Forgiveness: The End Of Cancel Culture's Fear


Text: Matthew 9:1-8

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Our culture is playing a very dangerous game right now.  Here is how the game is currently being played out. 

People in our culture are getting points – figurative points, not literal points – every time they call out some sort of injustice in our society.  In other words, if somebody in society says something or does something politically incorrect, then whoever calls them out gets a point.  And so, for those playing this game, the more they call out infractions and injustices in our society, the more points they earn.  And the more points they earn, the better they feel about their own righteousness, and the more they are respected by others who are playing the same game. 

And so, our culture is currently filled with people that are watching every aspect of society. These people who are playing this game are listening intensely to the news.  Every conversation, every single action, and every single encounter in America is being examined and scrutinized.  These people are seeking to find fault in anyone so that they can score points. 

And so, when someone slips up, does something unjust, or violates a social taboo, well… there is no mercy and certainly no such thing as forgiveness.  But instead, those who slip up get called out, shamed, and harassed.  And the people who called them out?  They get a point.  Again, the more infractions these game players can call out in the culture, the more points they earn. 

As a result of this game being played, though, a tremendous amount of fear has been created in our culture, as everyone knows they are under a scrutinizing microscope. That is to say; because people are playing this game and wanting to get more points, they are always scanning everything and everyone in society looking to accuse, as they try to dot all their Ts and dot all their I’s.   Perhaps you have felt this intensity as well, looking over your shoulder just waiting to get smeared.  Businesses, organizations, churches, professionals, employees, and families are now trying to be incredibly careful in how they act, how they talk, and how they function to not get within the crosshairs of those playing this game.  Businesses, organizations, churches, professionals, employees, and families do not want to be called out. They do not want to be the center of a mob’s accusation.  They do not want their careers ruined on social media.  They do not want their businesses destroyed on the nightly news. They do not want to be dragged through the mud.  They do not want to be canceled, boycotted, sued, or chastised. 

Considering all of this, what on earth is going on with this game? Well, quite frankly, it is the devil’s game.  It is wickedness at best.  Yes, you heard that correctly. It is the game that the devil has been playing since the beginning of time. Keep in mind that the devil is the great accuser. The devil hates and despises the forgiveness of sins. The devil hates reconciliation, healing, restoration, and mercy. And so, because this game has no real intention of working towards reconciliation, restoration, and mercy – just point scoring – it is anti-Christian.  This game is advocating for a world without mercy and a world without forgiveness. And without mercy and forgiveness?  Well… we are left with wickedness. No hope.  No assurance. 

And so, this game is not new.  We must always remember the wisdom of Solomon when he once said,

“There is nothing new under the sun.” 

 And because there is nothing new under the sun, we see Jesus encountering this same kind of spirit in the Scribes and Pharisees.

In our reading from the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus was in Galilee.  However, the Scribes and Pharisees apparently came all the way up from Jerusalem to the area of Galilee to spy on Jesus.  And as they closely watched Jesus with their wicked hearts, they took special note of Jesus’ every move and every word.  Yes, the Scribes and Pharisees had venomous malice, and we see this toxic attitude exposed when Jesus said to them,

“Why are you thinking wicked things in your hearts?” 

And to make things even more interesting, after Jesus forgave the sins of a paralytic man that was brought before him, we imagine the Scribes and Pharisees hissing even more with glares of accusation on their faces.  They had no real compassion for Jesus, just the goal to injure and destroy Him. 

And so, we see quite a contrast in our reading from the Gospel of Matthew.  On the one hand, the Scribes and Pharisees came all the way from Jerusalem to try and gather evidence that they could use against Jesus.  And Jesus? Instead of accusing the paralytic man of his sins and leaving the paralytic helplessly on his bed, Jesus not only heals the man but separates the paralytic from his sin. Jesus said,

 “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” 

Forgiveness of sins is a remarkable thing. It is also a tricky thing to understand. When Jesus forgave the paralytic of his sins, He was not saying,

“Don’t worry, be happy!” 

Forgiveness is not, “Everything is alright; no worries!”  No, when Jesus forgave the paralytic, He separated the man from his damning sins.  To forgive is to cause the condemnation of sins to depart from a person so that the sin can no longer cling to the person.

So, when Jesus forgives you through Holy Absolution at the beginning of the church service through the mouth of a pastor, Jesus is loosening you from sin and sin from you.  He is freeing you from the guilt of your sin.  That is what the word absolve means – to loose from. 

So, the forgiveness of sins in absolution can be thought of as the greatest and most precious magnificently splendid treasure that you have ever known. (Martin Luther, BEC 22)  When you and I fail in thought, word, and deed in our marriages, in our jobs, and in life in general, we have an opportunity to come to this sacred place and hear the absolving words of Jesus that the guilt of our sin is no longer connected to us. This morning, in Holy Absolution, Jesus truly and really loosened your sins from you from this entire past week so that you might have peace in your conscience.  Through the forgiving words of Jesus, your sin is sent away. It no longer keeps you under its thumb. Sin has been deserted from you. 

Dare I say that it seems in our modern-day context that everywhere you look, people are pointing fingers at you and me and everyone else. Everyone is playing the gotcha game.  Everyone seems to be taking extra precautionary measures to insulate themselves from being sued, attacked, dragged through the mud, accused, and condemned by society.  As a result, I sense a great deal of sadness, despair, and frankly tired souls.  This is why the Christian Church is so important right now. It is the one safe place that you can go and be loosened from your sins.

But we are told that the church is a monstrous place of judging.  We are told that the church is full of bigoted monsters.  …yes, the church does call out sin and injustices but not for the sake of condemning people and sending them to hell – or scoring points on some silly game.  Sins must be called out so that they can be forgiven.  

Think of it this way. Our culture refuses to call anything sin, yet everyone seems to be under condemnation in our culture, as everyone is being called out.  In our culture, it is like one endless sound of accusation with no ways to remedy the accusation, except possibly dying and going away.  But, we the church, – you as Christians – call a thing what it is, and then we hear that we are freed from the condemnation of our sins because our sin has ultimately been placed on Jesus, and He paid it all in full for us.  He was canceled on the cross for our sins and considered it well worthwhile. 

So, while our culture calls out and accuses for the sake of gaining points and ruining lives, we the church gather together in this safe ark to drag our sins and the kicking old Adam before the throne of grace so that we might be absolved – forgiven – of all of our sins for Christ sake. 

And unlike everything around us, we Christians do not have to live in fear of being canceled. You do not have to live in fear of condemnation from the world. You do not have to live in fear of the hisses of accusation from the devil. You do not live by fear but by faith in the Son of God who tells you,

Take heart, dear Baptized Saint; your sins are forgiven.” 

Blessed Baptized Saints, when the service concludes, stand up, take your coat, and go to your homes filled with good cheer that you have been washed of your sins.  And then wake up on Monday and go to work or whatever the day has before you, giving thanks that you are absolved and that nothing the world or the devil hisses at you has any bearing on your identity as a baptized and forgiven child of God. 

Take heart. You are forgiven. You have been separated from the condemnation of your sins and joined to Christ.

In the name of Jesus. Amen

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