Should Forgiveness be "Unconditional"?

The forgiveness controversy

Back in 1999, I preached a series on the subject of forgiveness. Many folks in our congregation had never heard the approach I took. A number commented that they heard Christian leaders on the radio or in magazines take the opposite position during the weekdays between my sermons.

The world and much of evangelicalism believe that we should forgive unconditionally. Secular psychologists and popular preachers have formed an alliance that intimidates many of us from even considering the alternatives. Yet many Bible teachers believe that forgiveness is conditioned upon repentance. I am in the latter group.

Bible-believing Christians agree that we are to forgive others as God forgives us. If you believe God forgives unconditionally, this would logically lead you to Universalism, the belief that everyone is saved; no one is under the wrath of God because God’s wrath is not directed toward those who are forgiven. If God forgives unconditionally, then none are unforgiven. Most evangelicals recognize that multitudes are lost, yet many say that God forgives unconditionally. Do you see the contradiction here?

That the Lord does not forgive unconditionally is clear in Scripture: “Surely at the command of the LORD it came upon Judah, to remove them from His sight because of the sins of Manasseh… and the LORD would not forgive…” (NIV: 2 Kings 24:3-4).

So lets set aside our preconceptions and consider what the Bible actually teaches about forgiveness. See if my points are validated by God’s Word.

The manner of forgiveness

First, we are to forgive others in the same manner God forgives us. Ephesians 4:32 reads, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

God’s condition for forgiveness

Second, God’s manner of forgiveness requires our repentance. Acts 3:19 gives us a taste of Apostolic preaching: “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord….” Note that repentance (a change of mind, including regret for sin) is the required condition for God’s forgiveness. God does not hold us to a higher standard than He holds Himself. His grace extends only to those who repent; He does not expect us to be more gracious than He is.

In Acts 8:22, after Simon had sinned by seeking to buy the Holy Spirit, Peter rebuked him with these words: “Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you.” Note that forgiveness is neither presumed nor assumed. It is conditioned upon repentance.

So if we forgive as God forgives, and God forgives in response to repentance, logically we are to forgive others when they repent.

Levels of forgiveness

Third, we must ask the question, “Forgiveness at what level?” When we turn from our sins (repent) and turn to Christ, all our sins are forgiven: past, present, and future—at least, as far as salvation goes. Nothing can take us out of God’s hand. We are given the righteousness of Christ and the seal of the Holy Spirit, and we are already legally seated in heaven (Ephesians 1-2).

Even though we cannot lose our salvation, we can lose our fellowship with God. When the believer lives in rebellion against God, sin blocks his ability to communicate with God (Psalm 66:18) and places him in a position to be disciplined by the Lord (1 Cor. 11:32). If we grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30)—the One who assures us of our salvation (Rom. 8:16)—we could logically lose our sense of assurance as we quiet His voice.

How do we remedy this situation? 1 John 1:9 makes it clear: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” To my way of thinking, this implies that if we do NOT confess our sins, he will NOT forgive us our sins. If God forgives us unconditionally, the verse becomes meaningless.

Sometimes forgiveness involves God not zapping people physically here on earth. I think that when Jesus asked the Father to forgive those who crucified Him, He meant, “Don’t zap them.” His example clearly makes a distinction between sinning in ignorance (“for they know not what they do”) and sinning with full knowledge.

Forgiveness in relationships

Fourth, we must boldly apply these concepts to our relationships. If others confess how they have sinned against us, we are obligated to initiate the forgiveness process. That does not mean we immediately trust them, for credibility can only be restored through faithful behavior over time. Sometimes credibility can never be fully restored. In such a case, forgiveness (a restoration of relationship as if the offense had never occurred) can never be complete.

Jesus put it this way: “So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him” (Luke 17:3). Although shorter accounts of Jesus’ teaching could be wrongly interpreted to suggest unconditional forgiveness, the longer passage in Luke presents a more detailed truth and qualifies our obligation to forgive.

We cannot always simply choose to forgive; forgiveness can be a struggle that may take a long time; it sometimes involves a process of sorting through emotions and moving gradually toward forgiveness (complete reconciliation). Sometimes we might need to say, “With God’s help, I will try to forgive you, but I am not there yet.” Honesty is crucial at this point. Christians who believe they must immediately forgive an offense often become good liars—to themselves first, and then to others.

Even when someone does not repent, it is often in our best interest to let a hurt go, if we can. We should do so because we know that bitterness drains us and keeps us from enjoying the life God has given us. We should not do so out of false guilt, but for our own benefit. Do not confuse this with genuine forgiveness, which brings complete relational restoration.

I have seen people horribly victimized and then plagued by guilt because they cannot seem to forgive the one who abused them. This guilt adds to their heavy burden. Often such guilt is unwarranted because the offender has not even requested forgiveness or evidenced genuine repentance. Sometimes people simply do not want to forgive because they are grasping for control—withholders of grace. Forgiveness evens the score, and some of us want the advantage and excuse of being a wronged person.

God recognizes that some situations are so evil that it is natural for us to want to get even. God Himself is a God of justice, so since we are in His image, we desire justice. Paul wrote: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil…. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:19-21). Find consolation in knowing that God will hold everyone accountable; none can evade Him.

I have presented what I believe to be the correct teaching of Scripture about forgiveness. My challenge to you is to study the Scriptures and test the above, especially since my understanding is the minority viewpoint. If you disagree with me, I’ll forgive you!


Ed Vasicek was raised as a Roman Catholic in Cicero, Illinois. During his senior year in high school (in 1974), Cicero Bible Church reached out to him, and he received Jesus Christ as his Savior by faith alone. Ed later felt a call to ministry and enrolled at Moody Bible Institute (B.A., Pastoral Studies/Greek). After graduating, he served as pastor of Victory Bible Church of Chicago (a branch work of Cicero Bible Church) and married Marylu Troppito. In 1983, the couple moved to Kokomo where Ed began pastoring Highland Park Church, where he still serves. Ed and Marylu have two adult children, Hannah and Luke. Ed loves to write. He has written over 500 weekly columns for the opinion page of the Kokomo Tribune, published articles in Pulpit Helps magazine, and populated his church’s website with an endless barrage of papers. You can access them at www.highlandpc.com.

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There are 68 Comments

fjbarnes's picture

I accept your "minority viewpoint." I just finished reading your article as part of my devotionals for today.

