Forgiveness is never 'looking the
other way', or acting as if no wrong is or has been committed.
Forgiving is not excusing the inexcusable, tolerating the intolerable, nor
sweeping things under the [proverbial] carpet. That is NOT God's way.
thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My way," says the Lord.
True love and forgiveness operate
on the basis of integrity. God the Father sent God the Son to die on
Calvary's cross to make genuine forgiveness possible.
"For God so
loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in
Him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16.
will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and
forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations..."
The benefits of this divine
forgiveness are available upon the condition that men or women
acknowledge their wrongful behavior and status as lost sinners -- i.e., repent.
With God, there is no such thing a unconditional forgiveness.
sins have been forgiven on account of his name." 1 John 2:12
have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Luke
listened attentively, but they do not say what is right. No one
repents of his wickedness, saying, 'What have I done?'"
This is the biblical pattern of
forgiveness which Christians are called to follow. As the Lord requires
accountability and genuine repentance to establish a relationship with Him,
likewise these attributes form the basis for forgiveness amongst ourselves and
the foundation for healthy human relationships.
brother sins against you, rebuke him; and IF he repents, forgive him."
each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.
Forgive as [in the same manner] the Lord forgave you."
and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as [in
the same manner] in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4:32
The biblical model for Christian
forgiveness in human relationships looks like this:
Let's see the model's application by the
Apostle Paul in his letters to the Corinthians.
actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and
of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father's
wife. And you are proud! Shouldn't you rather have been
filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did
this? 1 Corinthians 5: 1,2.
DISCERN / JUDGMENT
though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have
already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I
were present. When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus
and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present,
hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed
and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 5:
business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?
Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those
outside. "Expel the wicked man from among you." 1 Corinthians 5:
wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many
tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for
you. If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as
he has grieved all of you, to some extent--not to put it too severely.
The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for
him. 2 Corinthians 2: 4-6.
I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Thought I
did [temporarily] regret it--I see that my letter hurt you, but only for
a little while--yet not I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but
because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became
sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by
us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation
and leaves no regret...2
Corinthians 7: 8-10.
instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will
not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 2 Corinthians 2:
you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. The reason I
wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in
everything. If you forgive anyone, I also forgive
him. And what I have forgiven--if there was anything to
forgive--I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your
sake... 2 Corinthians 2: 8-10.
By in large, the unsaved and
religious folk are grossly confused on the subject of forgiveness. They
have ignored or rejected the need for accountability, judgment, and
repentance--largely 'politically-incorrect' and deemed unnecessary in this day.
Then they wrongly substitute: tolerance, excusing, smoothing conflict,
forgetting, or having an accepting attitude as expressions of forgiveness.
Going even further, an individual with an evil heart is devoid of conscience or
repentance. It strives, often successfully, to exploit this confusion over
forgiveness in an effort to avoid accountability for wrongful actions.
When real Christians refuse to be universally tolerant of any and all behaviors,
they are often falsely accused of lacking love, forgiveness, and not living up
to Christian principles. However, as most often the case, their accusers
are simply trying to manipulate and control circumstances (lie) for the purpose
of avoiding both accountability and repentance. Given the lack of moral
leadership and integrity at the highest levels (as well as in most churches),
it's not difficult to see why false concepts of forgiveness have become so
Contrary to postmodern and liberal
myth, Jesus was NOT tolerant or accepting of evil or of all types of behavior.
In the New Testament you'll find that His disapproval was expressed at times by
silence (Mark 14:61), by words (Matthew 16:1-6), or by physical opposition (Mark
11:15,16). Consistent with integrity, the benefit of His kindness was
reserved for those individuals who did not deny their wrongdoing (John
Of course, there are many
circumstances in which accountability, judgment, and repentance will be missing.
Scripture clearly the states that victim is restrained from seeking personal
vengeance or retribution, as that is to be left up to God. In these
cases, extending forgiveness largely provides psychological healing for a
victim. Thus, the measure of value for forgiveness is never whether
reconciliation becomes possible and whether broken relationships have been
Christian author Miles J. Stanford
said it this way.
"Yes, frank and immediate
confession of sins is vital. Think for a moment of someone who
observes a loved one sinning against him. Wounded, but ever
loving, he forgives and says nothing. Meanwhile the loved one,
although knowing there is forgiveness, does not confess his sin.
