The Bad News About Forgiveness, Or Easter Chocolate Part Two

I’ve totally broken vacation mode in favor of reflecting on Easter. This will be a 5 post week, but worry not I won’t suffocate you with this many posts next week.

Because of our understanding of salvation we have a certain process instated for matters of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is the most scandalous part of Jesus’ message. God doesn’t want me to pay for my sins? FANTASTIC! But wait, God isn’t going to make that guy pay for his? But…. he….. not after what he did….

It’s easy to forgive a friend who said something rude to you – but God actually wants us to love AND pray for our enemies, and he actually wants us to forgive those who wrong us – even if that means deeply wronged us. As in manipulated us. As in scarred us.

Jesus famously says as he’s been crucified “forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus is forgiving them as they are committing the wrong. There is no waiting period so the wrong doer can come around and asks for forgiveness from the victim – the forgiveness is granted immediately, without request.

We think we can forgive someone who’s wronged us if they’ve asked for it – but Jesus doesn’t wait for them to want it – he starts the process right then.

It’s not a tactic or ploy – I don’t believe Jesus said it as a way to stop the madness. They still end up killing him. So there is no ulterior motive – he’s simply forgiving them.

I can’t get over how huge this is – that Jesus started the process of forgiveness first. And isn’t this what Christians believe? That Jesus first died on the cross so that we could be forgiven when we repent? So why do we hold so many grudges? Why do we freak out so much? Sorry to violate my own rule here, but our process of forgiveness should have already begun.

I think our understanding of salvation has messed with our understanding here, at the risk of sounding controversial. We are forgiven when we repent, yet we are taught to simply forgive. To make peace, even if it’s in our own heart. But, as I said, this is what it’s all about.

It’s great if someone forgives who’s wronged them. They don’t have to do that, so it’s a beautiful thing when that that forgiveness is offered. But forgiving even as the wrong is happening – that’s holy.

Part one of my Easter series.

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13 Responses to The Bad News About Forgiveness, Or Easter Chocolate Part Two

  1. We definitely like the idea of how crap being forgiven but somebody else’s minor flaws being punished, perferrably in some temporal way so that I can see him get what he deserves.

  2. David says:

    True forgiveness is by the Spirit. Man is not capable of it on his own. That is why we need Jesus. This is a spiritual battle, not and emotional game.

    I was talking with a friend, and he said that he didn’t think that he knew any Christians that could forgive a pedophile. My response was, either the work on the cross was not complete, or they don’t get it.

    People like to make levels for sin, and come up with elaborate ways to disqualify certain people from salvation; or worse, include ourselves for being “good” in some way. It is all just wishful thinking. Jesus died for all sin, and for those that have faith in Him, it is forgiven. Period.

    Religion is always trying to add something to the Gospel of faith and grace that says we can conjure up something to make ourselves feel morally superior.

  3. I used to ask whether God, in asking us to forgive unconditionally without being asked for forgiveness, was asking us to do something that He Himself will not do. After all, to receive salvation, we need to sincerely repent and ask for His forgiveness. What I wasn’t getting was that our repentance is simply the reciprocal act in restoring a broken relationship. The forgiveness is already out there….all we have to do is accept it. And that is exactly what He is asking us to do: Forgive in hope that the relationship can be restored. Do all you can. The rest is up to the forgivee.
    One of my greatest problems with this was forgiving someone I don’t even know personally. As a dog/animal lover, I don’t even want to hear the name Michael Vick. I will leave the room if people start discussing him. There is no way I would ever attend an Eagles game. I have acknowledged to God that I am sinning in this. I ask him to help me forgive, and on some level I think that I am. But forgiving, even though instantaneous on God’s part, often has to be a process on our part…a process that happens again and again and again. It also doesn’t necessarily mean trusting the person you’ve forgiven, if that would be a stupid thing to do. So I’m trying to learn to stay with the process, consciously forgive even when my emotions are repulsed, and learn the difference between forgiveness and trust.
    The other thing about forgiveness is that when I am tempted to withhold it I am reminded of all that I have been forgiven of. God doesn’t want us to hold our own sins against ourselves, but He can use them to humble us and remind us that, even if we don’t always think about it, we need forgiveness as much as ANYBODY else. The greatest sin in His view may be that we don’t think so. Before I knew myself as well as He has made it possible for me to know me, I understood that I was not good enough to get into heaven on my own merit. But I always thought I was good enough to be a Christian. I’m not.

    • Carla says:

      I’m so glad you pointed out that Christ’s forgiveness is always out there for us. Asking for it just an act of obedience and accepting the forgiveness completes the process of healing (sins hurt us and God don’t they?)

      I agree that sometimes it is easier to forgive someone we really know and judge and hate those that do wrong and get media attention. It’s a hard concept to forgive someone when they haven’t wronged you, but you’re mad at them for what they did. I think we all do it, but we just never admit it a loud and certainly not to God as you have. Its a very interesting point you have and displays the lack of purity in many of our own hearts. You definitly you use comment as a blog post! It got me thinking!

      • maybe forgiveness isn’t the term or what’s needed for Michael Vick (or whoever) – but even though they haven’t wronged us we should still strive to be free from bitterness and judgment in our heart.

  4. I just copied my own comment and I think I’m going to use it as a blog post, with credit to you as the inspiree. I always wind up having a time of quiet meditation when I read your blog.

  5. Larry Hughes says:


    As it is said, we are encouraged to forgive those that transgress against us be it what ever. For if hate is in our hearts, we have sinned. Hate is the evil poison that destroys us and turns us away from God.

    As it was once said, God will pass judgement on those that have done wrong with out repentance. It is for us to love others so that our hearts will remain pure and free of the sin of hate.

    Can we do that as mere mortals trusting in God to pass judgemet? That is the quagmire of our delima and following God’s will.

  6. Carla says:

    I completely agree with David that we can’t forgive without Jesus and the indwelling of His Spirit. Its almost a supernatural event and it requires our utmost surrender. Many times we want to forgive, we long to forgive, we know we are supposed to forgive but I don’t think we truly forgive. If we give all our hurt and pain to Christ, truly give it over and completely surrender it to Him without holding on to any of it, then whatever wrongs have been done to us won’t shape or define us. Many people in and out of Christendom believe that they are defined by the struggles and pain of their past. But we are a new creation in Christ, our old selves are crucified and we are washed clean by His blood. Many people want to cling to the label “survivor” but what they are really doing is clinging to their pain and hate and keeping themselves in bondage. Identifying so strongly with being a survivor and living everyday in the memory of the pain inflicted on ourselves breeds contempt and hate and keeps us away from God. We should see ourselves as blood bought children of the Living God, as being Free in the name of Jesus. In doing this, in truly forgiving and setting ourselves free we also set the perpetrator of our pain free too.

    There are a lot of interesting ideas about forgiveness floating around out there but the truth of it is we humans don’t have the power for real forgiveness and must rely on the Holy Spirit. Forgiveness is another mysterious part of faith, but most don’t see the mystery in it because it has been defined my human constructs for so long. So just as we gain Christ’s forgiveness through faith, just as we gained salvation through faith, we also must forgive through faith.

    Oh, have you heard about that new movie called “Loving the Bad Man”? Its about a girl who was brutally raped and not only forgives the man, but visits him in prison. Looks interesting!

    • Wow. That is serious forgiveness. That’s not something you do as a stunt or to make a point – the only way someone can do that is love.

      And you are dead on that we don’t have the power for real forgiveness in us – to me the whole idea of forgiveness is just so super-natural as it’s very un-natural and goes against, well, everything in our being.

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