Lance Armstrong has been in the news all week. The big reveal is his admission to doping during his cycling career. I talked with CBN News about how to respond to this admission. (Take a look at this brief interview.)
What makes his admission so grievous is that he repeatedly denied allegations of doping levied against him for years and went after those who tried to bring out the truth. My concern however is how we, as Christians, respond to any request for forgiveness. Check yourself on these 8 points with regard to how you react to this news about Armstrong:
1) Lance has betrayed many people. He doesn’t deserve forgiveness after the way he treated people.
True, but biblical forgiveness is not about what a person deserves. Does Javert in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserable deserve the forgiveness of Jean Valjean? No, Javert continues to hunt down Valjean with no resolve to forgive. He is all about the law and making Valjean pay. But Valjean’s forgiveness frees him to be a better person and to love. Javert ends up committing suicide.
2) Forgiving Armstrong means condoning or minimizing what he did.
False. Forgiveness never does either. It actually recognizes the severity of the breach of trust or betrayal, which is why is it so powerful for the one giving it.
3) Forgiving Armstrong means we let him off the hook.
False. He has already lost much. There are natural and spiritual consequences for betrayal. His financial empire is collapsing. His reputation is tarnished and his trophies gone.
4) Once a person asks for forgiveness, reconciliation follows.
False. Forgiveness is an act you individually do and reconciliation requires two people. So it’s possible to forgive and not reconcile.
5) Once you forgive, things should go back to normal.
False. If there is a breach of trust, the person still has to show he or she is repentant. Repentance requires a turning away from the wrong behavior and making a change. For someone to trust again takes time. The person has to repeatedly show he or she was sorry by not returning to that behavior.
6) If a person gets caught and that is what prompts an apology, it is meaningless.
False. Your place is not to judge the sincerity of the apology. We are to forgive. Time will show whether the person meant it. God judges the heart. Only He knows if a person really repents. Our job is to accept the apology and still be wise about re-engaging that person given the type of offense.
7) Physically it doesn’t matter if I forgive or not.
False. Forgiveness frees you. It has positive benefits to your health. It lowers heart rate and blood pressure and relieves stress. It reduces physical symptoms and helps you sleep. It restores positive feelings not only to the offender but to others, leading a person to more altruistic behavior and charitable work. It lessens depression and lowers your risk of substance abuse.
8) Forgiveness is spiritually commanded, not an option for the believer.
True. God forgives us when we don’t deserve it and he expects us to do the same to others. Did people deserve Jesus’ forgiveness on the cross? Yet He gave it. And God tells us that if we don’t forgive, He won’t either. This doesn’t mean that your feelings will be in line with the choice to forgive. Feelings take longer to work through and trust is an issue impacted by lying or breach of trust.
Will you forgive Lance Armstrong?