Forgiveness-What It Is Not

Jesus said in Matt. 18:21-35 we are to forgive one another70 times 7.

People struggle with forgiveness for a variety of reasons. As a biblical counselor, I can tell you experience has shown me that few people really understand what forgiveness is. We tend to mingle several things together and want to call it “forgiveness.” I thought it would be helpful to learn what forgiveness is not before we learn what true biblical forgiveness is.

When we forgive a person we are not enabling them to continue to sin nor a pampering love without accountability. When I forgive my 16 year old for getting a speeding ticket it does not mean I hand him the car keys the next day. Forgiveness of an offense does not mean I encourage him to be irresponsible at all! It does not mean I rescue him time and again either.

If that same teen age son takes my car, gets drunk and crashes it into a tree, breaking numerous laws along the way, I must forgive from the heart. However, when he goes off to court and punishment I’m not going to bail him out either. The administration of tough love and forgiveness prevents rescuing a fool from their foolishness.

Teach the wise, and they will be wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn more. Proverbs 9:9 (NLT)
Forgiveness does not mean I subject myself repeatedly to abuse. I am asked about cases where husbands abuse their wives, or he hits or pushes her just once. Let me explain: a woman who has a husband who hits her is bound to forgive him when he asks her to do so. However, along with the forgiveness comes a refusal to take the risk that it would and could happen again.

She must inform church elders and counseling must begin immediately. He may be required to leave the home until he can demonstrate self-control as the fruit of his repentance. Clear boundaries must be established and strict accountability must be put in place with zero tolerance for any kind of abuse. A truly repentant husband will desire to change along with that apology and will be willing to undergo counseling. In many States it is against the law not to inform authorities of even a first time domestic situation, so much wisdom is needed here. The law must be followed according to Romans 13.

In a domestic situation, the husband might really be sorry and he may have done all that the church has asked of him and he may truly have repented. He may have asked for and been granted forgiveness by his wife, and yet he may still have to go to jail or have his name in the paper as a wife abuser. Forgiveness does not absolve a person of consequences or responsibility.

A person who continues to commit the same sin or make the same mistake and asks my forgiveness must be granted my forgiveness, but this does not mean I stand in the way of whatever consequences will come their way and it does not mean I place myself in harm’s way either.