A question or two about Sunday’s message on forgiveness

I’m always happy when people have questions about my messages.  It usually means they were listening!  In talking about our private duties to one another, I spoke last about forgiving one another.  Let me clear up two issues I was asked about…

1.  One aspect of forgiveness (the debt or judicial part) can be granted to another without that person asking–and that is what Jesus did on the cross.  He asked God to forgive those who had wronged him, thus releasing his own claim on justice in this case.  This could be seen as releasing our bitterness or wrath over a wrong done.  However, it did not put those who crucified him in right relationship with him–unless they sought his forgiveness.  Relational forgiveness is just that–relational.  It is a transaction between two parties, and I cannot, by myself, make a relationship right with someone else.  If I have wronged someone, I need to go to them and ask forgiveness.  If someone has wronged me, it hurts,  and I have a relationship with that person, I should let them know I was injured by their actions or words, and see if they will acknowledge the hurt and ask forgiveness.  That is what Jesus tells us to do in going to our brother or sister to make something right.  That was what I was trying to get across.

2.  If someone has seriously wronged you and there has been no repentance, you can release the bitterness/do the “judicial” forgiveness of releasing the debt before God, even without them asking.  Chances are you need to do this for your own spiritual health.  However, you are not under obligation to then act as if the relationship is restored.  It is not.  In some cases, there can be an end to the active “breach” through the expression of repentance by the wrongdoer and the granting of forgiveness by the innocent party.  In many cases, however, the original relationship cannot be restored in this life.  As an example, I would cite a couple in my previous church who divorced after one partner’s multiple adulteries.  The other partner became involved in unrepentant immorality.  Both were disciplined by the church.  Both later repented, but one was remarried and the other now is.  They have both expressed to the church their repentance and the relationship is restorable there.  However, after expressing repentance to each other and seeking forgiveness, they realized they could never have the relationship they use to have (and they had at one time had a wonderful marriage and were each other’s best friends).  In cases where circumstances have changed due to the offense, we often cannot go back to the original circumstances.  That is one of the consequences that comes through sin.

I hope these comments clear any confusion on those points.

Published in: on September 19, 2007 at 11:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

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