Thursday, July 06, 2006

You don't have to forgive everybody

How is that for a provocative title?

As I said in the beginning of this thread (July 3), most the questions since the message on Sunday have revolved around the complications and difficulties of forgiveness. I am choosing my words very carefully. Notice I have not said "exceptions." To use that word would open up far too many ideas of an ever expanding network of situations that might mute the force of Jesus' teaching on forgiveness.

We must forgive in radically lavish and extravagant ways because, if we belong to Christ, we are aware that we have been forgiven a far more grievous debt to God than any human being could ever owe to us. We are to look to the cross and the price of our forgiveness in the sacrificed life of our Savior and there find the heart and power to forgive as we have been forgiven.

But there are difficulties and complications to forgiveness.

Let me start with a book recommendation--From Forgiven, to Forgiving by Jay E. Adams.

Here's the principle: Forgive all who repent and ask for forgiveness. Be lavish and extravagant with your forgiveness to all who repent and ask for forgiveness. Pray for all whom you are estranged from that they would desire reconciliation with you and would discern that asking for your forgiveness is part of the process of restoration.

But you should not forgive, in fact, must not forgive those who do not repent and ask for forgiveness. Does Jesus forgive those who do not repent and ask for forgiveness? Answer: No. As a follower of Jesus, I want to follow his example. "But this bitterness inside me is eating me alive, don't I have to find some way to forgive them before it twists my spirit it knots?" Answer: No. "Then what do I do?" Good question.

We must cultivate the attitude of heart that says, "If / when Tom, Harry or Mary comes to me and genuinely asks for forgiveness, I will forgive them. I want to cultivate in my heart a willingingness to forgive as Christ has forgivenen me. Until then, I will follow Christ as closely as I can, fixing my eyes of Jesus, the author and perfector of faith, who for the joy set before him, despised the shame and endured the cross (Hebrews 12:1-3)."

So it looks something like this:

  1. When a person repents and ask for forgiveness--forgiveness is granted with lavish and extravagant grace.
  2. When a person refuses to acknowledge their wrong--forgiveness is withheld and other shadows and hints of grace are proffered.
  • Rebuke--with humility (cf. 1 Timothy 4:1-2; Eph. 4:29-32).
  • Church discipline--following the guidelines of Matthew 18:15-20.
  • Good deeds--following the principle of Romans 12:14-21.
  • Prayer--for ourselves as we struggle with our attitudes toward those who have wronged us (Matthew 6:12-13; 1 Thess 5:17-18, 22)
  • Prayer--for the one who has offended us, that they might be given the grace that leads to repentance and that relationship might be restored to a Christ honoring unity.

Again, I recommend the book by Jay E. Adams, From Forgiven, to Forgiving. As I have read and studied the Scripture and as I have counseled others and sought to be faithful myself, I have found very little in this book and perspective with which to quibble over.

This is not the easy path but it is the biblical path.


halfmom said...

said a bit tongue in cheek - but since when is the biblical path ever the easy one?

Patricia said...

I raised this issue with my friends, and they raised a good point. Then, what of when Jesus died on the cross and said, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing?" Some of THEM weren't repentant, and yet he forgave them???? I don't quite understand. Please help me!!!!! thanks

Robyn said...

This is an old thread, but I finally listened to the CD of your sermon on forgiveness. (I'm your anonymous blogger with the step-mother issues.)

I'm still stumped as to what to do. I have prayed and continue to pray for my dad's wife, and my spirit is so unsettled. Their wedding reception (conveniently scheduled for the week after our baby was due) was held in Michigan, and we weren't able to attend. My dad and his wife did come to visit us and meet our newest addition, and stayed for about an hour. His wife was very polite and no mention was made of her prior outburst. (I told my dad ahead of time that she is welcome in our home, but must be polite or she would have to leave. With a new baby I have ZERO tolerance for drama!!) It was creepy how polite she was.

I am so grieved over the lost relationship with my dad. When my twins were born, he spent two weeks with us, getting to know his grandchildren. We enjoyed several long visits back and forth each year, and my preschoolers know and love him. Now he gets pictures in the mail and an hour long visit with his new grandchild.

I am grieving and want to see this relationship restored more than anything.

One of the things that stood out to me in your sermon was the statement that the person who was least wrong needs to be willing to suffer the most in order for a relationship to be restored. I am willing to suffer. I want to forgive. I want reconciliation...but considering her unwillingness to even TALK about what happened, I'm not sure it's wise. I don't know what to do with all of this.

On top of it all, and what precedented me listening to the sermon, is that my Mom is doing terribly. (She's mentally ill and living on her own, but shouldn't be.) I've been researching different facilities that can care for her, and it's one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. In my last phone conversation with my dad he asked how she was, and I told him. His response? "Mmmm. Well, I hope to get my new shed built this weekend...." If he didn't want to know, why did he ask?

I am grieving a mother I never had (and desperately need right now)....I am grieving a father that I DID have, and feel as though I have lost...and wondering where my responsibility lies in all of this.

I am a recovering alcoholic. I get grace. I have been forgiven so much. My dad is the only person I have left from my family of origin, and I feel like I'm losing him.

I just reread this post and I sound like a freaky basket case. I'm not. Really. I'm just trying to sort all of this out and figure out where to go from here. Do I reach out (again) and try to work this out? Do I just accept that this is the way it is now? Ugh. Why does life have to be so damn hard?

ChosenRebel said...

Ugh, not the answers are easy and all of them take more time than a blog posting. "Sin always complicates life--for everyone" I'd love to try and help though. Why not set up a time to talk? Meanwhile I will be in prayer for your heart.

Note to eavesdroppers: I will try to respond to this off line and then give a summary of the principles that I think apply on the blog.