Ted Bigelow's picture

Hi Ed,

You know how much I appreciate what you write, and your wisdom. Like you, I have preached on the topic, but unlike you, I still have some loose ends in my thinking.

Would you mind responding to a couple of matters that seem to challenge some of what is written above:

1) If forgiveness is conditional upon repentance, what did Jesus mean when he said "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

2) Is forgiveness a "transaction,' a 'promise," a 'choice,' a 'mindset,' and/or a feeling?

Thanks!

MShep2's picture

Thanks, Ed.

I find the subject of "forgiveness" to be a pet peeve of mine. I will be reading along in a theological or Christian living-type book enjoying the author and suddenly he will start talking about "forgiveness" in an unbiblical way (forgive everyone unconditionally even if they don't repent or ask for forgiveness, etc., etc.). I have seen the idea of "forgiveness" stretched until it broke such as when Billy Graham "forgave" Bill Clinton for his immorality (even before Clinton admitted he had done anything wrong) or when a missionary here in Liberia went to the jail to "forgive" the man who had just raped his daughter and killed his wife; he then went on to tell the police to release the killer since he had "forgiven" him.

I have always believed that we should forgive as God forgave us (Eph. 4:32) for some time now but this doctrine been solidified a lot through books I have read and the training in nouthetic counseling I received through Faith Baptist Church in Lafayette, IN. I think the main problem with Christians is that they define the word "forgiveness" in a nebulous, unbiblical way that encompasses everything from true forgiveness to getting rid of bad feelings about someone. I believe the main confusion is over holding bitterness in your heart against someone who has wronged you and/or wishing for (planning for?) revenge. The Bible makes it clear that we should not be the ones that seek vengeance but should trust God to make things right (Rom. 12:17-21) and that we should not harbor bitterness towards anyone - even those who have wronged us greatly (Heb. 12:14-15). I think the problem comes in when people releases this bitterness and desire for vengeance and they regain the joy of the Lord in their lives it feels so great that they want to call this "forgiveness." As a matter of a fact, in the afore-mentioned books it usually is evident that if the author would just replace his uses of the word "forgive" with "release bitterness and trust God to make things right" the book would become much more biblical.

We must follow the Biblical principles of forgiveness found in Luke 17:3-4 (brother sins - he repents - comes and asks forgiveness - you forgive), Eph. 4:32 (forgive as God forgave us - we first repented, asked God for forgiveness, then God forgave) 1 John 1:9 (agree with God about your sin - He forgives our sin and cleanses us from all unrighteousness), and other verses. If we don't, we cause problems both for the "forgiver" and the "forgivee."

First, the forgiver: the Bible has given us principles to follow when someone has done wrong to us in Matt. 5:24, Matt. 18:15-18, Gal. 6:1, etc. If we have been wronged and do not follow these principles in regards to other Christians, we are doing them no kindness. They need to face their sin and repent of it, not just be "forgiven." It is the easy way out ("oh, it's no problem, I just forgave him") but it allows other Christians to remain in sin (sometimes unknowingly) without confrontation for the purpose of reconciliation.

Also, it is important to follow the Biblical forgiveness process in cases where someone has sinned for the sake of the forgiver and the forgivee: 1. offender sins; 2. person offended confronts this person; 3. offender repents of sin and apologizes; 4. the offended person then forgives him (verbally). This last step is very important for the forgiver since it marks his obligation to forgive someone who truly repents. Some, when they are asked, "Will you forgive me," will say something like "no need for forgiveness," "oh, I've already forgotten about that," or "I have already forgiven you." This breaks the forgiveness process and does not produce the true reconciliation demanded by the Bible (2 Cor. 5:18-19).

It also can create some very difficult problems in our obligations to other people in the world around us: if you unilaterally forgive the rapist, thief, or murderer you may feel you have no obligation to report this to the authorities and in the end cause rape, robbery or murder to happen to someone else.

Secondly, improper forgiveness hurts the offender. It allows him to continue in sin (sometimes unknowingly) without being made to face what he has done and how it affects his relationship with God and others, it does not allow the Matt. 18 principles to work in his life, and it short-circuits the confrontation-repentance-reconciliation process outlined by the Bible. Why should the offender apologize and ask for forgiveness if he has already been forgiven?

The only place in the Bible where these principles of forgiveness do not seem to be taught is where Christ asked God to forgiven those crucifying Him (Lk. 23:34) and Stephen asked God to not make those who stoned him accountable for what they had done (Acts 7:60). However, I agree with Ed's assessment that this was an appeal to God not to zap them for their current sin of murder, not an overall forgiveness - otherwise this would mean that all who crucified Jesus would go to heaven when they died.

MS
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Luke 17:10

Greg Wilson's picture

Great Article. I have also recently preached a similar sermon series. I highly recommend the book "Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers to Complex Problems and Deep Wounds" by Chris Brauns.

Greg Wilson

wbarkema's picture

Ed, I very much appreciate your approach. I have been around the thought that if person X has wronged person Y then person Y was the one responsible for going to person X and forgiving them. As you so ably pointed out, this does not sit well with the theology of forgiveness.

Regarding the Luke passage for others, Matthew Henry's commentary puts it like this: "Now the sayings of Christ upon the cross as well as his sufferings had a further intention than they seemed to have. This was a mediatorial word, and explicatory of the intent and meaning of his death: "Father, forgive them, not only these, but all that shall repent, and believe the gospel;’’ and he did not intend that these should be forgiven upon any other terms. " Jesus' intent was not immediate forgiveness, but the opportunity for forgiveness.

A great book on this subject is located here: http://www.chrisbrauns.com/unpackingforgiveness/

D.Hazen87's picture

Hi Ed,
I think you raise some great points, and bring up a topic that should definitely be discussed more in evangelical circles, instead of just assuming that we're all on the same page. But I see a few issues when I look to carry this logic out to its logical conclusion and look at what that would be in my life, and then what Scripture says.

One of the strongest issues that comes to mind is what David realizes in Psalm 51:4; it is against God (and God only) that we have sinned. We very well may be hurt by others, offended, or feel as though some great (real or imagined) injustice has been brought upon us. But that is not the biggest offense - Sin flies in the face of God. When the focus is on us, we are justified to expect reconciliation. But when it is focused on God, I believe we are commanded to life out Romans 12:20 and Matthew 6:9-15, forgiving others just as we have sinned.