Forgiveness is there, love is waiting. But now, where is the
fellowship and integrity of this relationship?"
There are several things
forgiveness is not. The following thoughts are from the book
FORGIVE & FORGET, Lewis B. Smedes, 1984, Harper & Row.
Forgiving is NOT tolerance
Forgive me and you heal
yourself. Tolerate everything I do and you are in for a lot of
trouble. You can forgive someone almost anything. But you cannot
Whenever people try to live or
work together, they have to decide on the sorts of things they will put up
Every group has to decide what
it will put up with and what it cannot tolerate. But what we need to
remember is this: we don't have to tolerate what people do
just because we forgive them for doing it. Forgiving
heals us personally. To tolerate everything only hurts us all in the
Forgiving is NOT excusing
Excusing is just the opposite
of forgiving. We excuse people when we understand that
they were NOT to blame.
Forgiving is tough.
Excusing is easy. What a mistake it is to confuse forgiving with
being mushy, soft, gutless, and oh, so understanding. Before we
forgive, we stiffen our spine and we hold a person accountable.
And only then, in tough-minded judgment, can we do the outrageously
impossible thing: we can forgive.
Forgiving is NOT smothering
Some people hinder the hard
work of forgiving by smothering confrontation.
Some parents are dedicated to
smothering conflict. They shush us and soothe us and assure us that
whatever makes us mad is not worth raising a fuss about. They
get between us and the rotten kid who did us wrong, always protecting,
always pinning down the arms of our rage, forever pacifying. Their
"now thens" and "there theres" keep us from ever unloading our anger and
from ever forgiving. They say, "Forgive and forget," but what they
mean is: "Don't make a fuss, I can't stand the noise."
Quieting troubled waters is not
the same as rescuing drowning people, and smothering conflict is not the
same as helping people to forgive each other.
Forgiving is NOT forgetting
When we forgive someone, we do
not forget the hurtful act, as if forgetting came along with the forgiveness
package, the way strings come with a violin.
If you forget, you will not
forgive at all. You can never forgive people for things you have
forgotten about. You need to forgive precisely because you have not
forgotten what someone did; your memory keeps the [emontional] pain alive
long after the actual hurt has stopped [passed].
Forgetting, in fact, may be a
dangerous way to escape the inner surgery of the heart that we call
forgiving. There are two kinds of pain that we forget. We forget
hurts too trivial to bother about. We forget pains too horrible for
our memory to manage.
Once we have forgiven,
however, we get a new freedom to forget. This time forgetting is a
sign of health; it is not a trick to avoid spiritual surgery. We
can forget because we have been healed.
But even if it is
easier to forget after we forgive, we should not make forgetting a
test of our forgiving. The test of forgiving lies with
healing the lingering pain of the past, not with forgetting that the past
The really important
thing is that we have the power to forgive what we still do remember.
Accepting people is NOT
Accepting a person can feel a
lot like forgiving. But it is not the same.
We accept [or reject] people
because of the good [or bad] people they are for [to] us. We
forgive people for the bad things they did to us.
"But mark this: There will
be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves,
lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents,
ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control,
brutal, not lovers of good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure
rather than lovers of God--having a form of godliness but denying its power.
Have nothing to do with them." 2 Timothy 3:1-5.
The following are links to other
interesting sites on the subject of forgiveness. Readers should exercise
discernment as the inclusion of these pages do not imply full endorsement.
When Forgiveness Seems Impossible. Tim Jackson, RBC
Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Overall, an excellent treatment of the
subject of biblical forgiveness and far superior to what I've written above.
Forgiving Is and Isn't - by the Rev. Dr. Douglas K. Showalter.
Dr. Showalter is an ordained United Church of Christ (liberal) minister who has
also gained insight from the works of Lewis B. Smedes. Based on his
comments, he doesn't seem to understand or accept that mankind is not born in
relationship with God. Further, some of his Scriptural references do not
support his statements. For example, see #4, Biblical. Only one of
the five verses support unconditional forgiveness. Luke 17:3
actually states the reverse! However, he does have some good insights on
the subject of failed reconciliation.
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