Saturday, October 14, 2006

Cheapening Forgiveness?

Today, I replied to a WorldNetDaily letter writer. He was concerned about the concept of "cheap forgiveness." While I can understand his feeling the way he did, I don't think that he was theologically correct in his conclusions. Bob, Charlie L., Mark, Highboy, Anna, Stephen, Susan, Saltnlight, Real Deal, (and other Christians who post here), feel free to correct me if you think I am in error about this. Also, if you have more to add (I hope you do!!) please post it. Admittedly, this involves some deep, theological thought and application. But I think it would be good to ponder and discuss.

Here is the original letter at WorldNetDaily. I will then post my reply afterwards.


Cheapening forgiveness
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


I'd like to address forgiveness as outlined in Craig R. Smith's "A lesson from the Amish" and David Kupelian's "The war on fathers."

Forgiveness should not, ever, be given without repentance. Surely you will say that Jesus forgave on the cross those who were not repentant. Uh-huh. But what about Luke 17:3 when He said, "If your brother sins against you, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him." The key word here is IF. Got it? Or will you say that Jesus must have forgotten about this and changed His mind on the cross? Forgiving those who have not repented and teaching this to others is hurting the Body and those who are in real need of forgiveness. This false teaching only leads others to believe that they can do whatever they please and they'll be forgiven.

God doesn't forgive without repentance, and God doesn't ask or instruct anyone else to do so, either.

Stop it. At once. Forgive, yes, when there is repentance – only when there is repentance.

John Snakenberg



*******

My reply:

I'd like to reply to John Snakenberg's letter regarding "cheap forgiveness."

Human forgiveness for a wrong done by others is different from God's forgiveness for our sins through the blood of Jesus Christ at the cross.

In this particular case, human forgiveness was given by the Amish people towards the perpetrator. It was probably done in accordance with Christ's admonition to forgive, as well as for the benefit of themselves (the Amish). The third benefit is that the family which the murderer left behind, would be shown to be innocent of his actions (which they, of course, were).

Bitterness, anger and hatred towards a murderer are human emotions that we all would feel towards any act of murder. It's even worse if it (God forbid!) ever happened to our own children. How could we not be torn apart by it? It 's a sobering reminder that there is good and evil in the world. Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble." But he didn't end there. He also said, "But take heart! For I have overcome the world."

However, such negative emotions caused by evil acts and kept inside, steaming, burning and eating at our hearts, would do nothing but add to the anguish within, as well as the anguish of all involved. Releasing this to God through forgiveness, overcomes those negative feelings. At least that is what happened to me when I, personally forgave another person who did me wrong. It was such a relief!

Admittedly, this is really tough to do. My situation wasn't anywhere near as terrible as the murder of the Amish children. We can all learn quite a lesson in humility, grace and forgiveness through these people and how they handled such deep grief.

This brings us to the question, "can there be forgiveness without repentance, and can forgiveness be complete without it being accepted?"

That is a great question! In my case, I forgave an individual in my own heart without even telling her how much she hurt me. She didn't have to accept my forgiveness for her actions, I just gave it out freely, in secret, through prayer to God. When I did this, it was like a huge burden was lifted from my soul! I was able to be reconciled with this person, and our relationship was restored, healed and is growing ever stronger now. I will tell you this. I
couldn't have done it without the Holy Spirit's leading in my life. That made all the difference.

Also, extended forgiveness done in such a manner as this, helps the healing process for all concerned (e.g. the murderer's family and the Amish people affected by this horrible tragedy).

Human forgiveness afforded between people here on earth is a finite act of the will because of Christ's infinite, sacrificial act at the cross of forgiveness. This is what is meant in Jesus' example of "how should we pray?" The answer is, "And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us."

Our capacity to forgive comes from God Himself!

As far as God's forgiveness being afforded to the murderer himself, it is true that he could not have the grace, mercy and salvation bestowed upon him by God unless he repented of his sins and accepted Christ as Lord and Savior of his life before death. We don't know, for sure, if he ever did so in his lifetime or not. It doesn't appear likely, but we can only guess at this point. As is the case with each of us, it is a matter between each individual person and God.