Maybe we need to define "forgive", and I am not sure that I am even the best one to do that. But, I see a difference between forgiving someone and going back to a perfect, friendly relationship with them, and forgiving as in "I no longer expect payment for your action." Everyone seems to be ok when Romans 12:19 says "'vengeance is mine, I will repay' says the Lord" and still holding the possibility of a restored relationship in front of someone as a carrot that they can come chase, and guilt if they can't meet our expectation of what we justify as "repentance." I absolutely agree that there are many who are wronged in horrible ways - abuse is one such example. And I would agree that there is probably guilt left on those who have been abused who hear that they need to "forgive" and think that they need to be sitting down for a Sunday lunch with that person the next week. That level of thinking is just about as unhealthy as it gets. But for us, I see forgiveness as being a need to accept that our responsibility in judging that person is over, and that we have no claim in the outcome. That is a hard thing, and may take years for some (That comes of sounding trite, and I really don't mean it too - I can't begin to imagine the pain and distrust and hurt that some people carry with them from circumstances they had absolutely no control over, and can do nothing but pray for people who are affected by sins like that every day). Because it is hard does not mean that we should teach against it; forgiveness is a process of sanctification that can come ONLY as the Spirit changes hearts. We need to be careful that we don't idolize forgiveness, but I think that we are called to love, and forgive.

There are other passages that we can all carry on with, but this is getting wordy; so my last point is on Colossians 3:13, which has been an important verse in my life since I was "wronged" a few years back. What I see here goes back to Psalm 51 - if we are to forgive literally as Christ forgives us, then really we must accept that there is no way that the offender can meet our requirements (which must be just), and then pay the penalty for them. Forgiveness for that person would come only if we believed that the offender had accepted our payment for their offense. Which, I think, we would all agree is not at all what Scripture teaches in any way at all (it's even weird to write that out...). Instead, by grace alone, as all of our offenses before God have been forgiven (or judicially are no longer held against us), we should glorify God by living that same model out, no longer holding the offenses of others against them. It is not as though the offense never happened, but rather that "the judge" (what we set ourselves up to be) has thrown the case out and no longer waits for a payment, because of what Christ has done for us.

Perhaps the best example of this is the parable of the two debtors in luke 7:41-43.

What is the purpose in our forgiving others? Is it to look really good?? Then paul calls it sin in Romans. But if it is to show the forgiveness that God gives, then should strive for this, as we look to glorify God in our whole lives.

We need to be careful that after being saved by grace alone, we do not create a system of works by which we forgive others.

Daniel's picture

Hey Ed. I agree with Ted that I always appreciate your insight. A few questions though.

How does Psalm 51 fit in where David says, 'against you, you only have I sinned'. If I remember correctly, my Hebrew prof at college had said the OT frame of thought was that we sin against God, but ?offend? people. (I cannot remember the word he used in reference to other people, so don't quote me on that.)

Second, yes, we need to forgive as Christ forgave, but are there points at which this breaks down?(forgiving unconditionally) For example, if Christ forgives conditionally on our repentance (I would assume true repentance), then I would need to know if the transgressor is truly repentant, would I not? Or is this where it breaks down?

Ed Vasicek's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:
Hi Ed,

You know how much I appreciate what you write, and your wisdom. Like you, I have preached on the topic, but unlike you, I still have some loose ends in my thinking.

Would you mind responding to a couple of matters that seem to challenge some of what is written above:

1) If forgiveness is conditional upon repentance, what did Jesus mean when he said "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

2) Is forgiveness a "transaction,' a 'promise," a 'choice,' a 'mindset,' and/or a feeling?

Thanks!

Good questions, Ted.

1. My answer to the first is simple: God forgave those who crucified Jesus for crucifying the Son of God because they did not realize He was the Son of God. But God did not forgive them for crucifying an innocent man. This forgiveness meant that God did not zap them on the spot, and it meant that they could be forgiven if repentant later on. I still think they will answer for their injustice and cruelty.
They were only forgiven for doing "what they knew not," not what they did know. There is a sense in which directly opposing God makes one the "chief of sinners." The Roman Emperors were a whole lot more cruel than Paul, torturing people, ordering massacres, and enslaving masses. Yet Paul was the "chief of sinners" precisely because he directly opposed God (I Timothy 1:12-16). Gamaliel had the good sense to avoid putting himself in this position (Acts 5:34-39). The stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:60) fits in this same category. This type of sin -- directly rebelling against God -- is the type of sin committed by Korah in the book of Numbers and could bring God's immediate physical wrath.

2. Here is my attempt to answer the second. Forgiveness can mean many things, anywhere from partial to complete. Complete forgiveness is usually what we have in mind and usually is our goal. That means our relationship is restored as though the transgression had never occurred. This is not always possible. For example, if someone molests your child, even if the person is repentant and you express some level of forgiveness, the relationship can never be the same and that person will never be trusted with children again.

Matthew 18:6 suggests some sins are much more serious than others, so all sins are not in the same category:

Quote:
But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

Forgiveness received from God is based objectively upon expiation and propitiation, subjectively received by repentance and faith. For us, depending upon how we have been hurt and the nature of the offense, forgiveness can be a commitment to begin the process of restoration, or it can be a simple choice made immediately (in instances where the infraction is minor). So I cannot give you a "one size fits all" answer to your second question.

I'll try to answer the other posts later today.

"The Midrash Detective"

ssutter's picture

I think this captures the "wise as a serpent" part of the Bible's teaching on prayer. But I do think scripture has another side to it. Realistically I don't disagree with what you're saying... But the other side is present as well

"How many times should I forgive my brother"? Peter was expecting an answer like yours... but Jesus doesn't answer "well, it depends if he's repentant or not". or "well, if he keeps having to ask forgiveness clearly he hasn't really repented" - I'm really hesitant to write off Matthew as a misinterpretation.

_______________
www.SutterSaga.com

Duane Braswell's picture

Nice article Ed,

I questioned your example where God would not forgive Manasseh, most translations use 'pardon' I have not studied out the exact Hebrew word, but I will look into it more. I would point out that eventually God 'forgave' Manasseh but did not 'pardon' or let the action go without penalty. That leads me to my question and understanding.

Granted, it is all in the definitions, but what is not. I would like to go with the definition of forgive as :
to remit a debt or sin. or to give up the obligation owed.

