Bitterness, Forgiveness and Politics

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.

Matthew 18:21-22

This week’s sermon at my church was on bitterness and how we must let it go or it will consume us.  My pastor laid out 5 facts about people who harbor bitterness and it got me thinking about my attitude toward politics.

People with bitterness:

1 – Justify their bitterness.

2 – Become overly critical.

3 – Secretly celebrate misfortunes of others.

4 – Write off entire groups of people.

5 – Struggle to see their bitterness in the mirror.

I am blessed to have a personality that forgives and forgets fairly easily so as I was listening to this sermon I couldn’t come up with an individual from my past that I still harbored bitterness toward and that made me feel pretty pious.  But then I started thinking about a “group” I have bitterness toward that I have not forgiven and then that pious feeling morphed into a feeling of conviction.  The group that I haven’t forgiven can be characterized by many names – Leftists, Obama supporters, Democrats, etc. 

Those who frequent my blog know I have great disdain for Obama, Pelosi, Reid, et. al. who are destroying our country.  I have not characterized my criticism of the Leftist Democrats as ‘bitterness’ but as I looked over these 5 traits of bitterness, I realized (to the outside observer) I met all of them!

I justify my aggressive attitude to Leftists because I feel that it is my duty as a US citizen to fight those who wish to defy the US Constitution.  I want to secure a better future for my children and the only way I can to this, other than my vote, is to be vocal on Twitter, Facebook and this blog in my opposition to their actions.

I am extremely critical of Team Obama and will gladly write blog posts when I hear them say anything that I feel is in opposition to the Constitution, Free Market Capitalism or fiscal/economic Conservative principles.  

I don’t secretly celebrate the misfortunes of Leftists, I publically celebrate them!  I revel in such instances when:  Team Obama gets caught threatening a journalist, the promises of Obamacare fall short or Leftists come unhinged.

When I interact with someone who is a Democrat/Liberal, I automatically put them in a box labeled – ‘seeks to destroy the US’ – and I do this with great ease.  I do this even though I am personally friends with Democrats and know that they also feel they are acting in the best interest of the country. 

I pat myself on the back when I embarrass a Leftist on twitter or write a blog post that I feel makes the case that they are evil and I am right. 

So this is my dilemma.  I am a follower of Jesus Christ and He has commanded me to forgive people because He has forgiven me.  But I am also responsible for calling out evil when I see it and I have a duty to do leave this country in a better condition than I found it.  Can I fight Leftists in the political arena and still do this in a manner that doesn’t harbor bitterness? 

I think Yes!

For the most part, I have always adopted the mantle of ‘happy warrior’ and while I appear to the outside world as someone who is bitter, I engage in this political judo because I enjoy it.  I love political debate and I enjoy fighting for what I believe is right.  It’s not bitterness, it’s passion!  Or at least that is what I tell myself when I look in the mirror….

While I feel I can continue to fight against Leftists without coming from a place of bitterness, I was convicted to alter at least one aspect of my social media modus operandi – I must stop pigeon holing other Democrats and instead approach them in this happy warrior mentality to have a healthy debate without demeaning them.  If they want to get into the mud and start spouting memes from the Leftist hive mind then I’ll swing back but I must first treat them as individuals and not Leftists robots.

After listening to this sermon I realized I must stop assuming every Democrat wants to destroy the country.  If I can engage in healthy debate instead of defaulting to ridicule then maybe I can influence the conversation in a positive manner.  I’m just one person but if all conservatives adopted this method maybe we’d have a bigger impact.  Grass roots conversations is how we’ll change the culture and the tenor of the debate and approaching the conversation in a more positive intent might yield bigger dividends.

So have I totally justified my aggressive political attitude/methods?  Have I reconciled those actions with the teachings of Jesus?

Before I can say this, it should be noted that there is more to the passage from Matthew chapter 18.  Jesus tells a parable that has a simple but profound takeaway – Because we have been forgiven a debt that we couldn’t repay (which happened when we acknowledge that we have placed our faith in the death/resurrection of Jesus as full payment for our sins), we should forgive smaller debts that our brothers and sisters have.  Jesus gave no wiggle room for degrees of debts since they all pale in comparison to our sins against God.

