Tolerance has become one of the most prized virtues in American culture today. But tolerance has changed meaning.
When I was growing up, tolerance meant that even though I might vigorously disagree with your opinion, I would vigorously defend your right to hold that opinion. Today toleration has come to mean that I must maintain the belief that all ideas are equally true, equally right and equally valid. If I disagree with your opinion, I am intolerant.
Not surprisingly, sin and guilt have fallen out of favor. How could you possible be guilty if all ideas are equal? How could any action be judged sinful if there are no absolutes? The vocabulary has changed in response. We don’t lie anymore; we misspeak. We are not sinful; we’re broken; and, we’re not guilty; we’re victims.
These changes affect the church as well. We prefer not to discuss judgment, hell or God’s wrath, emphasizing instead God’s love, grace and mercy. We don’t like to mention sin and guilt because that now appears too offensive and judgmental to our culture.
But what if you are guilty — objectively, morally, legally and ethically guilty — despite our modern notions of tolerance?
The only solution to real guilt is real forgiveness. Forgiveness is a universal need of all humankind. Not only is forgiveness something we all need, forgiveness is also something we must give.
But many difficulties surround forgiveness: How many times must you forgive someone? What if that person never asks for forgiveness? Must we forgive others who don’t want it? What if I don’t feel forgiven? How do I ask for forgiveness?
A careful study of the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant in Matthew 18 will help us untangle these questions.