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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

When Forgiveness Is Denied

I am going to address this from a certain angle and I don't want my readers to be confused.  I am not speaking here of forgiveness of grievous, outright obviously sinful atrocities committed against you or which you have committed.  This is not the kind of forgiveness I am addressing, though perhaps some thoughts will apply.  I am talking about when others harbour bitterness, anger, resentment, and an ongoing refusal to grant forgiveness especially regarding their perceived (valid or otherwise) injustices.

We all hurt others in our lives regularly.  Some of these matters are actually sinful and wrong.  Many are not - we are simply dealing with overly sensitive, self-centered individuals who nurse conjured up wounds that were never actually inflicted.  When we deal with these kinds of people (though we'd rather not, frankly) it is fair to offer an apology - whether it is actually warranted or not.  In my opinion, this is a matter of extending grace to those who have hang ups they can't overcome without our helpful willingness to concede and offer an admission of fault.

There are times, however, when the person is so caught up in his/her own pain and perceived injustice that they refuse to forgive.  They hold out forgiveness as if it were some gift of life that is theirs to dole out at their pleasure - when they feel you have wallowed in self-rejection, guilt and poverty of soul and done enough emotional penance to reduce you to a writhing worm covered in dust, half drowning in a puddle.  They gloat in the sense of power and victimization that they feel is theirs by right of the obvious injustice they have suffered (even if it exists only in the realm of fantasy and imagination).

They withhold forgiveness as if it is something that they have a right to withhold.  They evaluate apologies, evaluate the sentiment of your spirit and decide whether you have met their woundedness with enough self-denigration to merit the gift of their forgiveness.

People such as I've described cannot possibly describe themselves as Christians.

Yes, that is a bold statement but I will explain why.

If you deal with a person like this, and they claim to be a Christian you should open and end every conversation with the following two statements:

Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin.

Jesus' death on the cross was enough to pay for the penalty of others' sin, even those committed against me.

Now, let's have that conversation about forgiveness.

Because if a person refuses to forgive they basically have an argument with God, and are in denial of the Gospel.  They therefore cannot rightly claim the name of Christ - because they deny the forgiveness HE offers and hold a judgemental wrath that is only God's to hold - and God doesn't hold it since His wrath was satisfied by the death of Jesus on the cross.

If a person withholds forgiveness he is saying that Jesus death on the cross was not enough to pay for your sins.  They deny the Gospel and the Cross and have no place celebrating with other believers that Jesus died to pay for our sins.

This kind of unforgiveness warrants Church discipline - because in withholding such from a fellow believer they are denying the truth of the Gospel and living in ongoing, unrepentant sin.


2 comments:

  1. You have no idea how much I needed to read exactly these words today - thank you!

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    1. It is so encouraging to hear! Thank you for letting me know - it means a lot!

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