Bad Theology and Forgiveness

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Exasperated, my son spewed at me, “Why can’t you just be like God?!”

Well, isn’t that a loaded question. Hmmm…would I want to be? In many ways yes, but I certainly wouldn’t care to hold the role of the ultimate judge and director of the universe.

This comment occurred in the middle of the process of me doling out a consequence for a small infraction. Deception had been involved, and luckily the perpetrator acknowledged his offense, which definitely eased his punishment. However, he was still offended that there had to be any kind of disciplinary action. My forgiveness was supposed to be enough since he recognized his offense and was sorry, according to him.

I gently tried to explain that while God always forgives our mistakes, we still have to suffer the consequences of our poor choices.

He insisted I never have to face any punishments for my actions. If only he knew!

I tried to point out the “F” I got on a paper when I cheated in 8th grade social studies in a moment of sheer desperation. (Those of you who know me may be shocked and appalled, but we all have our moments of weakness). He assured me that example didn’t count, because it was the teacher who punished me, and not God.

Clearly, I wasn’t making headway in this conversation, and clearly my son is going to be a lawyer when he grows up.

I love that my sweet boy sees God as the ultimate forgiver. But, what he was missing is that God is also the ultimate parent. He allows us to suffer consequences. He wouldn’t be a very good parent if he rescued us from every situation. I saw parents who did that for their children when I was a teacher and the results were not pretty, trust me!

Scripture tells us:

“And have you entirely forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you, his children? He said, “My child, don’t ignore it when the Lord disciplines you, and don’t be discouraged when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes those he accepts as his children.” As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Whoever heard of a child who was never disciplined. If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children after all. Since we respect our earthly fathers who disciplined us, should we not all the more cheerfully submit to the discipline of our heavenly Father and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always right and good for us because it means we will share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening — it is painful! But afterward there will be a quiet harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” Hebrews 12:5-11
If you have children, and you’re like me, you don’t enjoy disciplining them. But we do so knowing that ultimately it will be for their own good.
I have been deeply troubled by the events surrounding the Duggar family lately (TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting show). I’ve read a lot of things that I feel are bad theology regarding this controversy. I feel this is one example where forgiveness becomes a tricky issue. My sense of justice collides with what I know about forgiving seventy times seven and not being judgmental.
God forgives. We should forgive one another, which is easier said than done for life-long victims of sexual abuse. But that does not mean consequences shouldn’t be suffered. And sometimes those consequences are long term, and sometimes they come back to haunt us, especially in the eyes of the public.
So, back to my son’s original comment. Why can’t I be like God? Because I’m human, life is messy, and it is my job to parent. Thank goodness I only have to figure out the punishments for those who live under my roof. And thank goodness there is a way for me to be forgiven, no matter what I do.
For a good article about forgiveness, I recommend this one by Brene Brown: Imperfect Parenting – Forgiveness.
What are your thoughts on the topic?
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One thought on “Bad Theology and Forgiveness

  1. So good, Amy. We try to do a Family Restart every week around our Friday night dinner table (it doesn’t always work with all the littles). We discuss ways we were hurt by each other or ways we might have hurt each other, and then we work our way toward forgiveness. It’s been a transforming experience for our family, and it’s so important to me that my boys know that in admitting our wrongs, we are not admitting that we are, at heart, bad, but that we are good people who did not make good decisions at certain points in time. Forgiveness is hard, something that takes practice. So we try to see our wrong choices as practice. 🙂

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