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

%d bloggers like this: