Sunday, June 18, 2006

Forgiveness, the Dixie Chicks, Christianity

This headline annoys me: Dixie refuses to forgive the Chicks. Its assumption is that there is a reason why "the South" should forgive the anti-American country-western band "The Dixie Chicks," and that it refuses to do so.

In 2003, during wartime, the Chicks were enjoying their freedom in a foreign country, and used that opportunity to — sing? Heavens, no; liberals seemingly never simply shut up and sing. No, they attacked our Commander in Chief. When outrage was expressed back home, they ultimately simply dug in their heels and maintained their opposition and refused to admit just how wrong their action was.

Immediately afterwards, there was a mealy-mouthed non-apology — but now they have retracted even that.

So now they're not selling well in the South, and having to cancel concerts.

So my question is: whyever would the South, or anyone, "forgive" them for what they proudly maintain was the right thing to do? What does "forgiveness" mean, anyway?

I've had people tell me they "forgive" me for being a dispensationalist, and I don't generally do much more than grin, because I know it's just a tease. But if I seriously thought someone was telling me he'd forgive me for holding to something that is a conviction of mine, something I am persuaded is true, I'd react very pointedly. I might say, "Please don't. I haven't changed my mind. Taking all of the Bible seriously is not a moral crime crying out for repentance and forgiveness."

Similarly, I'd decline anyone offering me forgiveness for loving my wife, for being devoted to my children, or for liking fried chicken and "24." Please don't. I don't regard any of those as moral wrongs, as sins, and I don't ask for forgiveness. So don't give it to me.

There's this traditional notion that Christians are required to forgive unrepented wrongs. I simply have never seen it in the Bible. What's more, I simply can make no sense of it.

On the contrary, Jesus says, "Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him..." (Luke 17:3).


If he sins, I am not told to forgive him, but to rebuke him. Tell him that what he has done is wrong, and why. And then, if he repents, if he admits that what he has done is a sin, then I am to forgive him. But Jesus says nothing about what to do, in this section, if he does not repent.

Not that He never speaks of such a circumstance. Take Matthew 18:15-18. Now, there is a situation where a brother sins, is rebuked, and refuses to repent.

What does Jesus say to do? Forgive him? Not at all. He says to rebuke him again and again, with increasing intensity. And then, if he still refuses to repent, kick him out of the church and regard him as an unbeliever.

So where does the idea come from that I am morally obliged to forgive every sin, whether it is repented of or not? I do not know. God doesn't do that (1 John 1:9), and I know of no passage where He says I must.

What would it mean, anyway? When I ask you to forgive me, I am thereby telling you that I have come to regard what I did as being wrong, as being immoral and sinful, as being indefensible. I am saying that I should not have done it. I am asking you to let it go, not to hold it against me, on the basis that I too have let it go, insofar as I no longer embrace the mindset that it was a right and justifiable thing to do.

But forgiving an unrepentant person makes no sense to me. He doesn't regard what he did as being wrong. He doesn't see it as immoral and sinful, and indefensible. He doesn't think that he should not have done it. In a sense, it is insulting to him to "forgive" him of something he defends, embraces, clings to.

Let's say I'm the president of a seminary, and T. D. Jakes expresses an interest in teaching there. A representative approaches me. I say, "No, I don't think so; there's good reason to believe that Jakes is a modalist and rejects the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity. That's contrary to our position."

The representative expresses shock at my response, and says "Brother, that is such an unforgiving spirit!"

I blink. "Sorry?" I might say. "Come again? 'Unforgiving'? Did Jakes admit that he was a modalist, repent of it, and embrace the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity publicly and unambiguously? Did he ask the Christian community to forgive him his past heresy?"

"No, of course not."

"Then how could I even 'forgive' him for holding a position he still holds? What would that even mean? 'Brother Jakes, I'm so glad you're teaching here and admitted that you once held to heresy, but no longer do?' He'd be outraged — and he'd have a point! Of course I'm 'unforgiving,' because he's 'unrepenting'!"

So what does it mean to be unforgiving, in such circumstances? Simply to regard the sin as a current issue, and deal with it as such. I must not take vengeance, but must rather bless, love, and do good (Matthew 5:43-47; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 1 Peter 3:9). There may sometimes be consequences for another's sin (Matthew 5:32; 18:15-18), but the motive is not revenge and the attitude is not bitter hatred.

If anyone ever convinced me of a Biblical obligation to forgive the unrepentant of their unrepented sins -- to regard them as not having done what they have proudly done and will do again, gladly and without concern, at the next opportunity -- his next task would be to help me see what possible sense it would make.

As the first has never been done, I don't anticipate the second anytime soon.

