There seems to be a very ‘Hot Topic’ being presented by a number of Christian outlets that is promoting: ‘forgive all at all times no matter what’. I am uncomfortable with setting up a standard that takes the form of a ‘Law’. They continue by using, most commonly, two Scriptures to promote this. One of them is: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Lk. 23:24). Jesus was asking our Father to forgive those who ‘did not know what they were doing’. I’m not sure by what means they stretch this into ‘forgive all at all times no matter what’…but they do. The other Scripture used to support this is: ‘But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.’ (Mt. 6:15). This usage is designed to frighten folks into forgiving. The verse is taken out of context in order to manipulate the recipient to a desired end. Peace for peace’s sake?
When I asked a person who was promoting this about their reasoning behind it, they responded by saying they like Wikipedia’s definition of Forgiveness. This same person stated that they believe that forgiving sets a person free from anger and bitterness. ‘Studies show that people who forgive are happier and healthier than those who hold resentments’ (Wikipedia). So, they are combining psychology with the Word of God. Sadly, since psychology has seeped into the Churches over the past few decades, this happens frequently. The assumption, and judgement, being concluded is that if a person does not forgive an offender… they are angry, resentful, bitter, and potentially vengeful. Essentially, they have judged what’s in their heart. Well, someone needs to inform God of that because by their definition He has ‘issues’ for:
“God is Angry
with the wicked every day”,
Wikipedia, again using psychology in regards to those who forgive, states: ‘His studies show a reduction in experience of stress, physical manifestations of stress, and an increase in vitality.’ Since we know that God forgives when folks repent and ask for forgiveness, and sadly many do not, He must be a very stressed out and low energy Creator per this perspective. Once again we see an attempt to rid folks of what they deem to be ‘negative emotions’.
I am beginning to wonder if those who are preaching this ‘forgive all at all times no matter what’ philosophy are doing so to avoid our responsibilities to:
REPROVE, REBUKE, ADMONISH
There is another passage used to support this philosophy which we find in Mt. 18:21-35. The 1st thing we must take note of in regards to this passage is that it is addressing a situation among believers (‘your brother’). Secondly, this is speaking of a ‘wicked servant’ who asked to be forgiven of his debt and promised to make restitution…then turned around and refused to extend the same Mercy to another who had then sought forgiveness from this ‘wicked servant’. Essentially, this is telling us that since we have been forgiven by God, we ought to extend the same Mercy to others (keep in mind that Jesus is addressing Peter’s question regarding ‘brothers and sisters’, hence other believers). If a fellow believer has asked forgiveness for their ‘debt’ and has offered to make restitution and in so doing shows fruit of that repentance, we are to ‘release’ them by forgiving them of that ‘debt’. Luke records our Lord’s Words in reference to this 7 x 70 forgiveness in Lk. 17:3-4: 3 “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 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.”
This is not a contradiction but rather a clarification…and a very important one. First, we are to rebuke the offender. Then, ‘IF‘ he repents, we are to forgive him.
There are many verses that support the fact that we are to forgive our brothers and sisters in Christ…just as God has forgiven us. How do we get forgiven by God? We repent and ask His forgiveness. Because ‘God is Love’, He always stands willing to forgive anyone at any time for all things after they have repented and asked for forgiveness.
1 John 1:9 (NKJV)
9 IF we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
We have a responsibility to hold folks accountable when they sin. 1 Timothy 5:20 “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” Gal. 6:1 “Brothers,if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” 2 Timothy 4:2 “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.” MT. 18:15-17 “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.” Titus 1:13 This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.” Titus 2:15 “These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.” Ezekiel 33:8 “When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.”
Paul went so far as to turn some over to satan. (see 1 Cor. 5:5; 1 Tim. 1:20). Perhaps, for some it is simply easier to say: ‘Ah, forget about it’, rather than confront an abuser, perpetrator, etc. It is clear that we are not to entertain bitterness (Hebrews 12:15), that it’s OK to be angry but not to sin with our anger (Eph. 4:26), and not to be vengeful (Rom. 12:19). We don’t want to become like those that harmed us. We don’t want to harden our hearts and be unwilling to forgive. However, the assumption made that anyone who has not forgiven another is then guilty of harboring those things is a faulty judgement. Telling someone that unless they forgive…no matter what even if the one who harmed you has not repented and ceased their wrongful behaviour…that God will not forgive them is spiritual abuse and a misuse of that verse. If you have been forgiven by God and you refuse to forgive another ‘if‘ they have repented, then yes, there’s a problem that needs to be addressed. However, to imply (for example) that a battered woman whose husband says he’s sorry, then turns around and hits her again…then again says he’s sorry, and turns around and hits her again…that she should just keep forgiving him each time when it is obvious that his actions show no ‘fruit of repentance’ is an atrocity. In addition, any person who does ‘preach’ such a thing is themselves abusing that woman for he is condoning the batterer’s abuse, perpetuating the crime against her, and placing the responsibility on the victim.
Jude: 22 And on some have compassion, making a distinction; 23 but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.
Folks, I fully believe we are to forgive others. (Space does not permit me to address the matter with unbelievers. We are told to ‘love our enemies’. It does not say to forgive them that I know of, though, I have not yet searched out this matter in the Scriptures.) We are always to have ‘the mind of Christ’ and follow His example. We are not to harbor bitterness, take vengeance into our own hands, or be unwilling to forgive a brother or sister if they have repented (fruit of repentance being evident). We have a duty to reprove, rebuke, admonish, and restore whenever possible in a spirit of gentleness. If our heart is right before God, we shall do so in God’s Love.
Hebrews 12: (NKJV)
6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.”
7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
(((HUGS))) Jude Gibbs, Author of ‘Gifts from the Ashes’ available at: Xulon Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and DeeperShopping. Additional international retailers: http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/biography/gifts-from-the-ashes,jude-gibbs-9781498496728 http://www.upliftvstore.com/product.asp?sku=9781498496728 Also, a Contributor on ‘The Mighty’: https://themighty.com/author/jude-gibbs/
Please help spread the Word. TY! (((HUGS)))