Wednesday, 27 July 2016

On Forgiveness 5: What Forgiveness is Not

I need to follow up the previous post with another one to prevent a fatal misunderstanding that some people have.

Karl had a gambling problem.  He nearly ruined himself, his marriage and his family through it.  He has confessed it.  God has forgiven him.  He is now doing fine.  He has a good job.  His wife and kids have forgiven him.  He has forgiven himself as well and he doesn’t wallow in shame over it.

But he realises he still has a weakness in this area.  So they have blocked the gambling sites on the internet.  He has stopped meeting his gambling friends at the pub and avoids the betting shop.  His friend checks him out every few weeks by asking him to tell him honestly how he is doing with the gambling.

In other words, he has forgiven himself but he does not fully trust himself in certain situations.  His wife has forgiven him, but in certain situations she does not trust him.

Jesus said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.  For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.”  Matthew 5:29

That does not mean there are thousands on one-eyed people everywhere following Jesus.  He is just saying we may need to take drastic action to keep ourselves right.

What I am saying here is this.

Just because you have forgiven someone, it doesn’t mean you have to trust them.

In fact, when you forgive a person for a serious wrong they have done, you may still have to report them to the authorities, such as police or social workers or medical professionals for their own good and for the good of society.  We need wisdom here of course and maybe to seek appropriate advice.

Some churches have made the mistake of forgiving a leader who has fallen into serious sexual sin and putting them back into a situation where they can be tempted again.  Then the restored leader does the same things again.  The church in this instance has made a very serious mistake and shown a misunderstanding of what forgiveness is about.  It brings great dishonour to the name of Jesus Christ.  Restoring someone can be a slow process of regaining trust again and putting safeguards in place.

So here is a list.  Forgiving someone does not mean:

  • that what they did was right
  • you should blame yourself instead
  • you can trust them straight away
  • you shouldn’t report them to the authorities
  • you have to be their friend in future

And being forgiven:
  • does not take away my responsibilities
  • does not mean that due processes of justice shouldn’t take place
  • does not mean that I don’t still face the consequences of my actions
  • does not mean I don’t need help to overcome my faults
  • does not mean I don’t try to put myself right with those I have harmed

An abused wife may forgive her husband for being violent towards her and their children.  He may say sorry, be tearful and full of remorse.  But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t need to acknowledge his need for help, otherwise the cycle of violence may continue and she may be putting the family in danger by going back to him.  Remorse and repentance are two different things.

So, to sum up….

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