Paul's Passing Thoughts

Let’s Try This Another Way: Forgiveness Only Occurs Among Repentant Believers

Posted in Uncategorized by Paul M. Dohse Sr. on December 1, 2015

ForgivenessWe want to love the unforgiven as our enemies, not lead them to believe that we love them because they are forgiven. That’s not the gospel and is obviously antithetical to how God loves His enemies daily. Blank check forgiveness does not put the gospel on display.”

Wow, this whole thing with being obligated to forgive people regardless of their unrepentance is a serious sacred cow. I have written many articles on this subject, and continue to approach it at different angles; this post is one more.

First, we do no person a favor, including ourselves, by circumventing the need for repentance. Here is what we have, in essence, because people listen to others and not God: “I forgive you, but remember that God hasn’t forgiven you because you haven’t repented, but we are supposed to forgive the way we have been forgiven, because we repented, but in your case it is different because you sinned against me and not God.” How does that square with Matthew 25:31-46? In that judgment, passive neglect is the issue, how much more active abuse?

Default forgiveness is what subjects people to hopelessness, bondage, and misery, not the biblical prescription. We are to remain angry for offenses while leaving retribution to God. Being righteously angry will not “destroy us,” but will rather continue to hold the offender accountable in hope that reconciliation will occur in the future. Though the obviousness of it annoys me, I will point to the redeemed souls under the alter crying out to God to avenge their blood. Pray tell, is there a way to send them one of these putrid memes lest they destroy themselves via unforgiveness? Maybe an angel has a Facebook account and will send them one.

In fact, opportunities to love our enemies may lead them to repentance (Rom 2:4). When we love our enemies without granting unwarranted forgiveness, we are being like God. Furthermore, blank check forgiveness does not foster indictment of conscience that brings about repentance and subsequent change. On this wise, blank check forgiveness goes against God’s natural order of things. Forgiveness goes hand in glove with a clear conscience. Those who are forgiven should have a clear conscience, but if they haven’t repented, we don’t want them to have a clear conscience. People repent because their consciences indict them. If you hold someone accountable for unrepentant sin, yet do good to them, this is more likely to incite the conscience than blank check forgiveness. When we forgive someone, we declare them no longer guilty; again, this is the same way we are forgiven. We want to love the unforgiven as our enemies, not lead them to believe that we love them because they are forgiven. That’s not the gospel and is obviously antithetical to how God loves His enemies daily. Blank check forgiveness does not put the gospel on display.

All in all, forgiveness only has context among believers. That’s why when people refuse to repent, we are to treat them as unbelievers, break fellowship with them, and continue to hold them accountable. The burden is not on those who have been sinned against, but rather on those who have sinned against others. People only change because they are held accountable by God, others, their own consciences, and consequences. Forgiveness does not lead to repentance, undeserved love does. An offer of forgiveness can only be granted when repentance occurs. When we have opportunity to love our enemies, no opportunity exists to present the gospel if we have already forgiven them. They are God’s enemies and our enemies—that’s why “friendship with the world is enmity against God.” We therefore love our enemies and grant forgiveness when those who have sinned against us repent. If they don’t repent, we are to treat them as unbelievers. If they do repent, we have “gained a brother.”

On the other hand, those who will not forgive those who have repented show themselves to be unbelievers as well. When the Bible talks about forgiveness, repentance is always assumed if not stated outright. If you note the Lord’s Prayer, it is addressed to the “Father.” And this brings me to the main point: true biblical forgiveness is only in context of God’s family. No forgiveness takes place outside of it. When a person repents and is forgiven by God, that is their initiation into the family of God, and after that, the forgiveness/repentance paradigm is assumed, expected, and demanded by God. The offended who don’t forgive, and the offenders who will not repent are assumed to be illegitimate family members. Under the auspices of common decency in the world, we accept apologies, but God has little patience for family schisms. True believers reconcile because we are all members of God’s family.

