Get down to the Heart of the Matter

10 Dec

Recently I received a message from a friend where a supposed mutual friend wanted a message delivered to me that my forgiveness is inadequate. The truth is that all of us are insufficient in the quality of our pardoning, so I do take the roundabout rebuke for what it’s worth. Yet, I think there is so much more to it than that. Forgiveness is a word used so broadly that I think it deserves a plunge into great scrutiny.

The first aspect of forgiveness is that you release your hold of irritation over someone for having wronged you. I think this is the base meaning of forgiveness. This is easy to comprehend but exceedingly difficult to practice. As humans, we feel the need to hold on to things (some reasons are contained hereafter). We want to react in a way that is intelligent, and we often think that necessitates our lack of forgiveness. I am so thankful that God, in His forgiveness, does not hold anything back. I want to do better at that, and I am taking the reprimand, which I received third hand, as an exhortation for me to be more Christ-like in my forgiveness. I am frequently reminded by my friend, Michael Phillips, that my forgiveness doesn’t even necessarily require an apology (and that often may not come).

This is, however, where my understanding of forgiveness may veer sharply from the opinion of others. You see, to completely forget the act that necessitated the forgiveness is to smack in the face of Wisdom. Today happens to be my father’s birthday (his Sixtieth!). My father is an incredible father, and one thing I learned from him is that the forgiveness was unconditional, but the consequences of that act remained. For example, he verified my statements through other means shortly after I had clearly lied to him. Moreover, I am not alone in my penalty-laden sins.

I had another friend (I’m pulling out new friends to keep you on your toes and impress you) once, named Jason. Jason had been involved in a long-term series of actions that caused great pain to some around us. Then one Sunday, Jason realized the error of his way, confessed, and promised himself and everyone within earshot that his life had changed. The reality was it had changed. Yet when he returned to his workaday world on Monday, he was shocked to see that everyone (including those to whom he apologized and had granted him forgiveness) treated him pretty much the same. You see, their wisdom precluded them from making immediate changes. This took time.

And while wisdom should clothe our forgiveness, wisdom is not limited to the reality that it takes time for what we are becoming to actually be who we are and then for that reputation to be known. There is also an aspect of a permanent sentence for our offenses. When you are Jerry Sandusky, no amount of restoration should put you in charge of a children’s charity. The reality is that when you sin, you may apologize, you may be granted forgiveness, and enough time may have passed for most to believe your restoration complete, yet you may not be able to continue in what you are doing.

This is the crux of the difference between my definition of forgiveness and that of my supposed friend. I diverge in that I can forgive—I can even believe that it may not happen again. Nevertheless, I refuse to allow someone who has a history of battering children to work with children in a full time capacity for a living. Particularly where the apology was not given to everyone. There just needs to be more discernment used. There are many other ways to make a living available, and I do not believe that someone who has been abusive should be quickly given access to people where the same type of abuse can happen. And to me that does not diminish my forgiveness.

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5 Responses to “Get down to the Heart of the Matter”

  1. Anonymous December 11, 2011 at 4:34 am #

    I completely agree. To "forgive and forget" is unbiblical. To forgive is commanded as it reflects our understanding of the cross. To forget is only possible once reconciliation has occurred. 70X7 does not mean to be a repeatedly vulnerable fool, it simply means to release a person from their debt owed to you based upon their wrong done to you. Forgive and be reconciled, if possible, then forget.

  2. PP December 11, 2011 at 4:34 am #

    Interesting. The ability to forgive, truly forgive, and erase any and all lingering feelings is a human trait that unfortunately eludes most of us, myself included.

  3. Davis December 14, 2011 at 7:58 am #

    For what it’s worth, my inclination is to agree with you 100% regarding forgiveness and that wisdom should not be excluded or forgotten after we forgive somebody. I think your example about Sandusky is a great example – he should definitely be forgiven, but he obviously has a weakness that his friends need to help him monitor, including keeping him away from those weaknesses if possible.On the other hand, when I am timid to forgive someone, I often get reminded of all I have been forgiven for and not just once per wrongdoing, but sometimes several times. When this comes to mind, I can’t help but think of the grief I have been spared by being forgiven and also reminded in Matthew that our forgiveness should not be limited to a number that we think is acceptable. After I think about all I have been forgiven for, I will sometimes feel guilty for remembering things I should have “forgotten” in the past. In the end, I think we are incapable of providing the same level of forgiveness that has been granted to us, thus encouraging us to be easy to forgive others. In other words, if we’re going to error, error on the side of forgiveness (easier said than done, I know).

  4. Jenni January 18, 2012 at 5:38 am #

    Nice title.

  5. Jenni February 27, 2012 at 6:47 pm #

    I think forgiveness is one of the most mysterious and powerful concepts in our world, which to me makes it so appropriate for God to base reconciliation with Him around it. I think that "easy" forgiveness cheapens the concept, but going the hard route and feeling the pain deeply enough to offer truly powerful forgiveness makes truly powerful forgiveness elusive… a gift to my heart for me and my offender that only God can give.And did I mention I like your title?

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