I would be in that first group that you mentioned, but I would want to clarify the idea with the term restoration.
replacing to a former state.

I believe, in short here, that Jesus Christ died on the cross for the forgiveness of all sins. But that without repentance we are not restored. Sadly the lost go to Hell forgiven but not restored. I am sure I am opening a can of theological worms that I do not think is necessary for this discussion. the discussion is on forgiveness one to another.

I can, and I believe should forgive my brother, 70 x 7 times, with that being basically every time. I am not required to restore the relationship without their repentance. This is a very over simplification, but it is a blog, not a disertation.

I think this allows forgiveness and all the benfits that go with it, like a close relationship with God ( Matt 18) and also allows us to show God's love to the offender. I can forgive one who has sinned against me with or without their permission or apology. Then the onus of restoring the relationship is upon them. They can deny the offense, I have still forgiven them as commanded. I am following the example of the Lord, in forgiving both the ignorant and unrepentant (Lord forgive them they do not know what they do.) and yet do not need to condone their behavior or restore a relationship that is unhealthy for me.

It also provides explanation for back slidden Christians. They are forgiven, but out of the relationship God intended until they are taken home and completely transformed into the image of our Lord.

Just some thoughts to kick around, I apologize in advance for my slow response to these comments. I get busy and away from my computer.

He who created us without our help will not save us without our consent. - Augustine

Matt Walker's picture

Hello Pastor Vasicek,

I actually do take the opposite approach to the subject. I think that this is a great subject to be explored and rarely have I read something on either side of this discussion where I feel as if the whole matter has been treated.

Here is the basis of my disagreement. It really all has to do with the way you interpret Ephesians 4:32. Under “manner of forgiveness” you quote this verse. Then you immediately begin your next section with “God’s manner of forgiveness requires our repentance.” Your argument then seems to be that we are to forgive others in the same manner that God forgave us—hence, Ephesians 4:32.

But Ephesians 4:32 isn’t discussing the process of forgiveness. Paul has been instructing the Ephesians to order their lives differently from the lives of the heathen around them. They live in the futility of their mind being darkened in their understanding…because of the hardness of their heart. They are living according to something that Paul calls our “old self.” This is why they lie, lose their tempers, steal, speak corrupting things, and grieve the Holy Spirit. This is why they are full of bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander…. Instead of living that way we should order our lives according to our new self, our Christ-self. We should tell the truth, be self-controlled, work so we can give to others, and speak words that build people up spiritually. We should be kind and forgiving. Why should we be forgiving? Didn’t God forgive us? I don’t think the process of forgiveness is being taught here. Instead, I would argue that we are being taught the intensity or depth of our forgiveness. I might even argue that we are to be forgiving others based on our mutual relationship with Christ (this is referring to “one another.”)

If you take Ephesians 4:32 to be referring to the process of forgiveness then obviously you can only forgive as the offending party repents. That is the basis by which God forgave me. If you take it in one of the other ways that I mentioned then this process falls apart.

The other passage often cited is in Luke 17:3-4 where Jesus says: " Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him." The teaching is clear. If someone sins against us and repents, then we must forgive them. But what if they do not repent? Are we free to withhold forgiveness? That’s the inference your article. If someone does not repent then what? Actually, Jesus doesn’t address that situation. To infer that we are free to withhold forgiveness at this point is to read into the text our own opinion, isn’t it?

Finally, I would say that there are other passages that make such a strong statement supporting the “forgive whether the offending party repents or not position” so as to decide this clearly for me.

What about Luke 6:27-36? How should we treat those who hurt us? Jesus says (1) love them, (2) do good to them, (3) bless them, and (4) pray for them. Now how can I love someone, do them good, bless them, and pray for them, and not forgive them at the same time? Suppose a man hits me in the face and then he says to me, “I’m glad I did it and I’d do it again if I had the chance.” Clearly, he’s not repentant. What if he steals my coat and says, “I’m glad I did it and I’d do it again if I had the chance.” How should I treat him? Shouldn’t I love him in return offering up the other cheek and offering up my shirt? By the way, isn’t this how God is toward those who are ungrateful and evil? I do not see how it is possible that I can “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” and not forgive someone.

I think that if we boldly applied this to our own situation we would be more apt to forgive…even those who would rather die than say “I’m sorry.”

D.Hazen87's picture

Hey Ed,
I do wonder what a post like this would look like on other blogs, and realize that there are probably many who would agree with you. I was actually surprised a little bit how many people responded with a contrary position, and don't want this to become a "beat up on someone" post. I appreciate your willingness to share thoughts, even if I disagree with them, and am not sure that I'd want you spreading them.

But, I do have a genuine question (that hopefully won't come off as arrogant) - so what do we do with that?? What difference do you see it making practically, in day to day living, if we do not forgive those who do not repent? It may be the guilt of not being able to forgive people that you mentioned, but I'd love to hear you flush that out yet, and maybe we can all see how, Biblically, we should be dealing with hurt and forgiveness and our own hearts, and see how it relates to God. Again...I don't mean that to sound condescending and thing it might. It just seems like those who disagree may have said most of what needs to be said, at least now. (As a side note...i'm new, and don't know how heated these things usually get, so if this is a little ridiculous I'm sorry Smile )

But f'real - so what??

wbarkema's picture

Duane Braswell wrote:
I can, and I believe should forgive my brother, 70 x 7 times, with that being basically every time. I am not required to restore the relationship without their repentance. This is a very over simplification, but it is a blog, not a disertation.

I think this allows forgiveness and all the benfits that go with it, like a close relationship with God ( Matt 18) and also allows us to show God's love to the offender. I can forgive one who has sinned against me with or without their permission or apology. Then the onus of restoring the relationship is upon them. They can deny the offense, I have still forgiven them as commanded. I am following the example of the Lord, in forgiving both the ignorant and unrepentant (Lord forgive them they do not know what they do.) and yet do not need to condone their behavior or restore a relationship that is unhealthy for me.


Two things I see from here.
1. This goes against the Luke 17 passage that talks about your brother trespassing against you. The first thing we are told to do is to rebuke them. It goes on to say "if" that brother repents, then you are to forgive him. We are not the judge of the level of repentance, but the forgiveness comes after the acknowledgment and turning from the trespass. The hallmark forgiveness passage that every good fundamentalist goes to is 1 John 1:9. There, the offender is the one to acknowledge their sin prior to forgiveness.
2. Forgiving the unrepentant only works if one believes that all are forgiven. That would be inconsistent with the nature of Christ's forgiveness. I addressed Jesus' words on the cross in an earlier post. I realize I referenced Matthew Henry's commentary, but others show very similar outcomes.