UPDATE: since I wrote this post, Chris Brauns came out with a wonderful book on the subject, titled Unpacking Forgiveness. I reviewed it here. Get the book, read it. You won't regret it.


Mike Y said...


I'm totally with you on this, though I don't give a rip about the Dixie Chicks. I stopped liking them in 2003.

I see no mandate to forgive those who are unrepentant in any action.

However, are they morally wrong in what they did? And should they repent for their stance? I don't know. I obviously take serious oposition to their statements. But since it's hard to take their stance and compare it to any doctrine, I'm left with leaving them to their own opinions.

My retaliation is that I simply have no desire to hear their music. I'd rather listen to Shania, anyway-- as far as country goes.

Overall, they strike me as being pretty dim. And this isn't for their stance. They've alienated the bulk of their audience and don't seem to realize it. I guess Forrest's mom was right, "Stupid is as stupid does."


Kim said...

I cannot stand Shania Twain even though she's a fellow Canadian.

Howeve, Mike, I'll forgive you for liking her (*wink*)

Great post, Dan.

DJP said...

Well, Mike, I have an opinion about whether they were morally wrong about attacking their president in wartime on foreign soil, but I'd like to stress that the post wasn't about that. It was about the article title, and about whether we're obliged to "forgive" the unrepentant.

Mike Y said...


Right. I don't believe we're to forgive the unrepentant. In fact, unforgiveness should be a tool to assist one with repenting. Simple dispensing of forgiveness can reinforce in others' minds to continue in their sin. Generally speaking.

BTW, I spent 7 years in the US Navy defending their right to profess stupidity. So, please don't think that I feel idle about them.


Mike Y said...

And Kim, thanks for your forgiveness. And while I may prefer Shania over the Dixies, I don't really listen to her either. I have to admit I did really like that one song she sings. But I'll leave it up to you to guess it.

My idea of good country music is Lynnard Skynnard. You may not want to forgive me for that one, however.


Ray said...

In our big-tent ecumenical evangelicalism of today -- we should not forgive -- because we are not to even judge whether another has sinned at all!

So, how can I forgive when it is verboten to even Biblically assess whether one has sinned or not?

We have reached a place where NOTHING requires forgiveness, because it is all OK!

Sorry, I am being a bit cynical, but I have had more Christian folks state that we are not to 'judge' regardless of the sin in which our brother is living...

Yet these same people want to point out the sins of the lost -- Quite contrary to Paul in 1st Corinthians 5:12, 13 -- For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. "Purge the evil person from among you."

Just my .02...

Ray said...

BTW, Mike, my vote is for Lynryd Skynryd as well (Kim, does that requirew forgiveness?)


Mike Y said...


Great point. I wish I had come up with it.

Dan, what ray talks of, I've seen repeatedly-- especially when the erring one is a pastor. Instantly, we're nothing but nubs and supposed to ignore what we've seen and heard.

Okay, I've got to go. My temper's flaring. Please forgive me.

Berean said...

You appear to be confusing personal, political, and spiritual issues.
A music group that expresses an unpopular political in the form of a personal attack, and then finds that its audience no longer wants to buy its product, is receiving a lesson in market economics. Namely that if you as a brand offend your consumers they will likely switch loyalties to a competing brand.
This is what has happened to the Dixie Chicks and it looks good on them.
The spiritual issue of their sin of personally attacking the character and intelligence of the President ( rather than just stating a disagreement with his policies ) is something between them and Mr. Bush and between them and their Pastor, who as the sin was of a public nature, should rebuke them publicly.
In Ephesians 4:31, and Hebrews 12:15 Christians are warned against bitterness. A lot of what I've read here today falls into that category. Something that is very easy to do about such issues.
As well Christians are told in Romans 12:19 that vengance belongs to God, and it sounds like that God is dealing with them in the only way they care about : their pocket book!!

BugBlaster said...

Skynyrd??? I thought they had all been fossillized by now.

I agree; Dixie Chicks are learning Economics 101.

Mike Y said...


You're pretty much right. But just as I enjoy reading the "classics", I enjoy hearing them too. :-)


I agree. And I was just kidding about losing my temper. But I did have to go. As ex-Navy, I find ungrateful people to be a little disturbing. Sometimes it just hurts my feelings, to be perfectly honest. But so be it. I'm not bitter against them. I give them almost zero thought, except for this blog.

I'm still thankful that Dan posted this as I think he really touched on an important subject of forgiving unrepented sinners. We're simply not to do it.


Jonathan Moorhead said...


DJP said...

Two things.

This may be a minority opinion, but I think all of Berean's comments are irrelevant and have next to nothing to do with the point of the post, or comments.

