Saturday, May 7, 2011

Forgiveness Isn't Always Forgetness

Sometimes we have a hard time remembering, as people who put our faith in Christ and trust in a loving Heavenly Father, that even though we're ambassadors of that faith and who that faith represents, we aren't God, we don't live in eternity, and there are certain things that it's pretty naive to expect the "temples of flesh" we reside in to be capable of. One of those things is being able to forget a great evil done to us.

Some Christians mistakenly believe that we MUST forgive when sinned against. While that's a nice, utopian idea of Christianity, the truth is we must be WILLING to forgive and SEEK reconciliation when possible - but unless I've missed it somewhere, we only MUST forgive if and when the offending party repents. This is the message Christ taught. In Luke 17:3, Jesus said the following...

Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.

And verse 4...

And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”

I don't think it's coincidental that this passage follows the verse about millstones being hung around necks.

The key Greek words in that verse (Luke 17:3) are as follows...

Sins = "hamartanō" which means, sin in its various forms - injustice, dishonorable actions toward, lack of uprightness toward, et be wronged in some fashion
Rebuke = "epitimaō" which means, in its purest form, "to find fault with" or to "charge a penalty" - to judge (gasp!), along with rebuking (particularly sharply), chiding, confronting, et cetera
Repents = "metanoeō" which means a "turning of the mind" and "to amend the ways" - in other words, a person doing a complete 180 in thinking and action
Forgive = "aphiēmi" which means to "let go, remit, forgive a debt"'s also a word that speaks to "divorce", so it could be used in the sense of "divorcing yourself from the debt owed"

I want to apply my own situation here. I still, occasionally, deal with a closed-minded person or two who say "You're just bitter and want revenge...You need to forgive them and let it go." Total BS. Both statements. Particularly troubling when those statements come from professing Christians who claim to use the bible as the measure of absolute truth in their lives.

You betcha I'm bitter about what those religious fools did to me. I lost a LOT. I'm human. As far as vengeance, though, if I wanted to carry out my own means of revenge on them, I'd have headed west with a baseball bat and gone all "Walkin' Tall" on the whole crowd of fools long ago - Buford T. Pusser style. There's no denying that I've been angry enough, on MANY occasions throughout this deal, to have helped a few of the idiots in my ex-fiancee's life meet their insurance deductibles (have you forgotten the patriarse's post engagement speech to me which included reference to a supposed hitman telling someone "I'll kill ya"?). While I HAVE been extremely sharp with my words toward them in my confrontations with them ("epitimao"), I haven't been violent toward them, nor have I tried to do them personal harm. I was actually trying to salvage any hope of a music future for my ex and her sisters while all of this was going on, risking my own reputation in doing so. I didn't pursue a civil action against them (bringing suit) when the opportunity was there. I tried everything else, though. I've been a rabid grizzly, a gentle lamb, thrown their own legalism and legalistic standards right back on them (to no avail - total hypocrites), outed them openly to their own crowd and circle (which proves you can't really shame people into doing the right thing - or they'd have done right long ago), tried to approach them through many others. These are just very spiritually and emotionally sick people with hearts so hard they could sharpen knives and minds so narrow they could give you a paper cut. One associate who tried to deal with them, concerning all this, described them this way...

"They pop up out of their hole and tell a lie, then jump back down in their hole when you call them on it, then, they stick their head back up out of their hole to tell a couple of new lies to cover the first lie, then they dive back in their hole so they won't be called on it, and it just goes on and on like that. This is the most screwed up and paranoid bunch of people I've ever seen. Never seen anything like it."

That comment came via an email. When I called him to follow up on it, he couldn't even put his confusion and frustration into words.

The only apology I've received from anyone was from her grandfather, and that was for having called me names - before going on to tell me that he was happy for what his deviance had accomplished in his next few sentences (which speaks to heart and motive). While the things the man called and said about me were garbage, poisonous, disgusting, and pulled from the depths of his rectal area (at a later point in my story I'll post some of his statements), manufactured entirely in attempt to hurt me, and said with all malice - those were and are the LEAST of his offenses toward me, so his repentance is pretty much another one of those "What the...?!" moments.

