What LeBron James’ Decision CAN’T Teach Us About “Forgiveness”

Okay, so if you’re in tune with what’s happening in the sports world to any degree you should know that Lebron James has decided to end his free agency and sign with his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavilers. Weeks of speculation were spent trying to determine where Lebron would “take his talents”. When speculation first arose that Lebron may consider returning to Cleveland there were various knee jerk reactions. The buzz around this possibility was huge because of what happened four years ago when Lebron made his announcement that he would leave Cleveland and join the Miami Heat. During this period of speculation something showed up on my Twitter feed that I found very interesting:

The idea is that if Lebron returns to Cleveland then the city that burned his jersey four years ago would forgive him.

The problem with this line of thinking is that it gets “forgiveness” wrong at a fundamental level. Forgiveness, of necessity, is not a selfish act. In the situation with the Cleveland Cavilers fans and Lebron James, the Cleveland fans were hoping to gain back the services of Lebron James and thus forgive him for leaving them. This is not how “forgiveness” works. Forgiveness does not harbor hate toward someone even while they are wronging you!

Perhaps some natives of Cleveland have forgiven Lebron James. Where this is this case, these people would still hold out forgiveness to Lebron had he decided to stay in South Beach, Fl and play for the Miami Heat. However, what many people in Cleveland are calling “forgiveness” is really just acceptance of “restitution”. “Restitution” is the idea of righting a wrong. In the case of Lebron and the fans of the Cleveland Cavilers, they feel that Lebron is righting a previous wrong he had committed and they are willing to accept his “restitution”. The problem is that everyone is calling this act of “restitution acceptance” an act of “forgiveness”.

Some people may think that I am splitting hairs here but I can promise you that the difference between accepting restitution and forgiving someone is night and day! Part of the reason our culture’s legal system is in such shambles is due to a very poor understanding of such basic categories. The Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthian church in the first century A.D. desiring that when two members of the church have a grievance with one another then they should prefer to suffer wrong fr0m a brother rather than accusing him before the pagan Roman courts. In one case (Pagan courts) the person who was wronged was likely to receive restitution, in another case (forgiving his brother) the person who was wronged would receive no restitution but would gain his brother.

Lebron James isn’t returning to Cleveland because he believes the Cleveland Caviler fans have “forgiven” him. Lebron James is returning to Cleveland because it’s home and despite the Cleveland Caviler fans, he can forgive them.

Food for thought.

Michael

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