Political Forgiveness

One area where forgiveness is often needed, particularly in today’s climate, is in the area of politics. Political campaigns are ugly, bruising, full body contact sports, regularly filled with cutting accusations and scathing claims made by candidates against one another. Just take a surface level view of the 2020 Presidential campaign, it is bloody. However, rough campaigns are not unique to today’s climate, the campaigns of 1800 (between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson) or the 1828 campaign (between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson) were also just as bloody.

When Jesus was walking the earth, Peter asked Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times? (Matt 18:21). Jesus replied by taking it to the extreme, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matt 18:22). Jesus took this much further in his parable of the king whose servant was unable to repay a debt. While that servant moved the king, that servant was not so moved be another fellow servant who owed a debt and tossed that one in prison. This made the king angry, whereby, the king turned that servant over to be tortured until the debt could be repaid (vv. 32-34)

Jesus concludes this story by admonishing His disciples:

“My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart” (v. 35)

American Founder Thomas Pickering had a long career in politics, who served as both a general in the American Revolution and Secretary of State for President George Washington. He had received a letter from an associate who was asking for his forgiveness due to the way that he had treated Pickering. Pickering responded:

“Whatever imperfections or faults are in my character, I trust that implacability (hard heartedness) forms no part of it. As a man, it would do me honor – as a Christian, it is my indispensable duty – to forgive those who offend me.

Pickering knew that forgiveness was not a Christian luxury but was a Christian necessity. It was not optional, it was mandatory.

Richard Allen was a man who was raised a slave who had raised enough money to purchase his own freedom. He then became a Gospel minister and the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church – America’s first black denomination. He once wrote to other blacks who had been enslaved and mistreated:

“Let no rancor or ill-will lodge in your heart for any bad treatment you may have received from any. If you do, you transgress against God, Who will not hold you guiltless. He would not suffer it even in His beloved people Israel; and do you think He will allow it unto us?….I am sorry to say that too many think more of the evil than of the good they have received.”

The only life giving response to anything is to extend forgiveness, whether asked for or not. Jesus echoed this reality in His teachings, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt 6:12)