And reconciliation with God and others MUST ALWAYS have two parts: repentance and forgiveness.

paul

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9 Responses

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  1. lydia00 said, on December 2, 2015 at 9:12 AM

    We are seeing a rash of instant repentance in churches. Perverts and molesters caught are instantly forgiven because they said the R word. They are hailed as sinners repenting while the victims are treated with disdain if they do not instantly forgive and attend church with their tormentor.

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    • Paul M. Dohse Sr. said, on December 2, 2015 at 9:42 AM

      Yep. So you bring up a valid question: In that case, how does the victim know that the person has really repented? Answer: they will be willing to accept consequences. In a marriage situation, the spouse who betrayed trust will be willing to be accountable to the other spouse. In your example, the perp will turn himself in to authorities. In your example, the church leaders want to cut a backroom “repentance” deal where the victim also forgives and the police are not called…right?

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  2. Oasis said, on December 3, 2015 at 6:07 PM

    The dismissal of repentance from the equation drives me absolutely batty, just right up the wall. Serious sacred cow is right.

    Downright allergic to pious Christian bullies who take it upon themselves to turn the tables and demonize those of us who refuse to forgive unrepentant abusers. The unnecessary pressure, the assumptions and accusations, the threats of damnation. Cruel, unfair, undeserved and unreasonable.

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    • Andy Young, PPT contributing editor said, on December 4, 2015 at 10:12 AM

      But it must all be done so as not to hurt the “cause of Christ”…which according to their determinist metaphysic is impossible anyway because God’s will is going to be accomplished no matter what, and there is nothing I can do or not do that would prevent God’s “sovereignty”. So in realty, my not forgiving someone is all part of God’s grand narrative anyway, so if I don’t forgive someone it’s because it was God’s will for me not to forgive, right?

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  3. lydia00 said, on December 4, 2015 at 11:36 PM

    I was listening to a former Calvinist the other day and he made the point that he (and they) never followed their own teaching. One breath it is determinism as in God is controlling everything 24/7 and the next is “we should or should not do this or that”.

    Total cognitive dissonance. But if you think about it, if they followed their beliefs, pastor jobs would not need to exist. So, I guess They make a living explaining what is inexplicable!

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  4. Oasis said, on December 5, 2015 at 12:28 PM

    The cause of Christ, right. Not my Christ.

    Yes, Andy, and the magical wizard monster also willed the offenses themselves. He is a true ally and hero for the unrepentant.

    The only thing about this topic that bothers me, and when I say it bothers me, I mean it disturbs and upsets me a lot, is the talk of hoping for reconciliation. Oasis is definitely not hoping for reconciliation with her worst enemies. I could explain but would rather not go there. Just hope people here can understand what that word means for some people in certain situations. How dangerous, threatening and terrifying it is. How completely nauseating and out of the question it is. That is, if “reconciliation” involves removal of boundaries, unwanted communication…basically, forced relationship.

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    • Andy Young, PPT contributing editor said, on December 5, 2015 at 1:34 PM

      Oasis,
      “I could explain but would rather not go there. Just hope people here can understand what that word means for some people in certain situations. How dangerous, threatening and terrifying it is. How completely nauseating and out of the question it is.”

      I will say something I said to someone else on Facebook yesterday about this very same thing. Not only is that course of action wise (especially if he is a danger physically, mentally, emotionally, etc) but that very act of staying away may be what is needed to convict his conscience. Indeed, that is a very loving response because it is provoking him to repentance. But by all means, never put yourself in a situation where there is potential danger, no matter how “repentant” someone may be. You don’t play games with your life!

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  5. Oasis said, on December 7, 2015 at 1:37 AM

    Hey, thanks, Andy.

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  6. Charles said, on April 4, 2016 at 10:07 AM

    I am sometimes in a quandary concerning Forgiveness and being the perpetrator. Many times the perpertrator wants to “make” the victim feel guilty if there seem to be a lack of “forgiveness” when in fact the perpetrator, did not say they are sorry and ask for forgiveness. You rightly say, that I was the person offended, and not God, therefore I believe that (True )Forgiveness can only come with the “repentance” it is not automatic…….because I AM A CHRISTIAN………..That is How God forgave us, because we confessed our sins”

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