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3 Things Forgiveness Is Not

By Jim Barringer

Forgiveness is probably one of the most misunderstood, and most controversial, topics in all of Christianity. You wouldn’t think forgiveness could be controversial, but if you ever talk with a person who’s had something truly vile happen to them, you’ll find that the idea of forgiving hits a deep nerve in them. I think this is because most people, including many preachers, don’t understand what forgiveness really is. The end result is that Christians end up with wrong ideas of what they have to do in order to forgive, and they don’t want to do those things, so they don’t forgive. I’m here to explain what forgiveness is not, to smash those myths and show how easy forgiveness can be if you don’t try to attach man-made conditions to it.

1. Forgiving is not forgetting. The expression “forgive and forget” is not Biblical. Even God, when he forgives your sins, does not forget them. It says that he “remembers them no more” in Psalm 78, but “remember” in the Bible means to remind yourself of something. When God remembers your sins no more, it means he chooses not to think about them and chooses not to treat you in light of them. It doesn’t mean that he, like a senile old man, doesn’t remember them happening. Think about it from a purely logical point of view: if God forgot about your sins, and you remembered them, then you would know something that God didn’t. Author Larry Osborne also points out that, if God truly forgot sins, he wouldn’t know about 95% of the things in the Bible, like the fall of man, David and Bathsheba, or even Jesus’ crucifixion by corrupt Pharisees. That’s obviously not right, is it?

So if God does not forget your sins, obviously you are not called to forget anyone else’s. God would not hold you to a higher standard than he holds himself.

2. Forgiving is not the removal of consequences. I could give plenty of instances in the Bible where a person sinned and was forgiven by God, but the natural consequences of their actions persisted. Moses is a great example. He led Israel out of Egypt, but in a moment of anger he rebelled against God and was banned from entering the Promised Land as a result. His relationship with God never suffered; God kept walking with him, guiding him, and showing him what to do, but in spite of the restored relationship, there were consequences. What this means is that if someone sins against you, forgiving them does not mean letting them off the hook. If someone breaks into your house, for instance, forgiving them does not mean that you drop the charges in court – going to jail is the natural consequence of getting caught stealing. Many Christians have refused to forgive someone because the thought of letting them off the hook was too much to handle. Which leads us to…

3. Forgiving does not mean the restoration of the relationship. Again, let’s examine the Bible. When we sin, we confess our sin to God and he is faithful to forgive us (1 John 1:9). What happens if you intentionally commit the same sin a thousand times a day and keep asking for forgiveness? The answer is that God forgives you, because his forgiveness flows out of his own faithfulness, not out of whether or not you deserve it. So God is forgiving you, but what kind of relationship do you have with him if you sin on purpose a thousand times a day? Not a very good one, I’d bet. The relationship is not restored until you repent – turn away, 180 degrees, from your sin and resolve not to make that your lifestyle anymore. That’s when you and God are actually back on good terms.

There’s no reason it shouldn’t work the same when you forgive other people. If someone hurts you, you don’t have to pretend nothing happened (you don’t have to forget, in other words) and go back to being buddy-buddy with them. The relationship will not be restored until that person repents. But just like God does to you, you have an obligation to forgive someone even if they don’t repent. Ideally those two things go together, but many times in real life – both in your walk with God and in the way other people treat you – repentance comes much later if it ever comes at all. If the other person doesn’t repent, the relationship is not restored. That’s not a choice you make. The other person makes it. If they do, then your Biblical obligation is to try and reconcile. If they don’t, then you must forgive, but the burden of restoring the relationship does not ever rest on you.

Once again, I know dozens of Christians who have refused to forgive because they thought forgiving meant that they had to go back to being friends with someone who was not sorry for hurting them. That’s not true. Forgiveness is your obligation; repentance is their choice.
I hope that this has helped to cut through all the static and false teaching surrounding the crucial issue of forgiveness. If you refuse to forgive someone, that’s a sin, and just like I finished saying, your relationship with God will suffer until you repent from that sin. What this means is that you cannot afford to let anything get in the way of you forgiving the people in your life who need it. Perhaps you’ve already forgiven all the people in your life who need it, but you know other Christians who haven’t reached that point yet and are letting one of these three things get in the way. In that case, it might be your job to take them this knowledge. God’s command to forgive is utterly reasonable, and there is never a good reason to refuse that command. Sometimes, though, we have to understand what forgiveness truly means, and what it doesn’t mean, before we can reach the point of obedience.

Jim Barringer is a 27-year-old writer, musician, and teacher serving at The Church of Life (.com) in Orlando, FL. More of his work can be found at facebook.com/jmbarringer and ExtantMagazine.com. This work may be reprinted for any purpose so long as this bio and statement of copyright is included.

Article Source: http://www.faithwriters.comCHRISTIAN WRITERMAKE A WEBSITE

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