Is there such a thing as online forgiveness?
Ever wanted to erase your past? It's much harder on the internet.
Your "digital footprint" is the collection of all your past online posts, comments, tweets, videos and images. Much like your real footprint, it’s very difficult to engage in the online world without leaving some kind of mark; some imprint. And for many, a combination of poor choices and the long history of the Internet can create a footprint which has unexpected and devastating consequences long into the future.
Numerous news stories have popped up about students, teachers, or employees being disciplined or fired for some comment, video or image they have, sometimes foolishly, added to a social media website. Many employers, while they are reluctant to admit it, search social media sites for details about prospective employees; and in the US, stories have even emerged of staff or interviewees being asked for their Facebook password so that employers can see what goes on behind the veil of privacy. And admit it - who hasn’t Googled a friend or two to see what the Internet may throw up about their past?
Forgiveness in the digital age
As in so many areas of our culture, I believe Christians are called to live by a different standard. We are not, like a Facebook-photo-trawling employer, to search through someone’s past, looking for some minor or major transgression which we can hold over their head. Which of us would not break out in a cold sweat if we knew our history was to be searched and used in such a way? No, I believe we are called to show love, compassion, and forgiveness to the person standing in front of us, regardless of their past failings and sins, whether they are a fellow Christian or not.
“Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were,” writes the Apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians. He knows of the sinful and broken pasts of many of the members of the Corinthian church. “But you were washed,” Paul reminds the Christians, “you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” If the Lord Jesus Christ can forgive and cleanse us from our past failings, Paul suggests, we too should do the same. Forget what the person was and recognise them instead for the person they are now.
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