I don’t mean to be the conscience of the Christian music industry, but there is another popular song that left me dismayed and wanting to say something. So here I go.

Forgiveness,” by Toby Mac and featuring Lecrae, who really should know better given he rapped on the Heidelberg Catechism, repeatedly says “we all need forgiveness” “Cause we all make mistakes sometimes, and we all step across that line.”

No. Mistakes are what happens on a math test when we forget to carry the one. Or when we write “it’s” when we really meant “its” (can you tell I’m grading papers?). Or when we send out Brandon Weeden because the only player we have who resembles a starting quarterback tore his ACL and it doesn’t matter anyhow because our season is already ruined and we’re just hoping for a high draft pick.

But I digress. We don’t need God’s forgiveness because we’ve made mistakes but because we’ve sinned. We are treacherous rebels who deserve hell, not a lower score on our SAT. As the Heidelberg Catechism reminds us, unless we start with “how great our sins and misery are,” we will never begin to appreciate how God “has delivered us from our sin and misery,” and we will certainly not be thankful for that deliverance.

Near the end of “Forgiveness” there is one line that gets it right. It says, “No matter how wrong you are, you’re not that far, you’re not too far” from forgiveness. However, the preceding two lines say, “No matter how lost you are, we all need forgiveness. No matter how hurt you are, we all need forgiveness.”

If we’re lost we don’t need forgiveness. We need directions. And if we’re hurt we need a bandage or a doctor. We would need to offer forgiveness to whoever hurt us, but we ourselves wouldn’t need it. So while there is one line that alludes to our sin (unless “wrong” here also means “mistake,” but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt), this line is overwhelmed by the constant refrain that we need forgiveness “‘cause we all make mistakes sometimes.”

I understand why the song is popular. It’s catchy and it’s sung by popular artists. It just cheapens forgiveness into something else entirely. We’ve got to get the bad news right or we won’t preserve the gospel.







10 responses to “forgiveness”

  1. Good observation and right on! Keep us informed, Mike, and may God help us to always call sin sin.

  2. I agree with your sentiment with one caveat. I can see how the song gets from “lost” to “need forgiveness” and, to a lesser degree, “hurt” to “need forgiveness.” In the case of “lost”, I think of the parables of the “Lost” Son, Lost Sheep, and the Lost Coin. In these cases, while the central theme is not forgiveness (except perhaps in the case of prodigal), God’s act of forgiveness is an implied part of his seeking. That is, the two are related in salvation. We also see this in Isaiah 53 where the atonement of the Messiah is a solution to “we all like sheep have gone astray.”
    The case of “hurt” is more of a stretch, and sort of requires a combination of hurt with sick. If that stretch isn’t too great then we could again look to Isaiah 53 (by his stripes we are healed) or Jesus’ statement: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Note Jesus’ connection between “the sick” and “sinners.”
    I guess my point is this: I agree we need to consistently refer to sin as rebellion and I agree this song really obscures that fact. However, I think we have some license, within the proper context, to use other metaphors when discussing sin, or the state of someone who needs forgiveness: lost, sick as examples, since the Bible itself seems to draw this connection.

  3. mikewittmer

    Good point, Steve. This shows that context matters. Lost can be an appropriate metaphor, but not in a song that repeatedly emphasizes that our problem is merely mistakes. Then ‘lost’ feels like what happens somewhere near Chicago.

  4. Seems like a semantical problem to me, and I feel like there is probably some overlap between the meaning of “mistake” and the Biblical idea of sin. For myself, there are many things in my life for which I feel like I need forgiveness that I would describe as mistakes, and I am hoping that the cross still covers all that somehow. I hope God doesn’t read your blog post and decide otherwise.

  5. mikewittmer

    Well, words do matter. It’s called God’s Word, and that’s not just semantics. No one said your mistakes are not covered, so you’re good there. I only hope that you realize that you, and we all, have committed worse things than mistakes, things we desperately need forgiveness for. That’s what was missing from the song, and from much of evangelicalism. I’d be sinning if I didn’t say so.

  6. Jim Huber

    Amen and Amen ! Pretty astute for a Buckeye

  7. The Webster definition of ‘mistake’ is “an action or judgment that is misguided or wrong.” It would seem that fits. I don’t have a real problem with referring to sin as “making mistakes”, but I would agree such language should be coupled with clear verbiage that sin is rebellion. Thus, my quibble with the song wouldn’t be in its use of the word “mistake”, but rather its lack of the word “sin” or “rebellion”.

  8. Thanks, Josh. But consider that the term “wrong” does not necessarily have a moral component. E.g., I gave the wrong answer on the test. And I say that mistakes are wrong in this non-moral way. Who uses the term “mistake” to express their sin, unless they are seeking to minimize their guilt? I don’t believe there is one place in Scripture where sin is defined as simply making a mistake. So I think it is a mistake to do so. I’ll even say it’s wrong (in the moral sense).

  9. Oh the song is a problem, I don’t doubt that. While the theme of forgiveness was clear, the reason we need forgiveness was painfully vague, if not overtly misleading. My point is that I would be more forgiving of using ‘mistake’ to denote sin if it was partnered with words such as ‘rebellion, sin, evil’, etc, which would serve to clarify the point. But then again, that would be expecting the CCM scene to produce something of theological substance…as a general rule, 30 years of history has proven that is too much to ask of them. 😦

  10. […] Mike Wittmer Questions Why Some In The Christian Music Industry Get Forgiveness (and Sin) Wrong […]

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