Lately, the radio in my head has been playing a lot of Alanis Morissette. It seems every time I turn on the news or scroll through Facebook these days, I hear her voice singing, “Isn’t it ironic?”
Almost daily we hear about another celebrity, athlete, politician or company that has offended somebody. Immediately the celebrity is blacklisted. The company is boycotted. TV shows are canceled.
Within hours, the offender releases a public apology. Talk show hosts and body language experts then dissect the apology so we can all judge whether they were truly sorry enough.
The phenomenon happens so often today, it has a name. We call it “cancel culture.” The irony of cancel culture is that it is driven by our society’s almost obsessive need to be tolerant.
Please don’t misunderstand me. Tolerance can be a very good thing. God wants us to love all people. He wants us to treat each other with respect and understanding, even when we disagree with them or disapprove of their lifestyle choices.
The irony is that a society that is so preoccupied with tolerance has lost the ability to forgive.
Jesus was sitting in the temple courts one day when the religious leaders of the people dragged a woman toward him. “Teacher,” they said, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”
Jesus bent over and began to draw in the dirt, but they continued to press him for an answer. So Jesus stood up, looked them in the eye and said, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
He then bent over and began to draw in the dirt again. One by one, they each dropped their stones and walked away, until no one was left but the woman. Jesus looked up and asked, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she replied.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus told her. “Go now and leave your sinful life” (John 8:1-11).
Our society, the media and even we ourselves are quick to pick up stones whenever we see other people commit real or even perceived offenses. We clamor, “Off with their head!” when politicians from the other party do or say something which offends our moral sensibilities. We unfollow people on Instagram, cancel our NFL Season Pass and stop eating at Chick-fil-A.
To be clear, I am not saying that people’s actions shouldn’t have consequences. I am also not saying we shouldn’t point out bad behavior or stand up for what is right.
But watch your heart. Moral indignation is immoral. One of the reasons we are so quick to judge and cancel others is because it makes us feel better about ourselves.
We have all done things for which we are ashamed. We have all spoken without thinking. None of us has the right to throw even one stone.
Thankfully we have a God and Savior who has not canceled us. Instead, he showed us mercy. He was canceled in our place and suffered our shame on the cross. And because he did, we are forgiven.
In the end, that is what our cancel culture needs more of today. Forgiveness.