Thursday, October 2, 2008

Unpacking Forgiveness

Forgiveness is something frequently misunderstood, not just at a philosophical level but at a very practical level, in our hearts as well as our head. What do the following ideas on forgiveness have in common?

  • Forgiveness is commanded and should be instantaneous when we're hurt
  • "Forgive and forget" is a biblical command
  • There are some hurts against us that are just too big to forgive
  • Forgiveness must be earned

What they have in common is that they're all incorrect. Some contain aspects of truth but don't paint a full picture. Some key things to keep in mind... Forgiving the sins of others is definitely a command, indeed a very serious one, as Matthew 6:14-15 shows. However as humans our hearts will take time to heal, and 'automatic' forgiveness while the wounds are still fresh and deep can actually prevent healing of a relationship. Hanging onto hurt forever and refusing to ever forgive is another thing - as someone who has received forgiveness from God in Christ, that's equivalent to saying "No, but the death of Jesus on the cross simply isn't sufficient payment, the person's wrong against me is too great." To be effective at restoring health, forgiveness must be sought and received, but full restoration may well take a lot longer, and typically requires a lot of effort.

I saw on blogs by PastorHacks and Justin Taylor some great questions to ask yourself before confronting someone out of a book by Chris Brauns that's just now coming out: "Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Wounds". Really some excellent advice in these questions. Brauns' book looks like it might be very interesting as well as helpful. It definitely covers an area in which I'm no expert (well, ok, no shortage of those areas!)  If you think you're an expert, maybe you want to take Brauns' forgiveness quiz?

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