LONSBERRY: Love And Forgiveness And The Fired Weatherman

My feet of clay go all the way to at least my Adam’s apple. 

Most people are that way.

We are imperfect and striving. Some days we are our best selves, some days we aren’t. Some days leave us with regret and remorse.

Because every day we are human.

And every day we are in need of forgiveness.

Which may be why Jesus commanded us to forgive.

“Seven times?” he was asked.

“No,” he answered, “seventy times seven.”

Elsewhere he taught that we ourselves would be judged by the same spirit with which we judged others. If we had harshness and condemnation, we would receive harshness and condemnation. If we had mercy and understanding, we would receive mercy and understanding.

If we forgave, we would be forgiven.

Experience teaches us the wisdom of this commandment. Each of us finds ourselves in need of forgiveness from others, and knows the sweet relief of receiving it. When others offend, many of us can see ourselves in the shoes of the offender and – knowing how we would want reconciliation and forgiveness – give reconciliation and forgiveness.

This is all consistent with the greatest commandment we have in regard to one another – to love others, as we would want to be loved. Or, as Jesus later stated, to love people the way that he – who lived and died for all mankind – loved people.

Those are pretty words, but they are also principles upon which a wise and happy life is built, and which apply – in one way or another – in every situation in life.

Like the weatherman who got fired.

Missing in this matter were love and forgiveness, especially on the part of those public officials who – before even hearing his side of the matter – called for his firing.

This is not to condemn them, but to learn from this situation.

As, in this case, the mayor and City Council president might have learned from situations earlier in their own professional lives.

The mayor’s tenure began with difficulty, and included apparent misstatements to the public about some trips she had taken to Albany. The City Council president sparked a tense and angry weekend in 2017 when she posted video of a police incident involving apparent abuse of a black man in Gates, Ohio, and led people to believe it was in Gates, New York, raining down plenty of hate on the local Gates Police Department.

The mayor made a poor choice, and the City Council president made a mistake.

And both received forgiveness.

After the difficulties died down, the mayor was embraced by the community and resoundingly re-elected. The Gates supervisor expressed his understanding to the City Council president and invited her to a friendship meeting with the police.

Those reactions were reasonable and right.

The immediate call to end a man’s career was not.

And much harm has been done.

Not just to one family’s livelihood, but to relations and perceptions across an entire region. This was a Molotov cocktail on the dry tinder of the Rochester area’s racial divide. Hard feelings have been engendered and perpetuated, and scolding and editorializing will not change that. Somebody took a baseball bat to a hornet’s nest, and we’re all going to get stung.

But it didn’t have to be that way.

If love and forgiveness had been employed, instead of rage and indignation, this incident could have promoted brotherhood and understanding. It could have been one of those proverbial teaching moments where black and white people were united instead of divided.

If political leaders had condemned the horrifically hurtful nature of the word said, but had sought to learn how it came to be said, and brought forth the contrite weatherman to offer his explanation and apology, leadership would have been demonstrated and unity would have resulted.

It could have been an object lesson about a hateful word that lingers from a dark age in our social history, and about the understanding and reasonableness that can overcome prejudice and hard feelings. The life and career of the weatherman could have been healed instead of destroyed, and the healers – instead of the destroyers – could have been the mayor and City Council president.

That would be servant leadership. That would be Christian leadership. That would be true leadership.

But in this matter we weren’t led to higher ground, we were led to more tribalism and division.

Because elected officials leapt before they looked.

And because they did not love and forgive.

Because the best principles of our faith and culture were forgotten in a rush to judgment that seemed to be fueled by rage and vengeance.

Bob Lonsberry

Bob Lonsberry

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