Jesus asks us all, "Who do you say that I am?" How we answer that question, whether or not we are born again (see John 3), and whether or not we die with our own sins upon our own soul or covered by the blood of Jesus Christ through the cross, determines whether or not we are forgiven by God. That decision for (or rejection of) Christ determines where we spend eternity...with God or separated from Him...forever.

13 comments:

Susan Smith said...

I appreciate this post and your thoughts, Christine. The enemy is able to torment us via thoughts when we refuse to forgive others. The personal experience of this happening in my life is vivid in my mind.

Nothing happens by accident and looking back in my personal journal, about a year ago I shared an experience at Christ Church where I worship. Christ Church (Anglican) is in the Old City of Jerusalem. The service is quite formal with Bible readings and communion served at the altar every week.

One Sunday in August of last year I was asked to do the gospel reading at Christ Church. The scripture was Matthew 18:21-35 about forgiveness. The last verse: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” After reading the scripture, I said: "Ladies and gentlemen, the Lord NEVER used me to minister to ANYONE until I forgave an older brother for molesting me as a child." The unexpected words just came out of my mouth. This was the first time I had ever shared in public the identity of my molester. This was a major spiritual step in my personal walk with God.

Much love to the West Coast from the Holy Land. Yours in Christ. (ss)

Jaded&Opinionated said...

I think it is an absolute. We must forgive in order to be forgiven.

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness and patience, forbearing one another, and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive." Col 3:12-13

"You have heard that if was said to the men of old, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says 'You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the alter, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the alter and go; first be reconciled to your brother and then come and offer your gift." Matthew 5:22-24

"For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Matthew 6:14-15

I think Jesus was very clear about that. If we wish to be forgiven, we must forgive freely, without parameters and qualifications. It is much easier to forgive someone who is truly sorry than someone who, for instance, executed innocent children. But, we don't have the luxury of choosing who we forgive and who we don't.

So, Christine, it seems we agree on something.

Mark said...

Hi Christine,
Nice post btw. I would however be concerned when jaded agrees with you..:) wink kidding jaded!

I think the WND guy makes a good point about reducing the real aspect of Forgiveness. I sincerely believe it requires a change of heart. Too many in our culture have taken this change of heart and reduced it to nothing more than "I sin, God forgives me and so should You!" The next thing that pops up is the Do Not Judge me Force Field. as if God does not want us to ascertain His Holiness from Evil. This is wrong! This is False doctrine and in my opinion makes a mockery of what Christ did on the Cross!

If one ask to be forgiven, it should be given. If someone has wronged You and never ask You for forgivenss, in your heart you should be able and willing to forgive becuase God has forgiven you. If God is able to forgive me, how then can I not be able as well.

For us humans to determine someone else's sincerity in their repentence, is to imbark into God's domain, just as judging one's eternal salvation. We should not go there, for those are matters of the heart, and only God's knows a Man's heart. A man's actions may however be seen by us and judged as Not being genuinely repentent. We should be cautious about determining what another's heart is. But we should not be shy about calling insincerity, insincerity based on acts.

Ultimate wrath and Judgement is God's and God's alone. In that we may take comfort in our hearts, allowing us the strength of the Holy Spirit to forgive.

When we go to the table and share in the body and blood of Christ, we should make sure our hearts are right with God, and that includes our true repentence and our real forgiveness, for ourselves and others that are like us: part of the body of Christ.

Christinewjc said...

Hi Susan,

Good to see you back here posting comments! What you share here is always so informative and uplifting...even when you are describing a terrible incident in your life.

A brother is supposed to love and protect his sister. That betrayal must have been awful for you. I'm so sorry that you had to endure it.

But as you said, the enemy of our souls would like to keep us in a state of torment. That's his MO, isn't it? Praise God that you wouldn't let him get the best of you. Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, can rescue us from satan's clutches. Satan wants us to live in the land of hopelessness. Can you imagine, just for a moment, how it feels to be out of hope? I can. I think every Christian can. We've all "been there and done that." This is why we can relate to many of the unsaved people in this world.

On that Sunday in August of last year, the Lord guided you through the Holy Spirit to share how you forgave your older brother.

Just like it says in Mark 13:11, we don't need to worry ahead of time about what we should say. Say whatever is given you to say at that time, because it will not really be you speaking; it will be the Holy Spirit.

Your sharing of forgiveness given towards the brother who molested you ministered to your heart and soul, as well as many others who heard you speak that day. This is how the Lord can use us to reach others for Christ. When we share our hurts and release them to God we experience healing. Then we can extend hope of such healing through our words to others. Susan, you are wonderful at that!

This major spiritual step in your walk with God is a prime example of Him leading you and continuing to sanctify you in the process. What a powerful witness for the Lord you are, Susan!

The evidence is so clear that you have changed because you have hope. And you have hope because you have met Someone (Jesus!) who can lead you out of any painful circumstance.

I'm currently reading an awesome book. It's called "Traveling Light" by Max Lucado. I read through the first seven chapters yesterday because it was hard to put down! The author mixes a lot of humor in with God's use of Psalm 23 to remind us to release the burdens we were never meant to bear.

I'm sure that I will be doing a lot of future blogposts about this book. Here's just a taste from chapter 7:

"Your Shepherd knows that you were not made for this place. He knows you are not equipped for this place. So he has come to guide you out. He has come to restore your soul. He is the perfect one to do so. He has the right vision. He reminds you that "you are like foreigners and strangers in this world" (1 Pet. 2:11). And he urges you to lift your eyes from the jungle around you to the heaven above you. "Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ...See things from his perspective" (Col. 3:2 Msg).

David said it this way, "I lift up my eyes to the hills - where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

God, your rescuer, has the right vision. He also has the right direction. He made the boldest claim in the history of man when he declared, "I am the way" (John 14:6). People wondered if the claim was accurate. He answered their questions by cutting a path through the underbrush of sin and death...and escaping alive. He's the only One who ever did. And he is the only One who can help you and me do the same.


God bless you and much love to my sister in the Holy Land!

Christine

Christinewjc said...

Hi Jaded,

It's been a long time! Nice to see you back...and to see that we agree on something!

Thanks for posting all of those awesome Scriptures. They really added power to the original post. But of course we all know that God's Word always does that!

What you said here is so true:

"It is much easier to forgive someone who is truly sorry than someone who, for instance, executed innocent children. But, we don't have the luxury of choosing who we forgive and who we don't."

I remember hearing Greta Van Susteren say on Fox News that she "hates this man for what he did." Doesn't our first reaction ditto that sentiment?? That's how the "world" thinks. But as you shared, we are called to react the way that Jesus would want us to!

The Amish showed the watching world what true, Christian forgiveness is all about. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that this one, huge act of humility and forgiveness turns many hearts and souls towards Christ.

God bless you Jaded!
Christine

Christinewjc said...

Hi Mark,

Thanks for coming over here and sharing your excellent thoughts on this topic. But be nice to Jaded! Rejoice that she and I agree on something! heh heh

Anyway, what you are saying is very true, too. The Way of the Master book was very good at pointing out the need for repentance and sincerity on the part of the genuine believer. We should warn any who appear to be false converts, for their own sakes and the sake of the kingdom of God.

These words were truly awesome, Mark:

"Ultimate wrath and Judgement is God's and God's alone. In that we may take comfort in our hearts, allowing us the strength of the Holy Spirit to forgive.

When we go to the table and share in the body and blood of Christ, we should make sure our hearts are right with God, and that includes our true repentence and our real forgiveness, for ourselves and others that are like us: part of the body of Christ."


Thanks so much for sharing that!

In Christ,
Christine

Christinewjc said...

Well...WorldNetDaily didn't post my letter. Probably too long-winded! But here is one reply posted over there:


A brotherly distinction


The key word in Luke 17:3 that Mr. Snakenberg seems to have overlooked is "brother." [E-mail to the Editor, Oct. 11]

Jesus was requiring repentance on the part of a fellow believer as a condition for forgiveness. In Matthew 5:44 Jesus said, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." The forgiveness shown by the Amish to one who was not their brother is exactly what Jesus commanded.