From another commentary

Quote:
b. Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do: Jesus did not grant forgiveness to those who crucified Him. He did not say, "I forgive you." Instead, He prayed to God the Father for their forgiveness.

i. Jesus probably prayed this way for His enemies all through His ministry, but now we hear it from His lips because He has no quiet place to pray.

ii. In this Jesus fulfilled His own command to love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good for those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you (Matthew 5:44).

Jonathan Charles's picture

Good article. Carefully considering Luke 17:3 led me to some of the ideas you presented. Thinking about Luke 17:3 led me to think of forgivness as a triangle. Assuming I was the one sinned against, there is me, the offender and then God. I should not forgive the offended until he repents, yet I can pray to God asking for the bitterness and anger the other party has caused me to be taken away and to somehow see that one's sinful act as part of His providence. I guess I thought of this since I have come to realize that some people will never repent, or it may take a long time for one to repept. In the mean time, I don't want to get an ulcer everytime I run across that person's path at Wal-Mart or the bank.

My dilemma in counseling is when 2 parties both accuse the other of sin and neither will concede the other's accusation-both are demanding that the other repent! I have yet to see such a situation have a Christ-honoring conclusion.

Bob T.'s picture

Forgiveness is a wonderful doctrinal aspect of Salvation. In the NT it is various forms of the word "aphiemi" and appears 140 times. However it appears but 14 times outside the Gospels. The Septuagint uses the word with the idea of to let go or release from." However, it is used with the idea of forgiveness with such Hebrew words such as "nasa"= to take away; guilt or sin; "salach" = to pardon; "kaphar" = to cover, make atonement. In the NT it is used of forgiveness of financial debt and of sins.

What does all this mean in regard to Salvation?

When we are saved we are united with Christ. As a result we are Justified and Regenerated. Our Justification means God declares us righteous. Our sins are imputed to Christ and His righteousness is imputed to us. It is used in a doctrinal sense with regard to salvation at Romans 4:7; James 5:15; 1John 1:9, 2:12. Forgiveness by God involves the removing or taking away of our sins as a barrier for receiving other blessings from Him and having fellowship with Him. Justification is a declaration insuring no charges against us with regard to our judgment before God. Forgiveness has to do with the taking away of our sins that they are not a practical barrier between us and a Holy God who cannot stand sin. Thus the Christian is involved with four kinds or aspects of forgiveness:

1. Initial Judicial Forgiveness: Received at the moment of belief in Christ. Conditioned on faith alone. This involves all sins committed before Justification.

2. Initial Fellowship Forgiveness : Received at the moment of belief in Christ. Involves removal of estrangement resulting from sins committed before Justification. This enables fellowship with a Holy God (1John 1:7).

3. Continuing Judicial Forgiveness: This occurs at the moment the Christian sins. It is based on the finished substitutionary work of Christ but occurs due to the continuing advocacy of Jesus Christ in Heaven as our High Priest (Heb. 7:20-28). This is unconditional for all those Justified.

4. Continuing Fellowship Forgiveness: Occurs when a Christian confesses sin committed. This involves the ministry of Jesus as High Priest but is conditional based upon our confession of sin (1 John 1:9). It restores our temporal fellowship with a Holy God.

The believer is Justified at the moment of Salvation which absolutely guarantees our salvation. We are never to be judged for our sin and have the very righteousness of Christ. The issue at the Bema Seat of Christ is our fruit and service not sin (2 Cor. 5:1-11).

Forgiveness goes beyond the Justification declaration and gives us fellowship with a Holy God by taking the sin issue out of the way and giving us both Judicial and temporal fellowship forgiveness. The fellowship is conditional based on forgiveness but does not set aside the completeness of our Salvation based on the finished work of Christ.

How does all this apply to sins and human relationships?

We are to turn the other cheek and love our enemies. This means no retaliation and to treat others as we would desire to be treated. This does not take away alienation due to sin. It does not forbid self defense. If we sin we are expected to confess to receive God's continuing fellowship forgiveness. If we sin against others we are expected to repent (change our mind resulting in turning from the sin) and confess to remove a barrier of fellowship. In some cases the forgiveness may be genuine involving a turning away and restore fellowship, but still disqualify for certain service such as Eldership.

In human relationships there are aspects of forgiveness that are unconditional and then some that are conditional. We must forgive based on God having already forgiving us. This is Grace. However, in order for fellowship to be restored with God and with us there is the necessity of confession of wrong and this may also involve repentance.

cdbrauns's picture

Hi everyone. I wish my schedule allowed me to interact with this extensively.

This link http://www.chrisbrauns.com/2007/06/09/didnt-jesus-pray-forgive-them-father/ http://www.chrisbrauns.com/2007/06/09/didnt-jesus-pray-forgive-them-father/ points to a post on my blog related to Jesus prayer on the Cross.

One of the first things I think we need to talk about regarding forgiveness is this. Is forgiveness essentially a feeling? Or, is it a relationship? Many in our culture describe it as a feeling - - so when they say forgiveness is automatic, what they mean is that we ought not to be consumed by bitterness.

Of course, we shouldn't be consumed by bitterness! I plan to preach on that at Peacemakers National Conference in a couple of weeks.

But - - biblical forgiveness is about more than just feelings. When God forgives, it does not mean his feelings change for his benefit. It is all about our relationship with Him.

I could write lots more - - and have! But, this is a blog so I'll stop there for now.

BryanBice's picture

cdbrauns wrote:
Hi everyone. I wish my schedule allowed me to interact with this extensively.

This link http://www.chrisbrauns.com/2007/06/09/didnt-jesus-pray-forgive-them-father/ http://www.chrisbrauns.com/2007/06/09/didnt-jesus-pray-forgive-them-father/ points to a post on my blog related to Jesus prayer on the Cross.

One of the first things I think we need to talk about regarding forgiveness is this. Is forgiveness essentially a feeling? Or, is it a relationship? Many in our culture describe it as a feeling - - so when they say forgiveness is automatic, what they mean is that we ought not to be consumed by bitterness.

