Whether on the news or social media, we have all seen this headline: “Allegations of (Fill in the blank) against (Insert well-known person here) sparks outrage!”
Whether these allegations are pointing to a terrible crime like sexual assault or referencing an insensitive tweet from years ago, the reaction seems to be the same. Outrage spreads over social media in a matter of hours, and eventually everyone seems to have an angry opinion on what happened. The accused get dropped from a show in production, their movies flop at the box office, or they end up becoming less marketable or popular in some way. They, and even those that support them, get “canceled.”
For me, when this trend started, it was easy to dehumanize these famous celebrities and simply look at their actions. After all, they are handsome millionaires who live in multimillion-dollar mansions and fly around in private jets. Why should they be so lucky to have such a life AND get away with (Insert bad thing here)?
The trend of “cancelling” someone because of actions now or in the past can be troubling. It is important that justice is done, especially if a crime was committed. Actions have consequences, and there are times when those who are lifted up in our culture have to be held accountable for what they have done and said. Yet, God calls and empowers the Church to have a different response than our culture.
While it is easy to be outraged about the actions of someone else, I do wonder about how God feels each time that I sin.
After all, He created me, and sent His one and only Son to die a horrible death to justify me. Yet, I continually throw His love back in his face by continuing to sin. While the earthly consequences of our sins can be dramatically different, in God’s eyes all my sin is equal. I come to Church and approach God, a broken and miserable sinner, and ask for His forgiveness. God gives me that forgiveness each and every time.
Cancel culture and outrage against a celebrity will, many times, lead to an apology. The celebrity acknowledges their wrongdoing and that they have learned from their mistake. They may pledge to do better next time. Some of these apologies are deeply repentant, while others show a deep lack of understanding of how they have hurt others.
In fact, there can be a whole new wave of cultural response when an apology is offered, determining if what they said was sufficient and heartfelt. Often, the masses make it very clear that an apology isn’t enough; this person must suffer. There seems to be very little forgiveness to come by in the court of public opinion.
Thanks be to God that His attitude is not that way! God does institute earthly governments to carry out punishments for crimes, and Christians can and should support such a system. God also commands us to forgive in His name all those who offer repentance. Think back to the parable of the Unmerciful Servant: We owe God a debt that we could never hope to repay, yet we are reluctant to forgive others. Jesus said in Matthew 18:33, “should you not have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?”
So, where do we go from here in youth ministry? We know that virtually all our youth are active on social media, and they see these online convictions regularly. They may even be participating in these “Cancellations”.
We can help and encourage them to see how God has provides us and uses those with vocations in the justice system to ensure those who have broken laws can be appropriately punished. We should share their outrage and hurt when someone has grievously injured another through word or deed, even if it does not break any laws.
Our world is broken, and it is deeply sad to see evidence of that brokenness in the people we admire.
Yet, it is important to remind youth what a large debt that we owe God for our sin. God will never, ever cancel the room that He has prepared for us in heaven through faith in Jesus. He will continue to forgive and forgive until He finally calls us home one day. As Christians, we are to be forgiving, even when someone does not seem to deserve it. We provide grace and second chances even when it is not popular. In a culture that is unwilling to forgive, we are called to be His light, shining His love and forgiveness to all.