Now according to Christ, should I extend forgiveness to these people? Or should I look to God to offset the loss they introduced into my life and eventually bring them to a reckoning? The people who Christ "let have it" and spoke against (among several groups, really) are those who refused to repent (amend their ways). And, He made sure others knew about them, too.

Let's look at how Paul handled a particularly troubling individual and his experience with him in 2nd Timothy 4:14-15...

Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words.

If you look at the Greek words, harm (or, in some translations, evil), comes from the Greek word "kakos", which means harm, injury, destruction, et cetera, and those with the connotation of bad intent in doing them. Paul then says "apodidōmi", which is his way of saying "God will bring a reckoning on this man, Alexander, and will give him what he's due for how he treated me." Note that he doesn't state any expectation of mercy, but a hope of reckoning and recompense. He then warns to "phylassō" Alexander, which means to keep your eye on, be on guard against, be wary and distrusting of, because Alexander has "anthistēmi", opposing them, and, in modern terms, been a pain in the rear-end toward that which is right.

Whatever we may believe about eternity, judgment, punishment, et cetera, I think it's safe to say that there WILL be a reckoning (and we have no certainty what that looks like - although the evidence suggests that it could be ugly for some based upon their lives and actions - and the heart from which those things came). Concerning this, I wrote my thoughts regarding my ex's family and circle in the past, summed up this way: I want them to have a reckoning and stand face to face with and answer for what they've done. This should happen. It probably won't happen in our natural lives without a miraculous intervention from God (their hearts are too hardened), but I trust that it WILL happen in eternity. Mercy will be up to God to extend to them.

I'm not a big believer in the idea of God meting out punishment (when deserved) in this life. Not saying that He doesn't, but none of us are perfect, and when is the last time something bad happened in your life, where you knew, beyond doubt, "that was God punishing me for action A with outcome B"? Bad things happen. It's part of living on this earth. Those of you who are parents, when you have to issue punishment and discipline to your children, wouldn't it be of no worth if they didn't know what it was for? If they couldn't connect an action from themselves to the disciplinary response from you? That would be terrible parenting. God isn't a terrible parent.

The last one of the fools I spoke to from my ex's circle hit me with "God's gonna come down all over you!" Bleh. For what? Being truthful? Trying to do what was right and being so bold as to expect others who profess Christ to do right by people? I told him, word for word, "You know what? You can write that thought down on a piece of paper, fold it up real nice and tight, stick it in the leftover meatloaf in the fridge, and throw it out the backdoor...That's about how much that scares me." Total stupidity, and TOTALLY a Christian faith I want nothing to do with, constantly having to fear God dropping the hammer on me if I do something wrong. Make no mistake, I DO believe I'll have to answer for my wrongs - but probably not so much here. More likely in eternity. People aren't gonna manipulate me with that kind of ignorant fear-mongering. It's sorta like those who, everytime some disaster strikes our country, go into the "God is judging America!" spiel. Puhleeeese. We're under a NEW covenant, people. And, we're still on planet earth. God causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on ALL of us, just and unjust. Bad things happen, and to decent people, because it's an imperfect world we live in. Not because God's dropping the hammer on any group of people. This is especially strange to me coming from those who believe in a pre-tribulation "rapture". So, God will spare his people from the tribulation, but not from Hurricane Katrina, for example? Lots of Christians were among those killed and displaced by Katrina. I'd dare say there was a Christian or two in the World Trade Centers, and likely among those killed by the recent tornado outbreak. Use your heads, people. Don't oversimplify God and bring him down to our own level of thought and concepts of justice/punishment/revenge. Would the tribulation kill them "deader" than these events?

I want to take a deeper look at what Paul was saying in 2nd Timothy. The next verse after the verses I quoted earlier says this...