Of course, we shouldn't be consumed by bitterness! I plan to preach on that at Peacemakers National Conference in a couple of weeks.

But - - biblical forgiveness is about more than just feelings. When God forgives, it does not mean his feelings change for his benefit. It is all about our relationship with Him.

I could write lots more - - and have! But, this is a blog so I'll stop there for now.

Having read Chris's book, I highly recommend it. It's helped me come to see "conditional forgiveness" as a waypoint in the journey from sin & estrangement to restoration. The popular concept sees forgiveness as a therapy for personal emotional health. Instead, forgiveness should be seen as more of a forensic step in the process of relational health. Utilizing a simple relationship between two individuals, I've laid it out this way:
1) ORIGINAL RELATIONSHIP: marked by intimacy/fellowship/oneness/unity. The level depends on the type of relationship (marriage/parent-child/sibling/friend/church/work/etc.)
2) SIN/TRESPASS: one party in the relationship "offends" the other (Matt. 18:15). The may lead to...
3) ESTRANGEMENT: the relationship is injured, perhaps broken. Intimacy, fellowship, etc. dissipates. Estrangement is marked by avoidance, breakdown in communication, hostility, etc. This will likely require...
4) CONFRONTATION: either the offended confronts the offender (Matt. 18) or the offender seeks forgiveness from the offended (Matt. 5:23-24). If the former, this may lead to...
5) REPENTANCE: the offender is truly and demonstrably sorry for his sin, desiring to set right the wrong done. His repentance demands...
6) FORGIVENESS: the penalty of sin (estrangement) is forgiven (Matt. 18:21-22, but cf. unrepentant, v. 17b -- vv. 23-25 illustrate these dynamics). Forgiveness always results in....
7) RECONCILIATION: A relationship is re-established (cf. unrepentant -- Mt. 18:17b). Hostilities are removed so that the parties communicate at some level; there's no more avoidance. This makes possible a return to the former depth of relationship. Reconciliation, resulting from forgiveness to the repentant, enables the possibility of...
Cool RESTORATION: a return to the depth of intimacy, etc. before the transgression. Restoration occurs through a process of time, the length of which depends on several factors, including level of prior intimacy, gravity of sin, cooperation of both parties, and the level of trust to be restored.

Mapping out the "journey" in this way has helped me avoid the fallacy of therapeutic forgiveness. Furthermore, it recognizes that forgiveness doesn't equal or demand restoration.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Thanks for all the encouraging words. I am glad I am not alone. But to answer some questions....

M Shep said:

Quote:
Also, it is important to follow the Biblical forgiveness process in cases where someone has sinned for the sake of the forgiver and the forgivee: 1. offender sins; 2. person offended confronts this person; 3. offender repents of sin and apologizes; 4. the offended person then forgives him (verbally). This last step is very important for the forgiver since it marks his obligation to forgive someone who truly repents. Some, when they are asked, "Will you forgive me," will say something like "no need for forgiveness," "oh, I've already forgotten about that," or "I have already forgiven you." This breaks the forgiveness process and does not produce the true reconciliation demanded by the Bible (2 Cor. 5:18-19).

I agree with you, Jay Adams has done a good job on this, impressing us with the importance of saying, "What I did was wrong. Will you forgive me?" It really aids to have clear, direct communication in contrast to the weasel-like cop out, "IF I did anything wrong." That is not an apology or even an admission of guilt. It puts the burden on the one offended to forgive, though no apology has been given. If the offended says, "I don't forgive," he looks like a jerk. He should respond, "If you admit you did wrong and ask my forgiveness, I will do so. But as long as you are uncertain that what you did was wrong, there can be no apology."

D.Hazen87 has some good points. When you ask for forgiveness, the burden is on the other person. He has to decide if he is willing to forgive. But the establishment of credibility is a different matter. When we forgive, we give the offender a chance to re-earn our TRUST. Our trust is not immediate.

. The Issue of Credibility means you don't need to immediately trust someone you have forgiven.. Restitution should be made when possible (Luke 19:8; Proverbs 14:9, 2 Corinthians 7:10) In Luke 3:7-8, we read:

Quote:
7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance."

Daniel asks some HARD questions:

Quote:

Hey Ed. I agree with Ted that I always appreciate your insight. A few questions though.

How does Psalm 51 fit in where David says, 'against you, you only have I sinned'. If I remember correctly, my Hebrew prof at college had said the OT frame of thought was that we sin against God, but ?offend? people. (I cannot remember the word he used in reference to other people, so don't quote me on that.)

Second, yes, we need to forgive as Christ forgave, but are there points at which this breaks down?(forgiving unconditionally) For example, if Christ forgives conditionally on our repentance (I would assume true repentance), then I would need to know if the transgressor is truly repentant, would I not? Or is this where it breaks down?

Psalm 51 is tough to interpret; no one doubts that David sinned against God, but ONLY God? I do not have an answer to that one, but the answer your Hebrew prof suggested is worse than no answer, IMO Smile The second question is answered by the fact that we can only look on the outward appearance, and we know people by their fruit. We can forgive the repentant, but, as cited above, we have to give them a fair chance to re-establish credibility. If we can no longer honestly believe that the offender is sincere because of repeated patterns, we would be fools to trust that person. WE should then stand ready to consider viewing him as credible when the repeat offender has walked the walk for a significant period of time. There is a status of "forgiveness is initiated, but it is forgiveness with one's eyes open."

SSuter said:

Quote:
"How many times should I forgive my brother"? Peter was expecting an answer like yours... but Jesus doesn't answer "well, it depends if he's repentant or not". or "well, if he keeps having to ask forgiveness clearly he hasn't really repented" - I'm really hesitant to write off Matthew as a misinterpretation.

We should interpret shorter Gospel portions in light of longer accounts. Luke 17 says,

Quote:
"If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him."

The Gospel accounts are summaries and are brief minute or two statements from teachings that may have lasted hours. The more context we get, the better.

Hopefully this will answer most questions. But if you disagree, relax: I forgive you Smile

"The Midrash Detective"

Ed Vasicek's picture

I did not want to answer too many comments in one post, so I thought I would divide things up.

Duane said:

Quote:
I can, and I believe should forgive my brother, 70 x 7 times, with that being basically every time. I am not required to restore the relationship without their repentance. This is a very over simplification, but it is a blog, not a disertation.

