If you’ve spent any time at all on social media, you are probably familiar with cancel culture. If not, let me explain it to you. The premise is that when/if a celebrity or influencer does or says something that is offensive or politically incorrect, the campaign to “cancel” them (stop following their accounts, publicly shame them, boycott their products, etc.) ensues. The behavior that elicits such a response can be current or it can be something discovered from the past, long before they became “famous”…some events even occurring in middle and/or high school.
Unfortunately this culture has also seeped into the lives of our tweens and teens and they often use social media to bully or to create smear campaigns against one another much like those they see portrayed among celebrities. The hurt is deep and often results in self-harm or even suicide.
I do not want to engage in debate about the justification of who deserves to be cancelled or who doesn’t. I am fully aware that there have been some incredibly egregious actions and that consequences are inevitable and necessary. I do believe there is a lot of hypocrisy that exists as to who makes the decisions regarding which offenses result in “cancelling” and which do not, but that is an argument for another day.
What I would like to give thought to is how we as Christians should respond to cancel culture. How are we to navigate acknowledging sin and disapproval without shaming, belittling or casting judgment on others? When are we to"let it go"as opposed to holding one other accountable? What would Jesus do with cancel culture?
In recent months, it seems that I have had more discussion regarding “love for one another” than ever before. Some feel strongly that by saying that we “love one another” or by “responding in love” we are disregarding sin or even giving others permission to do so freely. They feel that we must hold others accountable and “call them out” because God hates sin.
On the other hand, there are those who believe we are not called to judge and that we will never be salt and light if we are filled with condemnation and disregard for one another. They are fully aware that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and that sin is not given point values, with some being worse than others.
Many churches even seem to be split down the middle as to how the Christian community should behave and respond to what feels like a world gone mad. (As an aside, I’ll just say that God is not in Heaven feeling like He’s lost control. He’s watched His people act a fool since the Garden of Eden…and He’ll continue to watch until the trumpet sounds and Heaven comes to Earth once again).
As I give thought to all of this, I am drawn to two stories in scripture that I believe clearly demonstrate if or how Jesus would engage in cancel culture.
The first comes from John 8:1-11.
Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.
“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.
When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
“No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
The accusers waited until a crowd had formed and then brought this woman right into the middle asking Jesus to “make her pay”. Jesus’ response was full of grace, but let us not miss that he also said, “Go and sin no more.” In other words, don’t do it again. He showed great love AND acknowledgement that her sin was wrong.
The second comes from Matthew 18:21-35.
"Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”
“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!
Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.
But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.
But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.
When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”
Seventy times seven. I am so grateful for grace and for the fact that Jesus will never cancel me. It is my prayer that I am reminded of this every single time I feel the urge to seek revenge or a vendetta against someone I feel has harmed me or someone I love.
Should we hold others accountable? Yes, I believe we should. Should we stand united with those who are oppressed and stop the cycle of prejudice? Yes!!! Can we choose not to support businesses or celebrities that clearly disregard God's will? Of course we can!
However, I believe we hold one another accountable…meaning the shoe might just be on the other foot someday. Always remember that none of us is or ever will be blameless and we are all learning. We will ALL make mistakes, many of them out of sheer ignorance or immaturity. How do you want to be treated when the day comes that you deserve to be cancelled? May we not forget the fruit of the spirit...love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control when we engage with one another.
35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35
Stephani Cook is a life coach, speaker, writer, podcast host and the creator of On Purpose Coaching. Through On Purpose Coaching she helps others to improve relationships and to discover intentional abundant living. She does that through group and/or individual coaching, live event speaking or Enneagram workshops in private and corporate settings.
To connect with Stephani about the possibility of coaching or speaking to your group or organization, visit her website http://www.stephanicook.org