At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them.

OMG!!! Did Paul just judge motive?!!! How could he have been a Christian?!!! How could he have been a CHRISTIAN?!!! *as I faint in a very emasculated, yet masculine, way - while rending my garments and clutching my chest*

Yes, he very clearly judged motive, and asked for mercy concerning those to whom he, personally, ascribed the lesser evil. Hey, that's sorta like what the rest of us do! Isn't it? Isn't it? Yes, it is. 

I don't think God calls for us to be ignorant in the way we deal with people (or to go around making unnecessary judgments about others to puff up ourselves) and forgiveness isn't something that requires us to be pushovers (particularly among brothers and sisters in the faith) or to become something we're emotionally incapable of becoming as human beings. Forgiveness doesn't mean forgetness, and in the case of Alexander, a situation Paul obviously judged (which would involve a personal judgment about Alexander and his heart/motives) as irreconcilable, Paul absolutely wasn't gonna forget it, and didn't want anyone else to, either. He simply handed the consequences of the situation over to God while warning those to whom he was writing. 

Be willing to forgive, and seek to reconcile - but when there's no repentance and no hope for reconciliation, don't be so naive as to forget. Other people might get hurt in the same way you did.

Paul also wrote in Romans 12:18...

If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

This means there will be times when it ISN'T possible, and you'll only be responsible to God for doing what's within your own power to live in peace. Beyond that, like Paul with Alexander, give the consequences to God, as the next verse says...

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

...before going on to tell us to do good to our enemies and not repay evil with more evil. 

At the same time, don't be naive, and don't bring guilt upon yourself for not forgetting. Forgiveness, and its process, isn't a simple, black and white issue when not everyone involved is on the same heartwave-length. Don't let others use it as a means to manipulate or oppress you.

Don't forget that. Be wise like a serpent while being harmless like a dove.


  1. Wow...this is something I've been mulling over for the past few days so it's cool that you wrote about this. To be honest, I didn't even see that verse from this perspective, but you're right. The Bible doesn't tell us we HAVE to forgive when we've been sinned against, but only when the offending party repents. Lewis, what you shared has been an "aha moment" for me and a HUGE boost of healing. Thank you so much for this!

  2. And yes, I've had that mind-set pushed at me by so many Christians, including family - that I MUST forgive regardless of repentance. Ugh!

  3. And just to make sure my point about "judging motive and heart" was clear...

    In one verse, about one man, Paul says..."May the Lord repay him according to his works."

    In the VERY next verse, about other men, Paul says..."May it not be charged against them."

    You guys come to your own conclusions about "judging heart and motive" from that.

  4. On forgiveness I recommend the book "The Art of Forgiveness." I second the statement that you do not have to forgive someone who has harmed you and not repented. I do take issue, however. Often by not forgiving we keep ourselves in a place from which we cannot grow as people. I have had some very bad things done to me. It took me more then ten years to forgive the people who harmed me -- and none of them would ever repent, so there will be no reconciliation. But when I did forgive, I felt as if I had received the most beautiful gift God could give. Honestly, it has helped me readjust and move forward in my life in leaps and bounds compared to how I was before forgiveness.

    At the same time, until you are willing to forgive someone, there's no point in worrying about it.

  5. Esther...I think the only way we can really approach forgiveness, when the offending party isn't repentant, is to turn the issue over to God, look to Him to cover the loss and fill the gaps in our lives, and look to Him to handle the offender - while accepting that we may not see a tangible resolution until eternity. I think this is how we heal, and do so without compromising with things, and people, we know as being in the wrong. Maybe instead of "we" I should say "I". It's the approach I'm taking.

    I don't think we ever want to forget unrepentant evil, though, if it can drive us forward toward something positive - whether for us or for someone else - in the sense that I don't want my bitter experience with P/QF idealogy to ever become less bitter, if in doing so I lose my zest to stand against it. I hope that one day, whether it's next month or 20 years from now, I'll be able to look at my experience and consider myself healed from it (even though I know it'll always hurt), but I don't want to forget the bitter taste that, frankly, has helped me move past the more hurtful parts of it all rather than be crippled by them.