I think you are lessening the meaning of forgiveness at this point. It is sort of like someone who is worried saying "I am concerned."

But do you leave room for wanting God to take revenge with your approach, as Romans 12:17-21 states? It sounds to me like your view would be incompatible with this attitude that Paul not only affirms, but presents as an option.

Notice the holy souls under the altar in heaven desire revenge, and they are not condemned for it, but their desire is affirmed:

Quote:
9When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" 11Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.

How do you integrate those verses into your paradigm?

Matt brought up Eph. 4:32. Again, I would say that the Christian is always to be ready to forgive. Minor infractions are "covered in love," as Peter mentions in I Peter 4:8. More serious offenses need confrontation, Matthew 18:15-17. You would never confront a forgiven brother, IMO. But this delves into hermeneutics. Do you base your long views on short passages, or do you approach matters using the analogy of faith? Perhaps you base your view of divorce and remarriage on Romans 7:1-3 and ignore the rest. Or your view of salvation on John 3:16 but ignore the matters of repentance and understanding the atoning work of Christ. Same sort of thing here, IMO.

D.Hazen 87 said

Quote:
But, I do have a genuine question (that hopefully won't come off as arrogant) - so what do we do with that?? What difference do you see it making practically, in day to day living, if we do not forgive those who do not repent? It may be the guilt of not being able to forgive people that you mentioned, but I'd love to hear you flush that out yet, and maybe we can all see how, Biblically, we should be dealing with hurt and forgiveness and our own hearts, and see how it relates to God.

I have helped so many people see that they are not wrong to have ill feelings toward someone who hurt them badly (child molesting, gang rape, unfaithful spouse, druggies, a father who murdered a girl's best friend and stalked her, etc., etc.). These victims have suffered so much, and then they bear the burden of feeling even more sinful because they cannot forgive the (non-repentant) offender.

According to Exodus 23:21, sometimes God will not forgive. We do not have that option, upon repentance. I may have another post on developing a Christian theology of hatred. How do we handle it? Obviously, we are better off if we can release our bitter feelings to God, but this is often a struggle, like we see in Psalm73. We are not machines that can turn on or off like a light-switch. We are better off being HONEST about how we feel and dealing with it than disguising the truth and telling ourselves we have forgiven when in fact we have not.

Bob T. commented:

Quote:
We are to turn the other cheek and love our enemies.
Have you ever noted the MODERATION in the Sermon on the Mount? You walk the extra MILE, NOT an extra 10 miles. A slap in the face is an act of insult, but you turn the other cheek once (again, like walking an extra mile). You go beyond, you give room -- within boundaries. Most people never catch that. I think it means we give people the benefit of the doubt -- but within reasonable limits.

"The Midrash Detective"

BryanBice's picture

In interpreting Psalm 51:4, consider these alternate translations:

NET: Against you — you above all — I have sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. So you are just when you confront me; you are right when you condemn me.
CEV: You are really the one I have sinned against; I have disobeyed you and have done wrong. So it is right and fair for you to correct and punish me.

Concerning the word "only," Strong notes: "properly separation; by implication a part of the body, branch of a tree, bar for carrying; figuratively chief of a city; especially (with prepositional prefix) as adverb, apart, only, besides...."

I've interpreted the "only" as "ultimately" (rather than "exclusively") in the sense that, were it not for the fact that God established moral law, there would be no transgression against another human being. In other words, all sin against my neighbor derives from my sin against God, who has established the moral framework for human relations.

Do we get a hint that this is the sense when later David acknowledges he's violated another human being by begging, "Deliver me from bloodguiltiness..."? He couldn't be guilty of blood if his sin was exclusively against God, since man can't shed God-as-spirit's "blood." But in shedding another man's blood--an obvious transgression against the victim--he has ultimately sinned against God.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Matt said:

Quote:
I think that if we boldly applied this to our own situation we would be more apt to forgive…even those who would rather die than say “I’m sorry.”

You know, Matt, this comment got me thinking. It is the idea of "unconditional forgiveness" that encourages people not to learn how to ask forgiveness. When I do premarital counseling, I try to train couples to do just that. Every Christian needs to learn how to ask forgiveness. We cannot view those resistant to the idea as just people of a certain temperament. There is no excuse for someone not saying, "I was wrong. Will you please forgive me." In a way, this is what starts the Christian life in the first place!

Here is part of the material I use in premarital counseling. People who have a hard time doing this need to practice in an empty room and then (if they sincerely agree that this is what they should do) must mouth the words to the offended party.

"I have sinned by ______________. I regret what I did because it was wrong, and that wrong hurt you. I will try to guard against sinning this way in the future. I ask you to forgive me. Will you do so?"

1. Personal responsibility for our sin is a must. If we excuse it or qualify it, we are not sincerely repentant for it. It is helpful to limit an apology to the above statement so as not to cloud the issue.

2. For mistakes, we can say, "I'm sorry." That's okay if a burp escapes from your mouth or you spill a cup of coffee. Mistakes are blunders without sinful intent. Sins are moral issues. Lying, swearing, fits of rage, etc., are sins, not mistakes. A mistake is a social impropriety, a sin is a thought or action contrary to God's revealed will. Never call a sin a mistake.

3. Asking forgiveness means focusing on the one we hurt rather than saving face and focusing on our pride. Men or women who are slaves to pride find it nearly impossible to ask forgiveness.

4. Asking for forgiveness means expressing repentance. "I will try not to sin in this way again." We can never guarantee--only express sincere intent.

5. A request to forgive puts the ball in the offended person's court. If the offended person refuses to forgive, that is their choice.

It seems like the idea of "humbling ourselves" runs contrary to our ego-driven western values. We cannot accept that, IMO.

