – by no means. I am simply suggesting that our focus is better spent on attaining to what is good.
I keep coming back to how everything God asks of us points towards reminding us of our absolute and total need for Him. I believe that He doesn’t want us to judge people because it gives us a false sense of righteousness, and it ultimately leads us to the place where we forget our need for God. I know from my own experiences that this is the most dangerous place I can possibly be. I am safest when I am with Him.
In summary, regardless of how I will allow political opinions and the actions of others to fit into (or fall outside of) what I believe to be good and right and excellent, I am so very glad that Bill Clinton brought those girls home to their families. That is awesome. What’s more, I’m glad that my sins, my flaws, and my failings are not public knowledge. Okay, I’ve got another what’s more: I’m glad that the people who do know the yucky stuff about me still rejoice with me when I get it right.
So here’s to getting it right.