    It's probably a unique process to each of us, though, and much of it depends on the personal definitions of forgiveness.

  6. I do think though that it is better to forgive than hang on to bitterness or grudges. But I don't consider forgiving to be forgetting. There are some things impossible to forget.

    I myself have gone through a process of forgiving the person who verbally, emotionally, and sexually abused me for a period of over a year. He never asked for that forgiveness- in fact, I'm not even sure he sees me as a person deserving to be apologized to. I will never forget those things, and certainly the pain attacks me every now and then, but it's not my problem anymore- I will stand up in the face of that kind of abuse, but I don't harbor that hardness in my heart any more. And I won't pretend it wasn't difficult at first. I used to want to smash things and throw things at the wall because I couldn't handle the pain and anger.

  7. Haven't gotten to fully read this yet, but I feel pretty confident in saying, YES, I couldn't agree more! I've looked at all those verses before and wondered how the "foolish forgiveness" crowd takes them. They just ignore it, I suppose. Forgiveness does not mean permitting, allowing, or ignoring evil doing. That's just stupid, not to mention dangerous and unhealthy.

  8. Does God forgive anybody their sins unto salvation without requiring repentance? "unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." Luke 13:5 I came to the same conclusion about a year ago that forgiveness was linked to repentance.

  9. You guys should check out this piece Steve wrote some time back. Some good questions in it.

  10. Not sure I'm getting all the nuances here (to be honest I haven't had a quiet and peaceful moment to read it start to finish!), so I'm not sure I agree or not.

    Forgiving does not mean forgetting, true. I've also heard it said, particularly in abuse situations, that forgiveness does not equal reconciliation. Forgiveness is something we do for ourselves, not for the other person, and it's not as flip and immediate as some Christians like to make it.

    It's a process, one without a definitive timeline, one that will look different from person to person. Maybe it's more like a destination... a place we hope to reach, but can't on our own, and may never get to at all, but God will use us and help us grow along the journey? I think that describes my view of it.

    In general I don't agree with not wanting to forgive in order to stay bitter... bitterness in and of itself is such a poison.

    However, I've seen the "Don't be bitter!" admonition so many times from the fundie crowd that I think I understand where you (and others) are coming from. The "bitterness" you speak of is an emotion needed in order to stay strong, to not be drawn back into cultic thinking, to separate truth from evil, and to heal. Wish we had a better word to describe it, because it's not the same thing.

  11. Lewis and Steve Scott, I agree though I didn't used to that forgiveness is a gift that requires repentance for its release. I think one can be ready to forgive, like one having a gift in hand ready to give it when the one to whom it is for puts forth their hand (akin to repenting in a sense) to receive it. Reconcialiation may or may not happen in an ongoing way after that-it depends on the people in the relationship and to what extent they wish to develop and pursue the relationship.

    As for forgiveness being for the one who was hurt, to free them, I have pondered that. Did/does Jesus forgive for His sake or for ours? I think He makes forgiveness available for our sakes and gives it to us when we ask for it.

    So, by His example, I understand that I am to reach a point where I make forgiveness available...if it is asked for. Until then, it is not a gift I can force on someone any more than Jesus forces salvation upon anyone.

    To address the aspect of forgiveness being for the one offended, perhaps release for the offended can simply come in knowing that they are fully prepared to give forgivenss when it is asked for. Meanwhile, they can develop via prayer, etc. a growing, compassionate 'love and pray for your enemies' attitude of 'Father, forgive them for they know not what they do'.

  12. (Same anonymous as above) Furthermore, as I think about the last paragraph I wrote, if a person is willing to offer forgiveness yet waits for the other to ask for it-doesn't just offer it without acknowledgement on the part of the other (repentance-that actually allows more dignity-albeit gracious dignity- for the one offended or hurt. It prevents them from feeling like a doormat of sorts in their own mind, even if they never encounter the offender again.

