How to be Among the Most Forgiving People

God has gone up with a shout,
    the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises!
    Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King of all the earth;
    sing praises with a psalm!

God reigns over the nations;
    God sits on his holy throne.
The princes of the peoples gather
    as the people of the God of Abraham.
For the shields of the earth belong to God;
    he is highly exalted! – Psalm 47:5-9

In 2013, Riley Cooper, a wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles, used a racial slur (the racial slur) during a confrontation at a concert while claiming that he wanted to fight all of the African Americans there. (Cooper is white.) The entire tirade was caught on video.

Cooper apologized, immediately and profusely, but what’s really interesting is not the quality of Cooper’s apology but the reaction of Cooper’s teammates to the apology.

Two very different reactions from two different teammates (both African American) illustrate very powerfully some famous words of Jesus that those who are forgiven much, love much.

The first reaction to Cooper’s apology came from his quarterback, Michael Vick, the quarterback who spent nearly two years in prison for running a dog-fighting ring. Vick said, “As a team we understood because we all make mistakes in life…. But [it’s] easy to forgive him.”

On the other end of the spectrum is LeSean McCoy, the Eagles’ star running back: “I forgive him. We’ve been friends for a long time. But in a situation like this you really find out about someone…. I can’t really respect someone like that.” (McCoy has since come to publicly regret these comments.)

Notice that where Vick said “we,” McCoy said “I.” Michael Vick put himself in a category with Riley Cooper. While McCoy sought to distance himself from a former friend, Vick put himself next to the accused. The difference between Vick and McCoy? Twenty-one months in a federal penitentiary and a deep knowledge of what it feels like to need forgiveness.

To the extent that we ignore (or run from) our own sinfulness, we will be unable to care for other sinners. We will be unable to extend forgiveness to others until we are honest about the extent to which we are forgiven. Ungracious people are those who haven’t come to grips with their own dire, daily need for grace. The most forgiving people are those who are coming to daily, deeper terms with their own need for forgiveness.

–  Tullian Tchividjian’s
It Is Finished: 365 Days of Good News

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