Tony Elder

Tony Elder

Recently there seems to have been an increase in the number of instances in which businesses, TV shows, and individuals are facing the consequences of some aspect of their branding, actions or words which some people consider to be offensive. In some cases, the rebuke has been deserved and the changes were needed. However, in other situations it appears that a wave of public sentiment about certain issues is taken too far, washing away both common sense and any show of understanding or grace toward those accused offenders.

For example, I am aware of people who have lost their jobs not based on something they foolishly did or said recently, but because of actions or words someone dredged up from decades in the past. I’m not making excuses for bad behavior, but we need to be cautious and consider certain factors before passing harsh judgment. In some cases, the offense took place in their teen years, and who of us didn’t do some rash and foolish things at that point in life? Many of us aren’t the same people we were back then. Secondly, in some instances, those actions may have been considered innocent and inoffensive in society at the time. Should we judge what people did then by today’s changing standards? Additionally, these judgments don’t seem to be equally handed out. It seems that some people are condemned for certain behavior, while others who did something similar are given a pass. It appears that sometimes these accusations are being used simply as tools of vengeance or to dig up dirt on someone rather than coming from a motive of seeking justice.

Aren’t you thankful that God is more gracious and merciful toward us than we oftentimes tend to be toward one another? Don’t misunderstand me. God is a holy God who judges sin, much more than many people today like to think. Nevertheless, He also judges rightly and He offers forgiveness for our past offenses. The disturbing truth is that we are all frail human beings with sinful, selfish natures who have been guilty of wrongdoing at some point. None of us can truthfully claim that our hearts and motives have always been pure and right. We are all offenders in some way. Yet God has provided a way for us to be forgiven of our transgressions through faith in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Jesus took our guilt and punishment on Himself so we could get our slate wiped clean in the eyes of God.

Once we’ve received God’s forgiveness, He doesn’t keep bringing those offenses up. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). If those past sins and their guilt continue to be brought up and haunt us, that’s not God’s doing, but Satan’s work. Not only does God cast our sins into the sea of His forgetfulness where they are remembered no more, but He also cleanses us and changes us. When we come to put our trust in Christ, we become new creations in Him. We’re not the same people anymore who committed those transgressions. We may still stumble a times, but we’re no longer enslaved to sin.

Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1) While this is one of the most misused and misapplied verses in the Bible today, I believe it’s true meaning is relevant here. Let’s be careful about the basis we use to judge others in these matters today. We may well be guilty of the very same offense or we may be committing another sin while self-righteously accusing others of wrongdoing. Let’s treat others sensibly with both justice and mercy.

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The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by e-mail at


I have been editor of the Rockdale Citizen since 1996 and editor of the Newton Citizen since it began publication in 2004. I am also currently executive editor of the Clayton News Daily, Henry Daily Herald and Jackson Progress-Argus.

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