    I have been deeply hurt and victimized in the past, and have not received request for forgiveness so I know what all this entails, and it is very very painful and angering when it all happens. It has taken me time to move to a place of respectful yet open posture, and one of the offenders is dead, so I can't ever be asked for forgiveness there. I just hope God has a plan of mercy that extends to that individual somehow.

  13. Amen, Lewis! Another part that people seem to forget is the part where we're told that if we've made every effort in good faith to bring a brother to repentance for the wrong they've done us, and they refuse to do so, that we're to no longer have any fellowship with them. That sure doesn't sound like we're being told to 'forgive and forget.'

    And the parable about the servant that refused to forgive a debt after his own debt was forgiven? You'll notice the other servant ASKED for mercy, he didn't spit in the first servant's face and say 'I ain't gonna pay!'

  14. anonymous 8:00 wrote: However, I've seen the "Don't be bitter!" admonition so many times from the fundie crowd that I think I understand where you (and others) are coming from.

    In Fundyland, bitter = angry. Most fundies would rather you not get angry and let whatever wronged you slide away into the murk. They'd rather you bottle it up and put it on a shelf. But anger is a correct response to being sinned against, and to push it away or down or aside is bad for us. We need to feel it, acknowledge it, and do whatever we need to in order to reach a place where the anger is no longer all we see or feel. Just like grief has its stages, so does righteous anger.

  15. Honestly, my mind is reeling here. I keep thinking of the scripture, Matthew 6:14, 15--

    "14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

  16. Connie, I think of that too. However, Jesus does require us to ask for forgiveness...He gives it freely at that point. I know this flies in the face of what many of us have been taught. I just know that I have to figure out how to deal with those who have acted against me in harmful ways. If I forgive them when they haven't asked for it, is my 'forgiveness' just floating around out in space somewhere until they decide to grasp it or ask for it? It is in a celestial forgiveness bank with their name on it? I don't know how all this works.

  17. Connie...Anon gave a solid answer there.

    The one problem I have with universalism is the idea that God will forgive - regardless (I know that statement is chasing a rabbit and has nothing to do with anything - but I'm just throwing it out there).

    I think that the bible, the only evidence we have that speaks to such an issue, is replete with the example of forgiveness needing repentance to be received. When combined with the human experience, the math works. The only two examples I can think of where forgiveness was asked for when the offending parties were unrepentant are the men who crucified Christ and His words toward them, and the words of Paul toward the men who betrayed him in Romans 12. In both instances, I think judgments were made that the offending parties, if they'd had ALL the information, all knowledge of the depth of the situation, would've behaved differently. We make the same kind of judgments when wronged - "I don't think they MEANT to do it" or "I don't think they hurt me on purpose" or "They didn't know any better" - and it's easier to write off the offenses in those cases. But, if someone just came into my home and cruelly murders my whole family - not only do I think the bible doesn't teach a "forgive and forget", or even a "forgive", attitude without repentance in an instance such as that, but I also think it's VERY unhealthy, and unnatural, emotionally. Just imagine the guilt that the fundamentalist view of forgive and forget regardless could bring on someone in such a devastating situation.

    Based on all of that, and based on all the accounts in the bible that speak to forgiveness only in instances of repentance, including the Luke 17 passage, I have to read Matthew 6 through the lens of repentance being a forgone conclusion and therefore not mentioned in the verses.

    I don't have it all figured out, but I'm confident that God isn't gonna hold us to standards that He doesn't even hold Himself to.

