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    “See to it no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

    « Will They Know We Are Christians By Our Attitudes? | Never Enough »
    Saturday
    Feb162013

    On Forgiveness

    There seems to be a lot of confusion about what the Bible says when it comes to the topic of forgiveness. At least, I recently went through a tough experience that led to some investigation on the subject.

     

    The Personal Growth/common sense camp

    This group advocates that a person forgive someone who has done them wrong, regardless of whether the offender has asked forgiveness or appears repentant.

     

    You should forgive, they say, in order to relieve yourself of any anger or bitterness you might be holding onto. This is a sort-of self-help process to make you a better person. It doesn’t mean you have to see the person again, be nice to them again, or especially trust them again. The idea is for you to heal and move on.

    http://www.pbs.org/thisemotionallife/topic/forgiveness/understanding-forgiveness

     

    This made sense to me, but seemed like something was missing. It seemed too simplistic and a maybe a little selfish. Where are the Bible verses to support this? Why is it assumed that I am bitter or vengeful because I am naturally upset about an offense? What about the other person? What if I am dealing emotionally with things, and am taking longer than other people think I should?

     

    Literal Bible/Flip your emotional switch camp:

    These people promote the idea that because God forgave us, we are obligated to forgive others without the compensation of forgiveness. And if you do not forgive another person promptly and forever, God’s wrath will reign down on you. They use several Bible verses to show this, and state that any anger or bitterness on your part will block your communication with God, thereby harming your standing with Him.

    http://www.gotquestions.org/withholding-forgiveness.html

     

    This made sense to me, but seemed like something was missing. It seemed too simplistic and a maybe a little selfish (or maybe that’s just my guilt complex talking). Are these Bible verses in context? What about verses that seem to say just the opposite (I’ll get there)? Why is it assumed that I am bitter or vengeful because I am naturally upset about an offense?

    What about the other person? Do they even know they did something wrong? Does it even matter if they know since God forgets our past transgressions, and we are to start with a clean plate with others. What if I am dealing emotionally with things, and am taking longer than other people think I should? Is God really that unreasonable?

     

    What does the Bible really say?

    http://www.openbible.info/topics/forgiveness

     

    Many times, those in the “Literal Bible camp” will cite Matthew 18:21-22 to support their view,

    Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

     

    But they never finish the passage! If you read on, this is only the introduction to the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18:21-35). In it, the king is upset with the servant who did not show mercy after his fellow servant asked for it.

    If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9)

     

    My main problem with the above camps is that they ignore or rationalize away these Scriptures and all the other ones about God requiring our repentance before He will forgive us. I couldn’t understand how God would call us to do something that not even He does!

     

    After some research, I found two resources which agreed with Scripture and all my reservations about stuff I’ve heard and read from the previous two camps.

     

    http://www.inplainsite.org/html/forgiveness_reconciliation.html

     

    The above resource uses a lot of Scripture to back the claim that true forgiveness is all about reconciliation between parties, and can only come when the offender sincerely asks for forgiveness, and the offended party sincerely gives it back.

     

    To me, this idea seems to make the most common sense because it doesn’t require you to flip emotional switches, doesn’t guilt you into a quick decision, and doesn’t focus on just the offended party. It also agrees the most with Scripture and God’s character as revealed in Scripture. I strongly recommend it.

     

    Interestingly, I also came across this passage from a self-help website:

    “Any of us who have heard the words “you have to forgive” knows that this added burden can actually impede our recovery. When a survivor denies his feelings and sets aside his wounds, pain, anger, and grief in order to forgive, he often finds that he is not able to heal. Ultimately, in the absence of healing, forgiveness doesn’t last.

    Sometimes it is necessary to place a moratorium on forgiveness until healing has taken place. This affords us the opportunity to validate our stories with sympathetic listeners, express our anger in appropriate ways, mourn our losses, and protect others and ourselves from reinjury. Surprisingly, it is often the very process of not forgiving, of acknowledging the pain and taking the steps to heal that can free the abused to forgive.”

    (http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/Healing_Forgiving_and_Overcoming_Abuse.html)

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