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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Question of the Week:
Why Forgive?

“Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”
~ Mark Twain

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Why should someone constantly forgive someone they love OVER and OVER for the same thing? At what point would the smart choice be to leave? ~ Anonymous

Oy vey what a question! Where to start?

Let’s begin by talking about “smart.”

Smart follows this logic:
God is wiser than I am.
God loves me and wants to bless me.
Therefore, doing what God says is good for me.

God’s greatest act was a response to humanity’s greatest need. Our greatest need is not for joy, or peace, or even love. Our greatest need is for the forgiveness which makes joy, peace and love possible. God provides what we need to obtain His forgiveness and receive freedom from our sins (through the death of Jesus Christ); He also directs us to forgive others so that we obtain freedom from the sins committed against us.

Forgiveness acts in cooperation with God toward His blessing.

Among the biggest objections to forgiveness are:
1) What about justice?
2) What about putting a stop to sin?
3) What about protecting the person being hurt by sin?

1) Forgiveness means allowing justice to be handled by the proper government, church, or perhaps family authority. Where no authority seems able or willing to enact justice, it must be left in the hands of God. As a former police officer, a former church board member, and a daughter, wife and mother, I can attest that human authorities all fail at perfect justice anyway. We should nonetheless seek their intervention as appropriate, remembering that final justice and vengeance lies solely in the hands of God, whose decision is perfect. To seek our own vengeance on any level is to accuse God of being inadequate.

2) Putting an end to sin requires repentance. An authority might compel outward repentance. We can ask for sincere and inward repentance. But the thorough heart repentance which puts an end to sin is possible only through God, with the cooperation of the offender.

3) Sin will always hurt someone. Sin and suffering are part of life on Planet Earth. When sin is overtly abusive, it is certainly appropriate to make attempts to protect those it injures. But instead of asking “when is it smart to leave?” the question is “what is the next step?” There is no way to anticipate all the next steps and their timing except by asking God. The person who is willing to act according to God’s plan will get answers from Him:

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”
~ Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NKJV)

Here are a few more reasons to forgive:

• sin is against God, and owned by him; to forgive is merely acknowledging His ownership and allowing Him to deal with sin
• forgiveness sets both parties free
• failing to forgive causes bitterness, which harms its holder
• we repeatedly sin against God, needing His forgiveness "over and over"
• forgiveness does not remove accountability
• forgiveness does not remove the need to rebuild trust and relationship
• forgiveness does not remove consequences

This is an extremely brief piece on the hardest thing we are asked to do. I did another, guest post earlier this week on forgiveness, titled “Divine Gift.” A number of questions about forgiveness were posed, and I provided additional answers in the comments there. I invite you to look at them if you’re interested in further thoughts. You’re also welcome to ask as many more questions as you’d like in the comments below.

© 2010 Anne Lang Bundy
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This post originally appeared at Bullets & Butterflies. To see additional comments, click here.

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