Second, there's no evidence that "the Chicks" are learning anything, though they certainly are being given that opportunity. To wit:

"The entire country may disagree with me, but I don't understand the necessity for patriotism. Why do you have to be a patriot? About what? This land is our land? Why? You can like where you live and like your life, but as for loving the whole country... I don't see why people care about patriotism" (Natalie Mains, yet again on foreign soil, here).

marc said...

Your a dispensationalist!?! I'm sorry, I can forgive the Dixie Chicks, but not that!

DJP said...

DON'T make me come over there, ya young pup!

marc said...

You've been "over" and left your humor ridden paw prints all over my blog. But that's a good thing.

BTW did you see Phil shamelessly plugging Teampyro on that YSTC with the blank sign?

JayWoodhamTheMan said...

"If anyone ever convinced me of a Biblical obligation to forgive the unrepentant of their unrepented sins -- to regard them as not having done what they have proudly done and will do again, gladly and without concern, at the next opportunity -- his next task would be to help me see what possible sense it would make."

Now there is that little bit in the Sermon on the Mount about praying for your enemies and doing good to them that curse you. In Luke's "sermon on the plain material" Jesus says "if you love those who love you what credit is that to your enemies, do good to them, adn lend to them without expecting anything back. Then your reward will be great, adn you will be sons of the Most High because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful just as your Father as merciful." (Luke 6:32)

Now it's technically true that there is nothing in the above referenced Scriptures, nor anywhere else in the NT off the top of my head that requires me to forgive somebody before he's repented to me. But I can see plenty of evidence in the NT that my attitude ought be a bit more humble and conciliatory, I ought to be a man *eager* to extend mercy, than I see any evidence of in Daniel's post. To put it less diplomatically I'm wondering if he spent even a fifth of the time praying for Natalie Mains as he did writing this post.

DJP said...

That's kind of funny, Jay. So you're saying....

1. I can't point to any Scripture that says otherwise.

2. But I can point to the exact same teachings Dan already alluded to in his post; so...

3. That only leaves me with the judging-Dan's-heart-because-I-don't-like-his-position trump card.

Mike Y said...

Boy, that seems to really be jumping a bit. Dan wrote an article about this issue of forgiving unrepentant sinners, which appears to be gaining popularity in Christendom.

He raised the question as to whether it was biblical or not. It isn't.

So, he followed this up with an example-- The Dixie Chicks. Dan, correct me if I'm wrong, have you been personally plotting their demise? Have you been festering over them and collecting news snippets of their trials to add to you collage?

I would venture to guess that you haven't been doing any of those things.

Now, is it right to pray for one's enemies? I absolutely believe so. But here's the sad reality that probably reveals my weakness as a Christian. I don't always view folks as friends and enemies. I have a gray area of indifference. There are occurances that I tend to shrug off and move on as quickly as possible. Perhaps I should say a prayer for everyone and everything that crosses my path and meets with my disapproval. Honestly, I hope to be there some day. But I'm not there currently. Just being truthful.

I'm not sure where Dan is in all of this, but I still see no problem with his post and his stance on the subject matter. And, only Dan can know how he intimately feels about the Dixies and whether he harbors bitterness. And since he hasn't raised it, only Dan knows if he has prayed for them.

Raising things that are inconsistent with the scriptures is biblical. It's the duty of a pastor/teacher and of an evangelist.


No Fluff Required said...

Call me shallow, but I can't forgive that copper dress!


Katelyn said...

Hi. I've never read the entire Bible, but I'm planning to start soon and read it through cover to cover. Forgive me if this sounds offensive, I'm a faithful Christian, but don't some passages in the Bible contradict others? What's your opinion?

~my blog is

DJP said...

My short answer is: yes, some seem to contradict, but none actually does.

As a Christian, I agree with Jesus' word to His Father: "Your word is truth" (John 17:17b).

reb said...

What about Jesus & Stephen (i.e. "Forgive them for they do not know what they do"??

Not a command per se, but certainly an example.

bairet said...

I use to struggle with that verse. Until one day I read it and had an ah ha moment. Jesus said forgive them for they do not know what they do. He didn'd say forgive the ones that "knew" what they were doing. There are a couple parables that speak to this. One is repeated in three books, Mat 21:38, Mark 12:7 and Luke 20:14. I am going to quote Mat. 21:38-41 the rest are the same.
But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance.
And they caught him, and cast [him] out of the vineyard, and slew [him].
When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?
They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out [his] vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.

I believe that there has to be repentence before forgiveness can be given. And there has to be confession before there can be repentence. Repentence will bring about fruit. Worldly "sorrow" will bring about tears with no fruit.