"The Midrash Detective"

FranL's picture

Great article. I was teaching through 2 Corinthians a few years back and we came across the situation in chapter 2 where Paul said that you (Corinthians) need to forgive the one who committed fornication but then repented. This was about a year after Paul said to discipline this one (then unrepentant) out of the church. So in this case about a year went by before the one who had committed fornication repented. Until his repentance Paul in no way said that the Corinthians needed to forgive him.
The statement was then made that upon repentance one should forgive. The question then came up: what if one does not repent after sinning against you, do you forgive anyway? I said no. Then the fireworks started. You might think I denied the virgin birth of Christ. We spent the next two weeks going through this subject but I pointed out that forgiveness is based upon repentance. Nowhere in scripture do you see forgiveness without repentance. When Jesus said:

Quote:
Forgive them for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34)
, He meant that this sin (of crucifying Jesus) be not held against them so that forgiveness could be obtained by the repenting sinner at a future date. Notice also Stephen: Lay not this sin to their charge (Acts 7:60). But that did not immediately forgive them ones stoning him, including Paul (then Saul). He would say later: I obtained forgiveness because I did it ignorantly in unbelief (1 Timothy 1:13).
Interestingly enough we are to seek the persons restoration. This involves confronting the unrepentant person. This work can be messy and gritty. We are commanded to do that. I'm afraid that some may use unconditional forgiveness as a cloak to avoid the process of restoring the sinning saint (Galatians 6:2).

Francis Lerro

Matt Walker's picture

The conclusion that "unconditional forgiveness" has resulted in people not properly asking for forgiveness should not be used as an argument against it any more than the fact that people drive cars sometimes results in accidents. I had a similar conversation with a friend this summer who said that because of unconditional repentance Christians were prone to let the offense against them go instead of confronting the offending party. I don't think that is the real reason they let it go. I think it is because they hate confrontation. They would rather "let it go" than confront someone. To blame unconditional repentance is to put the blame on the wrong thing, IMO.

Matt Walker's picture

Francis,

I'm somewhat concerned by the inference drawn from 2 Corinthians regarding the man who committed incest and was subsequently disciplined from the church. The forgiveness that Paul is referring to in 2 Corinthians is actually restoration to the church, not forgiveness over an offense. To infer that this situation somehow creates a process by which we are to forgive those who wrong us is a flying leap in logic...right? Smile

Ed Vasicek's picture

Matt Walker wrote:
The conclusion that "unconditional forgiveness" has resulted in people not properly asking for forgiveness should not be used as an argument against it any more than the fact that people drive cars sometimes results in accidents. I had a similar conversation with a friend this summer who said that because of unconditional repentance Christians were prone to let the offense against them go instead of confronting the offending party. I don't think that is the real reason they let it go. I think it is because they hate confrontation. They would rather "let it go" than confront someone. To blame unconditional repentance is to put the blame on the wrong thing, IMO.

I agree that these are not arguments against that unconditional viewpoint. But I would argue that it is easier to justify failing to confront or learning how to ask for forgiveness as a consequence of such a view because it weakens the necessity for these. Still, many who believe in unconditional forgiveness do ask for forgiveness and do confront. It is kind of like election (which I believe in). One possible consequence of such a view is failure to evangelize. That doesn't mean those of us who believe in sovereign grace are wrong or don't believe in evangelism. But it is a possible consequence (and I do think that Arminians are typically more prone to witness, IMO). But one should not arrive as his convictions for pragmatic reasons, but rather on the basis of what he believes the Bible teaches. So I hear you on this.

"The Midrash Detective"

Ed Vasicek's picture

Matt Walker wrote:
Francis,

I'm somewhat concerned by the inference drawn from 2 Corinthians regarding the man who committed incest and was subsequently disciplined from the church. The forgiveness that Paul is referring to in 2 Corinthians is actually restoration to the church, not forgiveness over an offense. To infer that this situation somehow creates a process by which we are to forgive those who wrong us is a flying leap in logic...right? Smile

On this one, I don't know that I fully agree. The pattern for forgiveness is God, and the church and the individual Christian are to follow that same pattern, I believe, based on Ephesians 4:32. Also, in the Lord's Prayer, the (fellowship) forgiveness God gives us is conditioned upon our willingness to forgive others (that is the condition). I think it is all tied in, IMO.

"The Midrash Detective"

FranL's picture

Hi Matt,

In 2Corinthians 2:7 Paul states to the people of the church to forgive this one. I do believe it involves restoration to the church but also forgiveness of the people toward the repentant person. I wanted to point out that forgiveness was not mentioned when Paul, a year earlier told the church to discipline the member from the church. But you are correct, this was not a good example.
Also see Luke 17:3 and Matthew 18:15. These verses show forgiveness upon repentance and even the command to confront someone who sins against you.
Now I know that love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8) and if someone wants to forgive an offense against them that is great. But the forgiveness must be real. They need to let it drop and not bring it up in conversations with their friends.
If someone sins against you and it seems that you are offended in that you see this as something that is not going away, scriptures point to you going to confront the offending party. I know it is unpleasant (I myself hate confrontation) but the scriptures command it. The statement: I'm afraid that some may use unconditional forgiveness as a cloak to avoid the process of restoring the sinning saint implies that some may forgive but after the offense things are not the same. The offense comes up in conversations with their friends. You must ask the question: Did they really forgive??
Hope this helps. Have a blessed day.

Francis Lerro

skjnoble's picture

Quote:
"If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him."

Hi Ed, I join the chorus to say that I, too, am greatly edified by your articles and have even circulated some around our local church body (women). I have a quick question: What does the "repent" look like here? Are we looking for only speech, or are we also looking for other indicators such as time lengths, sincerity, patterns, etc.? I'm sorry if I missed this explanation in your article or comments. I'll go back and read it if I'm duplicating efforts. Thanks!

Can I also offer a practical application here from my own experience? I've often found that it's useful when I'm the offender and adds to (my) sincerity, if, after the forgiveness process has been worked out to full reconciliation/resolution--I ask that person to hold me accountable in that area. I realize there are some qualifiers here, but for the most part, I've found it's good for my practical Christian life within my home! and church life and also good for the soul (very humbling). I hope this isn't too much of rabbit trail because I know this wasn't the original intent of the article, but thought it might be useful to some.

Thanks, Kim Noble

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

This is a great thread and am important topic.

One of the questions that always comes up when we talk about repentance is sincerity. On the one hand, I have no problem attempting to demonstrate my sincerity by making restitution that I believe is consistent with the offense, but I have problems with people holding out hoops for others to jump through. Personal anecdote- I once sent a card to apologize to someone (who I didn't see very often) and ask for their forgiveness. When 3 weeks later there was still no response, my dh called to ask what the problem was- apparently sending a card was tacky, and 'proof' of my lack of sincerity. And here I was thinking that putting my apology in writing, being very specific and I thought thoroughly repentant, would actually serve as evidence of my sincerity. No dice- apparently they are still holding out for sackcloth and ashes.

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