In reading over the previous conversation it’s apparent that there is still disagreement about the nature of forgiveness.
We all know that we need it. But we disagree about when it is appropriate to give it.
Our problem is that the Bible, in wisdom, says at least two different things: (1) That forgiveness is to be given upon the offender’s confession and change of heart (2Chron 7:14; Luke 17:1-10); (2) That a heart of forgiveness is to be extended freely without requirement of confession (Luke 23:34).
The problem is further complicated by the fact that the principle of forgiveness i.e. “releasing,” “sending away,” or “lifting the burden” of guilt from another has different levels of meaning and applications. In one sense those born in Christ are forgiven of all “legal” and “condemning” guilt—once and for all. What remains is the need for restoration from “relational” wrongs.
As I understand it, we need to begin by noting from different Bible texts and contexts that there is a time to forgive, and a time to withhold forgiveness. The question to be asked is what do love and truth require in any given setting?
For instance, if someone is unable to see the wrong they have done because of a lack of spiritual discernment, emotional or mental impairment etc. then love, truth, and grace come together to say, “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing,” or i.e “Love covers a multitude of sins.”
But if a person wrongs knowingly and significantly enough to do relational damage, then while love remains unconditional, that same love in wisdom does not just “forgive the offense” as if the wrong were not an issue.
The problem, as we have discussed in the past, is that “forgiveness to get let go of the bitterness and anger that is keeping us from going forward” may have “therapeutic” value. But it is not the kind of forgiveness that reflects the desire of God to show mercy to those who are willing to admit their wrong.
This is already longer than I had planned to post. But it’s important enough of a subject to try to clarify together the kind of forgiveness that is expressed in real love for another rather than to relieve our own emotional misery.
PS If, after considering this subject together, you’d like to do some further reading on what we (RBC Ministries) have published on this, the following booklets are available online for viewing in PDF: