Is Forgiveness Always Appropriate?

This is a regular theme in my counsel with people, and this post is prompted by a post by JT at Between Two Worlds entitied Is Forgiveness Always Right and Required?

My perspective about this has been influenced by Romans 12:14-21:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. 20 “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

The key is making the connection between verse 18 and 19. In order to understand it the way I think it should be understood, you should supply the words “if it is not possible” in between the verses so that it reads as follows:

If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. If it is not possible, Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God.

The implication of this passage is that there is a possibility that peace with some will not be possible. That there will be some instances where peace is unattainable and forgiveness neither offered or received. In those instances, when hurt, frustration and anger are the only residue left – don’t fall into the fleshly desire for vengeance. Don’t take justice into your own hands but be people of God who trust Him to judge, vindicate, convict, punish or whatever He deems appropriate. All the while, be ready to forgive, because God may convict the person and desire a future forgiveness and restoration.

If people “forgive” in these instances, and what I mean by forgive is a false and empty gesture which only keeps people in the pain and grip of sin, they generally do not ready themselves for peace. Rather, what is accomplished is not reconciliation, restoration but an attempt to “erase” the event and the person who is the object of pain. It doesn’t work, nor is it satisfying, none the less this methodology is perpetrated by the mythology of “we have to forgive everyone.”

I just had someone in my office speaking of the horrible things that were done to a family member by another family member which has been kept quiet and hidden for years under the horrible umbrella of “we need to forgive.” Too often justice is undermined by the cheap forgiveness that is practiced, which in fact is no forgiveness at all.

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