The last two years have brought many different words into our vernacular. We might have been aware of these words before, but they certainly have a different meaning or emphasis to us now. Words like “pandemic”, “mask”, and “quarantine” have moved out of the realm of hypothetical or historical study and into our regular every day conversation. And that’s not all. There’s another word that has come to the forefront, and though it doesn’t directly have to do with the pandemic, it is nonetheless wrapped up in where we find ourselves as a culture.
The word is “cancel.”
This is a word that has been, in many ways – weaponized. It’s leveled as a threat, and the reality of such a thing happening has made everyone who engages in social media of any kind think twice about what they post.
In truth, that’s not a bad thing. There are many of us that could do well with giving a bit more considerations about the things we tweet. And there are those among us that frankly need to be challenged on the opinions, language, and videos we post or like. Nevertheless, the word hangs out there as an ominous potential reaction. So what does it mean to be “cancelled”?
Well, it’s a kind of ostracism or shunning. It’s when a large group of people, a group that gains momentum quickly, either consciously or subconsciously, to shove someone out. In today’s world, this ostracism tends to largely begin online, but it can quickly move to being in person.
I don’t mean to give a lot of commentary here on the the inherent good or evil that is accomplished by this kind of thing; I only mean to say that it’s a regular part of our world right now. And I also only mean to comment on the general speed it happens. Like a West Texas grass fire, the ire of the social community is raised, and things spread incredibly quickly from there. It happens fast, and it happens without mercy. And in a real way, it happens ironically.
The irony here is that the culture around us claims to value tolerance. Now there’s another word that warrants a bit of explanation. Tolerance is strictly defined like this:
“The ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.”
Interesting, right? On the one hand, the world claims to value acceptance of all, the personal definition of truth, and the right for anyone to live as they see fit. And yet on the other hand, the world is ready to come together to actively put someone out of their number. Though there is much to be said about this apparent contradiction in cultural attitude, from a biblical perspective, we can surely say this:
God is infinitely more merciful than the world. And thank God that’s true.
How many times have each of us given God legitimate reason to cancel us? How many times have we committed, and recommitted, and then recommitted ourselves to follow Jesus only to come once again to the same point of desperation? How many times have we presumed upon the grace of God and treated our sin lightly? Too many to count. And too many terrible opportunities for God to wipe His hands of us.
But He has not. And He will not. Because, praise God, His mercy is more.
More plentiful. More patient. More forbearing.
The patience of the world will run out. And it will run out shockingly quickly. But not with God. His well of grace is not exhausted with you, and not with me. He stands ready even now, imploring those who are seeking their pleasure in the far country, but also those who have busied themselves with self-righteous work in the field, to come home. Come home, and join the celebration. For no matter how far you’ve gone, and no matter how hard your heart might be, you have not been cancelled.