The Limits of Forgiveness

By Danni Moss
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Forgiveness is mentioned repeatedly in the New Testament as a requirement for followers of Christ. But forgiveness is not expected independently from the rest of the values of the Word and righteousness. We cannot separate the requirement to forgive from the requirement for righteousness or from the requirement to use discernment. Specifically, the Word does not require us to extend forgiveness to someone who is not repentant and it does not indicate that forgiveness is synonymous with reconciliation.

Repentance is more than just acknowledgement of wrong and it is more than just apology. Repentance is even more than simply saying, “I repent” or “I am truly repentant.” Those are just words and can be used to manipulate Christians into feeling obligated to forgive.

We are supposed to use discernment and evaluate fruit. Repentance doesn’t stand alone; there should be accompanying fruit. And where there has not been repentance, we are not required to forgive – in the sense of absolving someone from guilt. Nor are we ever required to forgive and absolve from consequences of wrong, even in the face of genuine repentance.

While the Bible stresses the importance of individuals forgiving those who have wronged them, which releases them from the bondage of bitterness and unforgiveness, nowhere does God insist that forgiveness is necessarily followed by reconciliation. I can forgive someone for the wrong they have done to me, but I do not have to remain in the path of continued harm at their hands. If someone has harmed me and will continue to do so, it is my responsibility to protect myself. If I fail to protect myself, I will reap the consequences and be hurt again. Worse, I may participate in “calling” evil good by my silence and allowing wrong to continue.

One Response

  1. I’ve heard many say that IF I don’t reconcile, then I really haven’t forgiven. They expect you to forgive and forget. Only GOD is able to do that. But it is not wise to forget. If I get bit by a vicious dog, I will probably never forget the attack. If I were to continue going by the same dog each day instead of taking another path, then I’ll continue to get hurt or even killed. Remembering is good as long as it turns us in another direction to keep us “safe” from the attack (abuser). Knowing that the abuser has been hurt in their lifetime (which may explain their cutting and hurtful behaviour) does NOT excuse the behaviour. Humans are NOT animals! Humans have the ability to reason. We can learn a different way for relating. We can forgive the offender. BUT, we sure don’t embrace a person back into our lives that hasn’t made much attempt at making amends. A person that truly is repentful will apply themselves diligently to changing behaviours and attitudes that are wrong and hurtful. They will want to learn GOD’s way for relating. The Bible is written for Christians. Only those that are truly spiritually born-again the bible way can discern the Scriptures accurately. Basics like the 10 Commandments are written on every human heart. We know it is wrong to lie, covet, cheat, etc. We have a conscience. True heart repentance will be evident by a changed heart that has been softened to do God’s will. Hard hearted men/women are self centered and can be very vicious. Rattlesnakes often are more thoughtful than humans. They will rattle to warn you before striking out. Jesus can forgive any sin but one. I’ve learned that the one sin that is not forgiveable is when a person rejects God’s free gift of salvation through his son JESUS. He shed his precious blood to redeem mankind back to himself. He doesn’t want any to perish in hell. When a person does not accept God’s gift of salvation thru JESUS alone, but tries to EARN his way into heaven, and then dies in their sins, this is what I understand to be the unpardonable sin. We all have a free will to choose to do good or to do evil. With God’s help, I can walk in the Spirit of God’s love. Without him, my ugly flesh can rare it’s ugly head. I want brokeness (godly sorrow) over my sin(s) so that I will have God’s light shining through me to others that are in the dark. Many are lost and without hope. The greatest kindness anyone can do is to share the truth of the gospel with the lost. Satan likes to twist Scripture to say things that is not true. I did struggle with the understanding of forgiveness. It did keep me confused for years as I tried to learn God’s Way about forgiveness. The woman caught in the act of adultery was forgiven by God (Jesus). Yet he gave her a command to “go and sin no more”. There are consequences to our bad choices. I am thankful that I am forgiven. I know I have forgiven my husband because I do not have bitterness in my heart. God has changed my heart toward him. Yet, he has not shown true heart repentance. After 9 1/2 years of seperation, I had hoped and prayed for years that he would want to be well. Yet, the LORD worked on me to be well so that I would not return to the abusive relationship that I endured for 24 years. I love my LORD and Saviour more. No human or animal should be abused! Forgiveness for my sins by my LORD and Saviour means so much to me. I do pray for my husband’s heart to change, but with God’s help, I don’t believe I will ever return to abuse in any relationship. I don’t want to be abusive either with my words or actions. Love does not harm or tear down another. Love builds up and encourages the other to be Godly in all that they say and do. I’m glad for this article on FORGIVENESS. I’m thankful that I am FORGIVEN by my LORD and Saviour Jesus. Praise be to God for HIS goodness.

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