Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Forgiveness: Recognizing some of the counterfeits

I don't recall Jesus ever saying to someone, "Don't worry about your sins. It's not really a big deal. Everybody does it." And I don't remember him saying, "Nobody's perfect" when speaking to someone who was conscious of sin. (Though he did challenge, "Who among you is without sin?" when speaking to people who were conscious only of someone else's sins.) With Jesus, forgiveness did not come with excuses or a denial that a thing was significantly wrong; it came with redemption. "Go and sin no more."

And Jesus did not forgive so that the memory of being wronged would stop bothering him -- that is, for reasons that had to do with himself. The memory of being wronged may bother us, and may send us looking for how to get rid of the memory of being wronged. But simply forgetting the wrong is one of those so-called shortcuts that doesn't really work, at least not for a wrong that is big enough to make a difference in our lives, a wrong that insists on being noticed.

Forgiveness works together with love. It is firm in its stand that the wrong should stop. It insists that the damage should be repaired as much as possible -- by the person who did the wrong. It asks some positive action or change from the offender -- something to begin to restore the soul not just of the offended but also of the offender.

Forgiveness works to restore the love and trust that were broken. The call to forgiveness is a call to repentance: it calls on the one who broke that bond to take responsibility for himself and admit wrong instead of fleeing to excuses and the blame of others. So those kinds of "forgiveness" where the wrong is excused, and the wrongdoer's actions are explained away, is more of a justification for evil, something that does not deserve the name of forgiveness. That justification of evil only serves to encourage the person in the habit of wrong and to strengthen his judgment that he is blameless for his own actions.

As for forgetting the wrongs that were done us: if the bonds of love and trust are not restored, and the wrong is not called on to stop, and the person is still around but without love or trust -- or redemption -- then it is an incomplete forgiveness, an imperfect forgiveness that has not obtained its goal.


Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Ummm... well, okay, put yourself in the place of Hamlet. Let's say your mother kills your father. If you are a Christian, what should be your response?

The prime thing that is clear to me is, you have to keep on loving your mother. That's imperative.

So, what does that love mean?

Does it mean you forget? No way. Excuse? As if that were possible. Stop being bothered to think of the foul deed? Can't be done and shouldn't, if it could. Call on the other person to stop doing it? Well, the deed is a fait accomplit. Too late to "stop doing it". Explain it away? Don't make me laugh - or rather, weep. Hold her accountable? But it's not to me, a fellow-sinner, she's accountable; it's to God. Call on your mother to repent? Yes, perhaps, but that's a delicate,tricky business, and needs the right time and circumstances.

Suppose she doesn't repent? Then what? Does that make God's forgiveness incomplete or imperfect? Certainly not. We know God's forgiveness extends even to the damned in hell; they aren't there on account of any deficit in God or in His forgiveness! And neither does the offender's impenitence render our forgiveness - a rough copy of God's - imperfect or incomplete.

So I think forgiveness "just" means keep on loving, as God keeps on loving, Whose love is infinite and unconditional. That is, give up unloving, bitter attitude(s) and recover your tenderness of heart toward the other, recognizing yourself and the offender both as victims of a common enemy. And keep on doing good to the other person, for Jesus teaches that God is kind to the unthankful and the wicked.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Oh - and another thng a Christian should do re impentitent offenders is avoid them where feasible. Stay out of their way. Duck.

(Trouble is, you can't alays really do that if the offending party is family or co-workers.)

Weekend Fisher said...

It's early so I'm only partially awake. But: If the person never repents is God's forgiveness incomplete of reaching its goal? Well, if its goal is redemption, and the person is eternally lost, then yes God's forgiveness did not reach the goal of their redemption.

That's not God's fault. But his goal was redemption, and that goal was not reached.

LOL, and yes some sins are not likely to be repeated. But most of us struggle with habitual sins.

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for writing about Jesus and forgiving. I tried commenting earlier, but Blogger was having hiccups.