  18. I'm seeing it...'s just making me a little dizzy :)

  19. This is something I'm really struggling with right now.......

  20. I agree with Lewis, but semantically speaking, I approach it a little differently. I see "forgiveness" and "reconciliation" as two different concepts-- and then there is a third piece: restoration. For me, to "forgive" is to release the person from the debt they owe me, personally. This does not release them from the debt they owe God-- only God can do that. I believe that my human release is part of the last step of grieving and/or recovery for me. Thus, I forgive, or "release" the ones who hurt me from their debt to me, whether or not they repent. This is because it's good for ME-- it has nothing to do with them; God must deal with them, for "vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord." Forgiveness thus has nothing to do with having to pretend it's ok when it's not. It is simply saying, "I let go of my right to be the judge, jury or executioner here. That's God's job."

    But release has nothing whatsoever to do with reconciliation or restoration. Reconciliation can only occur when there is true repentence on the part of the offender. Just because I forgive/release someone does not mean I have to be reconciled to them; far from it. If they are toxic to me, good stewardship of myself means I must stay away from them! But if they repent, that's when I can be reconciled. But what if, as in the situation Peter asked Jesus about, they keep on sinning over and over, and I keep forgiving and reconciling over and over, but they don't change?

    Restoration is the last step. When I have forgiven someone, and they have repented and we have reconciled, restoration means I allow myself to start trusting them again. It is only then that I "forget." But trust has to be earned; it is not simply given. It is earned by showing that repentence has born the fruit of changed behavior, so that it is safe to trust again. Then the relationship is truly restored, as though the sin against me had never happened. While they keep sinning and then repenting, and I'm forgiving over and over, I can hold myself back from trusting them in this area where they are weak. I can guard my own heart from being hurt again and can take precautions to make sure the consequences are not too high.

    I think it's a process. I think the two examples of Paul's writings above, "May the Lord repay him" and "may it not be charged against them" represent two different places in this process. In the first, Paul has released the debt to God, but there is no repentence on the part of the offender, so Paul leaves it up to God to repay. In the second, Paul has released the debt to God, but believes that there is repentence or that the offense was not willful, so he asks God not to charge them. This is a stance of seeking reconciliation. But restoration to full trust is not shown in this passage. Neither does Paul seek reconciliation with one he knows sinned willfully and is unrepentent.

    This is what works for me, and I believe it follows the intent of Jesus' and Paul's words.

  21. Aerial Jean said...
    "the part where we're told that if we've made every effort in good faith to bring a brother to repentance for the wrong they've done us, and they refuse to do so, that we're to no longer have any fellowship with them. That sure doesn't sound like we're being told to 'forgive and forget.'"

    Aerial Jean, I have to study that part again - perhaps its an answer to the "never divorce even if your spouse abuse you" people too!

  22. Kristen, you've put it very well, that's exactly how I see things. Seems like forgiveness was one of Jesus's biggest themes, so I'm uncomfortable with reducing the concept to playground politics. But there does need to be an answer to the fundie cop-out of "forgive and forget." this is a good one.

  23. One of the hardest things about this whole issue of forgiveness is knowing what forgiveness really is. If you dig into a conversation and ask what someone means when they say "I cannot forgive so-and-so", you find that usually their understanding of the word is far from what Scripture teaches. Forgiveness is not saying, "I'm ok with what you did, or what you did is alright, I'm good with it." Someone above me stated that forgiveness is putting it on God's account for Him to repay. The person who abused me is dead. He can never ask for forgiveness from me. So am I to live out the rest of my life with an unforgiving spirit? The book of Philemon gives a beautiful illustration of forgiveness. Putting what someone owes on another's account and considering it paid in full. It has nothing to do with right and wrong, setting the sin aside, or saying it doesn't matter. It does matter. Some sins against me were life changing. They molded me and the course I took in life. I can't undo that or forget it. But with God's help, I can USE it. Like Joseph said, "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good." Looking forward to this discussion!!!!

  24. I've always seen things the way Kristen said above. Nice and neat... this discussion is getting a little messier somewhere deeper.

    John 20:22-24--

    "22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

    Maybe forgiveness isn't what I thought (as Cora said). Maybe our personal accountability to God is separate from our forgiveness of others? Before our own Master, we stand or fall.

