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Unconditional Forgiveness

Is unconditional forgiveness toward those who have harmed us the best way to get the anger out of our stomach? Does forgiving those who have not had a change of heart reflect well on Christ, show his love, and enable us to forgive others as God has forgiven us? These are some of the questions I raised in an earlier post.

I appreciate so much the comments that have come in. They show that we are not all on the same page on what the Bible says about forgiveness.

So I hope you’ll stay with me over the next several days as we continue to think together about forgiving others, forgiving ourselves, and then even forgiving God (without implying that God could or would ever sin).

Let’s begin where we agree. Together we recognize that a bitter, vindictive, or vengeful spirit is not becoming to a follower of Christ.

The problem comes when trying to answer whether God unconditionally forgives us, and whether he in turn asks us to unconditionally forgive others. Here we have one of those studies in contrast that I mentioned in my last post. The Bible’s teaching on forgiveness is an example of truth in tension. Sometimes the New Testament seems to imply that we are to unconditionally forgive those who harm us (Matt 6:14-15; Luke 23:34). In other places, the Bible teaches us to hold accountable those who have wronged us (Matt 18:15-17; Luke 17:1-4). Let’s look at both sides later.

For now, because dealing with our woundedness is such a big part of our struggle, let’s ask some other questions. Are we sure that forgiving others is the only way to deal with our anger? Or is it possible that we can do a better job of dealing with our bitterness by using what we know about faith, and humility, and love, and patience, and hope in God?

With these questions in mind, let’s see if we can look at a familiar passage in a fresh light. The text I’m thinking of offers something other than forgiveness as a way of dealing with the harm others do to us. This passage encourages us to do our part, and then wait on the Lord to deal with our enemy. Paul’s words to the Romans parallels other texts that talk about loving, doing good, and praying for those who have wronged us.

In the 12th chapter of Romans, the Apostle Paul writes, “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:17-21).

Before we deal with some of the other issues we’ve raised, can you see that, according to this text, forgiving unrepentant people is not the only way to deal with our bitterness and anger? Can you also anticipate why I’ll be saying in the next post that learning to love well is more important than being willing to forgive–before it is the loving thing to do?

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8 Responses to “Unconditional Forgiveness”

  1. BornAgainBflo says:

    I’ve found that in dealing with a person wherein I’m contemplating “unconditional and total forgiveness”, there’s alot of pain to endure in forgiving and not forgiving. In choosing not to forgive – I/we suffer from the constant anxiety from the angst that stays in our hearts. With forgiving then there’s the cultural and natural man made issues of “being too weak”, “caving into the preassure”, or “denying onself vengence” as viewed upon us by the society inwhich we live.

    But as a born again Christian it’s obvious that I must be above mans impression of my behavior as carnal man has little to do with my relationship with God through Christ.

    In the end I know it’s more important to be a example of Jesus on this earth by practicing unonditional forgiveness as he (Jesus) would have hisself!

  2. northwoodsmom.com says:

    Yes, I feel that maybe I need to learn to love well to deal with the unrelenting bitterness that seems to be creeping in my soul. Then maybe God’s forgiveness will just take over and heal me of this awful wave of harshness.

  3. cahoonga says:

    Does forgiveness mean I have to enter back into a bitter and abusive relationship (marriage) or can I forgive and still keep my distance?

  4. Mart De Haan says:

    cahoonga, one of my reasons for wanting to think through this series is that the wrong use of “forgiveness” is often used to keep persons in abusive relationships. If you can stay with us, see if you get some help on this as we move along. We also have a booklet called “God’s Protection of Women” in our “Discovery series.” This booklet deals with abuse and divorce, and might have some immediate answers for you. You might also check out something I wrote in the Been Thinking archive on October 1, 2007.

  5. estuardo says:

    I seem to find myself hung up on the word ‘unconditional’. Unconditional, in the sense of forgiving without thought or care to our emotional makeup, or unconditional, in that we must forgive, because God said so. I know all too well the need to forgive. Having been sexually abused by a priest when I was a teenager, has raised several issues of trust with those who profess God’s love. After all, wasn’t it an agent of God who committed these acts on me, and is there a ‘lesson’ I must be needing to learn through the trauma? I vascillate between the need to formally press charges, sue the church, or if I need to ‘just let it go’.

    And what does forgiveness look like from this circumstance?

  6. lbbw says:

    I have a Daughter, Renee, who I can forgive unconditonally. I love her with agape love. People don’t understand Agape love. Now, My earthly Father will not forgive me. I have called him on every holiday, and he hangs up on me. It is really killing me inside. He hates me for doing drugs 5 years ago and he thinks I should have the death sentence.??? So why do I keep doing the same thing expecting different results? I want his forgiveness. So, I call him, and he hangs up. Well I finally have been able to forgive myself and I just have to press on. I know I have a Heavenly father who forgives me. He is Jehovah Jireh and he loves me. He pulled me out of the muck and mire and put me on his potter’s wheel to mold me, and shape me! I love God, HE IS THE GREAT I AM!!!!!!!

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