 23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him.25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’

30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.

32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to.33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Obama is in power for another 4 years, the US is going down the wrong path, now is the time for Patriots to stand up…….But Jesus commands us to forgive……

I’m struggling with this!

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9 Responses to Bitterness, Forgiveness and Politics

  1. livinrightinpgh says:

    Great post, Cosmo! The Book of Ephesians (4:26) tells us: Be angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath. (KJV)

    It’s one thing to be angry (as in the attacks we see on the value of human life) and speak out against such atrocities. It’s an entirely different thing to let our anger lead us to sin.

  2. “Can I fight Leftists in the political arena and still do this in a manner that doesn’t harbor bitterness? “, i think so, too. Yes.

  3. abcinsc says:

    It’s a struggle! I’ve given up Obama for Lent.

  4. Does this mean we’ll see a kinder, gentler Cosmo in the future??

    I agree with your sentiment here, and I could certainly take much of this to heart, as well…
    …but the Statists are often so inherently evil in their politics, it makes it very, very difficult.

    Thanks for penning a very thought-provoking post, partner…

  5. blaine says:

    “I am a follower of Jesus Christ and He has commanded me to forgive people because He has forgiven me.”

    This may be a misinterpretation of what Jesus commanded you to do.

    I believe to forgive someone who does not want or ask for forgiveness only encourages continued wrong behavior by the person you are forgiving.

    This position is wholly consistent with the teachings of the New Testament.

    1 John: 9

    If God does not forgive unless supplication is made, are we more powerful than God that we can do what He will not, i.e.,forgive someone who does not ask for or want forgiveness?

    Here is verse from the Old Testament:

    Isaiah 43:25-26

    The Bible is very clear that if someone asks for forgiveness, Christians are required to forgive fully.

    However, I do not think that means Christians are to forgive people who don’t ask for forgiveness or for that matter, don’t think they have done anything wrong.

    Put most well meaning liberals in this camp.

  6. I think there is a time and a place for righteous anger/indignation (i.e. Jesus and the money changers), but the key, at least in my mind, is to direct the anger at the idea/behavior rather than at the person. Of course, that’s the hard part.

    • blaine says:

      As you point out, Jesus was clearly not a pacifist. Mathew reports Jesus went into the temple and physically drove out people who were there selling animals for sacrifice. He also turned over their tables and chairs.

      Jesus did not lead his disciples in a sit-in protest in front of the temple like something Gandi might have done.

      When it came to forgiveness, Jesus did not say to the people who crucified him, “I forgive you for crucifying me.”

      Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

      This may seem like a difference without distinction but it has profound theological implications for people who strive to follow Jesus’ example.

      Jesus prayer to the Father indicates that only God can forgive sinners who do not know what they are doing.

      Jesus did not and could not forgive the people who were crucifying him because they had not asked for his forgiveness.

      To take an extreme example, It would be wrong to forgive a doctor who performs “after-birth” abortions if the doctor does not first acknowledge that doing this is wrong, promise to stop doing it and ask for forgiveness.

      The command for Christians to grant forgiveness does not mean you are required to forgive people that think they are doing nothing wrong and do not ask or want your forgiveness. Jesus indicated that’s something only God can do.

  7. cosmoscon says:

    Thanks to all who have added to this conversation and this is an exercise in taking the totality of Scripture into account.

    Luke 17:3-4 also tells us to forgive those who recognize their sin and repent.

    I will focus more on condemning the sin instead of personally attacking the sinner. We are the Salt of the Earth and therefore must be active in calling out sin so Jesus didn’t mean for us to be passive and sit on the sidelines.

    One of my favorite passages from Revelation is from 6:16 – “They called to the mountains and the rocks, Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on teh throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!

    There is something awesome about the ‘wrath of the lamb’ and that is what is coming!

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