Daily Archives: March 18, 2006

I've been pondering forgiveness and restoration (because of the possibility of running into a person that I'd rather not deal with.)

I'm a follower of Jay E. Adams and "From Forgiven to Forgiving" is a book that I turn to often. I not sure that I fully agree:

I agree that (in theory) Adams is right. But it can be difficult to implement - especially in - especially in a business or online world, or in a church community where church discipline is not practiced. I've also got a couple of thoughts that Adams does not (if I remember) fully address.

There is a difference between "holding a grudge" and "withholding forgiveness".

Holding a grudge is about your own emotions and refusing to move on. Bitterness and anger are "red flags" that you are holding a grudge. Grudges have nothing to do with "relationship" or "forgiveness". It's about the human desire to hold something over another person - for the sake of spite.

In the face of a repentant offender, to hold a grudge is a serious sin (and one of the sins that should make us doubt our salvation.)

Holding a grudge is easy and very human.

Withholding forgiveness is something different. Withholding forgiveness is about forgiveness and restoration. If you don't have glorifying God through forgiveness and restoration as the goal, you're not withholding forgiveness, you're holding a grudge.

The Bible says, "...and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors."

This is where many people disagree with Adams, believing rather that we are to forgiven whether or not the offender has indicated any repentance or willingness to not repeat the offense.) Adams makes a case that God is our example in forgiveness. As God forgives us, we forgive others.

In our repentance, we have the ability to bring others to repentance. When we are reconciled to God, we can bring others to reconciliation with God (us).

How do we become reconciled to God?

I'm also very torn myself. Being reformed, when are my sins forgiven? When is the slate wiped clean? Is it when I use the words "I'm sorry"? Or was it before the foundations of the earth were laid, when God chose me in Christ? And how do I model that?

If I have a particular sin that I struggle with "being sorry for", does God forgive that sin? If I want God to forgive all of my sins, whether or not I can be truly sorry, does God expect me to forgive the offenses of others, whether or not they are truly sorry?

(This is where I have an addition to Adams.) I believe there is also a place for withholding restoration (but perhaps not full restoration) if the safety, peace or welfare of a person or group is at risk. I'm not thinking one-time offenses or "little things" - the multitudes of offenses that love should cover. I'm thinking about either repeated "big" offenses (behavior that doesn't appear to indicate "repentance") or offenses that have such a high probability of offense that full restoration simply does not keep the safety and peace of others in mind. In cases like these, accountability (hand in hand with a commitment by the offender) is vital.

Withholding forgiveness is a set of behaviors aimed at causing the offender to know in their heart that they have hurt others and to cause them to "be truly sorry" and to make a commitment to turn from that behavior.

Withholding forgiveness is aimed always at reconciliation.

Withholding forgiveness always excludes bitterness. (You might also exclude anger, if you can. There is a place for righteous anger, but when confronting an offense in hopes of reconciliation, many times anger is best left behind.)

I believe that you can take this to the secular, although there cannot be full resoration to a "fellowship" that was never there. At best, you can reconcile to the status that you had before the offense.

This is Biblical. There are specific steps.

- you confront the person privately (I believe that if the offense was committed against a group of people or as part of a conversation, this can vary. If you immediately - within the same conversation - state the offense, this is perhaps the best way to take care of it immediately. Most reasonable people will see that they have offended and "take it back". End of story.)

- if the person does not listen - take two or three witnesses. (this is way harder on line.) With this small group of people, there are (hopefully) objective witnesses that will hear both sides, examine what was said and encourage both sides to reconciliation.

- if they still do not listen, take it to the group (or in a secular setting, to the group that both parties are a member of)

- if they still do not listen, forgiveness and restoration cannot (or should not) take place.

None of this is aimed at "punishing" the offender or perpetually holding them at arm's length. It is aimed at bringing the offender back into the relationship that you had before the offense - or perhaps a deeper relationship.

When I have practiced this - it works.

It is not easy and it is not about me.