Mistakes and Forgiveness

I think it’s pretty well known that Christianity is about forgiveness.  We all know that nobody is perfect, so we are apt to forgive them of mistakes.  As I read my Twitter feed the other morning, I came across an interesting fact, and I started to wonder, “How does forgiveness work when it’s a really big mistake?”

Although I’m not as much of a sports fan as I used to be, I do occasionally hear about some headlines.  Apparently, a few days ago there was a baseball game in its 19th inning (Yes, NINETEENTH).  A runner was sliding home, and the catcher tagged him out.  From watching the replay, the guy was definitely out.  The umpire called him safe.  That’s it, game over.  If you want to see some highlights of what people are calling “The Worst Call Ever” the go here

This got me thinking, if you’re a Pirates fan, and a Christian, can you forgive this guy?  I mean, if I Jesus Juke you into remembering that you’ve definitely messed up more than a baseball game in your life, and yet God forgives you, certainly you can find it in your heart to forgive the ump.  But that’s sort of the “I’ll forgive him because I have to” route.  Let me ask a tougher question:

Do you want to forgive him?

Therein lies the rub.  “No.  I don’t want to forgive him.  Even though I’m an A’s fan, and don’t really care about the Pirates, this guy is a professional umpire for Major League Baseball.  I hope he gets fired for being so stupid.”  Is that a Christian response?  Is that the first thing that comes to our minds when we see people make big mistakes?

We also like to establish motives for other people.  “He was tired, and wanted to end the game.”  Really?  Or maybe, somehow, he didn’t see the tag?  Just because someone’s actions hurt me doesn’t necessarily mean they meant to.  Even if we see patterns emerge of people’s intent guiding their actions, we cannot simply assign motive to another human being.

This is something that needs to be dealt with in the body of Christ.  I don’t care if the person is an umpire, boss, coworker, spouse, or child.  We shouldn’t respond with, “Well they did it because…” when we don’t know.  Remember Galatians 5:19-20 “Now the works of the flesh are evident:…fits of anger…”

When people around us make mistakes that wound us, let’s lean on grace and display the love of Christ.  This does not mean sin can be looked over, or that no consequences should come of actions, but it does mean that as far as it depends on us, we will live at peace with people.

The umpire made a mistake.  I’m not his boss, so I don’t get to say whether or not he keeps his job.  What if he’s had a long career of perfect calls?  How many bad calls does an ump make per year, on average?  Is this one call enough to derail his career?  Maybe.  There will be consequences for his mistakes, just like there are consequences for our own mistakes.  Adding my anger to this situation does nothing to help.  So, I ask,

“How many times must I forgive?”

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