    Just for grins, lets say someone is unrepentant, fully justified in their own mind, perhaps sorry they are no longer controlling the other person (the classic, "I'm sorry your hurt" tactic) but not admitting to anything. Instead, they blame the victim who either 'made' them do it or some other lame-o excuse they probably cooked up decades ago.

    Just typing out loud here:

    Person A sins against Person B (something grievous-- not getting cut off in traffic :)

    Person B goes through the whole rang of appropriate emotion-- rage, anger, hurt, humiliation, bitterness, depression

    Person B works through things before God as best they can, eventually goes to A and tries to talk. A is not receptive.

    Person B rolls on the floor awhile, kicking and screaming, rants to Person C (who knows the situation). Decides to go back to A with C for backup and try again.

    Big confrontation, A flips everyone off (nicely, with scripture references to justify flipping maneuvers.)

    Person A hits floor again, cries, prays, doesn't get better so...


    Don't want to split hairs here, but I think this is important. If person A truly repents, we must forgive, but I believe reconciliation is entirely the decision of the grieved party. Not a scriptural requirement. Let them reconcile with God, thanks anyway.

    But if Person A does *not* repent, then what? We don't have to forgive? We are then responsible before a loving Heavenly Father for our own heart, our own actions/ reactions which may take a lifetime of more rolling on the floor to overcome.

    What I think I'm seeing is Forgiveness is like a sacrament-- something we can extend to others. Something we are *required* to extend to others who are repentant.

    Am I missing something?

  25. Connie, for the sake of clarity, I think you meant "Person B hits floor again..." ?

  26. Person A sins grievously against Person B. Person A is not repentent.

    Ideally, Person B, knowing that God extends forgiveness to us, works toward forgiveness of Person A. This is an entirely personal journey and act, between Person B and God, not something requiring Person A's presence or willingness at all. And frankly, it may not ever be achieved. Some sins are particularly horrendous. Some continue to hurt us. Yet if we work toward growth in the area of forgiveness I believe God will bless our efforts, even if we never fully arrive.

    As far as I'm concerned, Person B never has to see or communicate with Person A again. Whether to trust Person A again is an entirely separate issue. In fact I'd advise Person B to proceed with extreme caution in any restoration of relationship with Person A, depending on the nature of the sin.

    Forgiveness does not equal restoration (again, just my opinion. I'm certainly no theologian).

  27. Kristen, I love the way you put that.

  28. Aerial Jean-

    Yes, thank you. Lost track of my ABC's :)

  29. I'm really enjoying your blog!
    I was just wondering if you were wiretapping our house. Because my sister (Amy) and mother and I have had these exact conversations, and many of your posts sounds eerily similar...

  30. Dear Lewis: I was so glad to read your article. My son was murdered 11 years ago. I am a devoted Christian and while listening to church members; doctors; preachers and friends give me the "God says to forgive" message I was screaming in my head...No, he didn't. He said if someone who has harmed you, repents and asks your forgiveness, then you must. In my case, the murderers have never repented nor asked for my forgiveness. I held on to hatred for a long time then found a wonderful peace...and didn't know what it was, but now I have a name for it. What these men did to my child was unforgiveable, yet I found Christian strength to go forward with dignity and live my life as my son would have wanted. The term I stumbled upon was "Reconciling with harm". You reconcile with yourself that someone did something terrible to you; you were harmed by it; probably will never recover, but you refuse to let the offender have any more power over you. You simply reconcile with the harm done and allow yourself to build a fruitful, joy filled life. Just simply learning the term for the peace I feel (I knew it wasn't forgiveness)has set me free. And, you are right, justice wasn't served here on earth to these men, but there will be a reckoning, and I would NOT want to be in their shoes.

  31. Anonymous 5:44

    Really appreciate that last comment. Thank you :)

  32. I agree with Connie.

    Anon 5:44...Your comment perfectly sums up everything I believe about the issue. It's appreciated deeply.