Stewart Steen

Jaded&Opinionated said...

In response to the questions you posted on my blog...

Based on the articles I've read, the man placed his son in an orphanage because he feared that the son was ill. (I think he said he feared malaria, although I'm not entirely sure) He had never thought that he wouldn't one day return to take his son home with him. Leaders in his country told him that it would be good for the country to allow David to be adopted by Madonna, because he would get an education and return one day to help the country. He said that all he knew at one point was that Madonna was a "good Christian lady," which we know is not true in the slightest. He had every intention of providing for his son and being reunited with him. That won't happen now, because he's been urged to allow David to go with Madonna.

I don't know much about the feelings involved with adoption, but as a mother, I can't imagine letting ANYONE be there to take my child home for me, biological or otherwise. The least she could do as a mother is be there with him to comfort him as he's ripped away from everyone and everything he's ever known. I still believe that this child would be best served by helping his father find the means to care for him. There are millions of other children in the world who need loving parents.

I just find the whole thing very sad.

Christinewjc said...

They just did a segment about Madonna's adoption tactics on Hannity and Colmes. Both Sean and Alan agreed that it wasn't a good thing for her to rip the child away from the father. It appears that the dad didn't really understand what was happening in the court room.

The lawyer on the H & C show who tried to stand up for Madonna had reasons that seemed quite cold and hollow, to me.

This is bound to backfire on Madonna...as it should!

Jaded&Opinionated said...

I agree. I can't understand why, when she found out that this child has a living parent, she still felt it was fine to adopt him. How do you live with yourself when you know you've basically bought another man's child on the open market? And why would they tell the father that Madonna is a "nice Christian lady?" I don't know if she's nice or not, but I know she's not a Christian. She openly practices Kaballah (or however it's spelled) which obviously has nothing to do with Jesus.

I've been praying for that child and his father. And for Madonna to do the right thing.

Mark said...

Madonna disgusts me to no end! She is dirty rotten to the core swine! I agree with jaded! amen! although God knows, I often don't pray for people like Madonna. If I do, it has more to do with God giving it to her. I am still a work in progress.

Anna said...

Hi Everyone -

I'm more than a little exhausted tonight, but wanted to express a few thoughts.

1) When Stephen was stoned, he
prayed this sin would not be
charged to his murderers.

2) When Jesus died on the cross,
He prayed that the Father would
forgive them for they did not
know what they were doing.

3) Regarding the Amish - they
reached out to the man's family.
I believe they recognized the
family was as much victims as
they were. Their lives have
also been changed forever.
By forgiving the man, they have
left vengeance in the hands of
God. Unforgiveness is a deadly
poison. As one person said,
"Holding unforgiveness is like
taking poison and expecting the
other person to die."

4) I believe there is a real
confusion between forgiveness
and reconciliation. Forgiveness
opens the door for the Lord to
deal with the person.

Reconciliation on the other
hand requires willingness
on the part of both parties.
Trust must be restored by
repentance and a change in
behavior.

5) Jesus forgave everyone. That
forgiveness is available but
not automatic. People are only
reconciled to God (brought
into relationship) when
they repent and come into
agreement with God about
their sinful condition. The
antidote to sin can only take
effect when we receive Jesus
as Savior.

Blessings,
Anna

Christinewjc said...

Hi Anna,

Very well said!

Thanks so much for joining the conversation and posting those excellent points!!

The fact that you brought up regarding the need for reconciliation helps us understand the difference between forgiveness given as a result of confession and repentance, verses forgiveness given, as you stated so well, for this purpose:

"By forgiving the man, they have
left vengeance in the hands of
God. Unforgiveness is a deadly
poison. As one person said,
"Holding unforgiveness is like
taking poison and expecting the
other person to die."


Your choice of words here are excellent, also:

"5) Jesus forgave everyone. That
forgiveness is available but
not automatic. People are only
reconciled to God (brought
into relationship) when
they repent and come into
agreement with God about
their sinful condition. The
antidote to sin can only take
effect when we receive Jesus
as Savior."