Cancel culture may be a relatively recent term when it comes to our daily discourse, public or private, but the concept cancel culture calls out has been with us for centuries. How do I know this? I read about cancel culture all the time in the Bible. Jesus dealt with it during His time here on earth. And since human nature hasn’t changed, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that a cancel culture mindset is still something we are all struggling with and attempting to survive today.
Peter, one of Jesus’s disciples, asked Jesus a question one day which revealed that Peter was struggling with this desire to “cancel” those who offended or wronged him. This would be a good time for me to confess – I too, have asked this question on more than one occasion. Here’s how the conversation between Peter and Jesus unfolded –
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’ ” (or seventy times seven) (Matthew 18:21-22)
Now, fyi dear readers, seventy times seven or seventy-seven times, both are symbolic of infinity. In other words, Jesus was telling Peter there was no limit on the number of times he should forgive an offense against him. Not exactly what Peter wanted to hear. He probably thought there should be a reasonable limit to what one should have to put up with and after that, one had no more obligation to overlook an offense.
Peter was definitely virtue signaling when he suggested seven times as a possible answer to the question he was asking of Jesus, probably thinking seven times was quite generous in nature. But we see by Jesus’s answer, (seventy times seven) to Peter’s question, that Jesus had an entirely different perspective on the matter. We read in Colossians 3:13 these words,
“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
So I am to forgive because I, myself, have been forgiven. God has not given up on me. I should not give up on other people. Fortunately for me, my Heavenly Father has never cancelled me, never defriended me, nor refused to hear my desperate prayers. This, in spite of all my continued offenses against Him.
Peter would experience this unmerited, miraculous acceptance and forgiveness of Jesus. And it would come after Peter’s most grievous offense yet against Jesus. Peter denied that he even knew Jesus – not once but three separate times. Peter committed these acts of betrayal at a time when Jesus most needed him, at a time when everyone else had deserted Jesus, at the time, at the hour when Jesus was on trial for His very life! Peter bailed on Jesus in Jesus’s hour of need. And yet . . .
The story does not end there. Peter was not cancelled. He was not de-friended nor de-discipled. Peter was forgiven, restored and reinstated by Jesus. We see this play out after Jesus’s resurrection, when He joined His disciples one morning on the beach after they had spent the night fishing. Jesus charges Peter with the responsibility to “Feed My Lambs”, to “Take care of My sheep.”
People are not disposable to Jesus. We are redeemable and remarkable because He made us and He made us in His image. Remember what Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 16:18, before Peter’s huge failure of denouncement and defection when times got tough? Jesus told Peter,
“I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
Peter was still used by God, despite his mistakes. God’s forgiveness is much greater than all our offenses. I love what Micah 7:18-19 says about this,
“Who is a God like You, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”
Yes, Jesus lived in a cancel culture not so different from the one we find ourselves in today. The Pharisees were the self appointed thought police of Jesus’s day. However, their method of cancelling you would be to see you stoned or crucified if possible. Remember the woman caught in adultery? They were going to have her stoned until Jesus intervened on her behalf. Jesus thought she was worth saving in spite of her questionable behavior at the time.
I guess losing a few friends or followers kind of pales in comparison to being stoned to death? Still our current cancel culture can feel kind of dangerous. One misstep, one misspoken word and you are history, you are toast, you are thrown away as irredeemable. And I thought baseball was brutal with its three strikes and you are out! Those three strikes are looking pretty magnanimous right about now.
I know I long for second chances times infinity. Don’t we all? Don’t we all want another opportunity to succeed, to right the wrong, to repair the damage, to do better, to do different? to pick ourselves up and try again? Our country’s history has been one of people doing just those things for years. Learning from our failures and doing better. We are a country that gives second chances to anyone who wants one. (at least we did in the past) We were founded on a belief in a Creator God who gives second chances to anyone who asks Him, without partiality.
Cancel culture is robbing us all of the opportunities we all counted on to continually learn and grow without being sentenced to a life of silence and irrelevance, irrevocably by who? Who determines who gets cancelled? Perhaps we should start by not being so quick to cancel each other. Psalm 130:3-4 says,
“If You, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.”
Heavenly Father, I’m so glad you don’t keep a record of my wrongdoing and hold it against me. Help me to follow Your example, and not hold others’ offenses against them. My load will certainly be lighter the less I hold onto grudges and gripes.
“A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” (Proverbs 19:11)
sincerely, Grace Day