Conditional Forgiveness

01 May

Sunrise CrossI’ve just been watching a documentary about a tragedy filled with deception. One of the commentators, a Clinical Psychologist, discussed recovery by one of the victims and said…

“Ultimately, it may be that what needs to happen for there to be a rapprochement between Jessi and her mom is that there will have to be some forgiveness. But there’s a problem with me saying that. I submit to Jessi, if I was speaking to Jessi right now, I would say, ‘Jessi, there’s a rule of forgiveness. Never forgive those who are not repentant.’ You see, until her mother can come to terms with and take responsibility for the magnitude of her evil, she is not repentant. And if she is not repentant, she is not forgivable.”  [Rex Beaber, Clinical Psychologist, Talhotblonde, MM 1:05:56].

By the way, I am NOT recommending the movie to you, available on Netflix. I watch such things because of my work. But they are often quite dark.

But I was arrested by Dr. Beaber’s comment. I was pleased that he is a clinical psychologist, not a minister. But to be honest, I’ve often heard the same statement uttered by ministers or other Christian or church leaders. Every time I hear it, it wounds my heart, but it is seldom my place or role in that context to point out what Jesus taught about this.

I just needed to respond to that urge here, briefly, this morning.

Dr. Beaber recommends “conditional forgiveness”. In fact, he states there is a Rule of it (though he does not cite any source or authority for that rule).

Jesus, on the other hand, taught this about forgiveness…

“‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…’ For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive [i]others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” [Matthew 6:12, 14]

No mention here of repentance by the person who offends you… In fact, as to offense, let’s look at 1 Corinthians 13 for a moment…

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” [Verses 4-7]

For many years I lived under the delusion that someone had to be “repentant” for me to have the duty to “forgive” them. Where did I get this idea? I have no excuses. What pride! Who am I, how am I to know if someone’s heart is repentant or not? That is the domain of God alone, well above my pay grade. All I can ever know is what they say to me or do to me, and God looks at the heart… well above my pay grade, thanks.

Jesus teaches a straightforward truth… God forgives me, therefore I am to forgive others. It’s a “command”, a “requirement”, not a “deal” or a “suggestion”.

Jesus gives a command…A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” [John 13:34-35]

There’s no evidence that Jesus ever “held grudges” or allowed unforgiveness in His presence. He often told people their sins were forgiven them, but very seldom did people ask for that forgiveness or exhibit repentance.

Last, but beyond all else…

Jesus sets the example He expects us to follow…When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying,Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.” [Luke 23:33-34]

Repentance? Hardly! Not only does HE forgive, but He prays that the FATHER forgive… people who are cursing, vilifying, mocking, and spitting at Him.

Even more amazing? If we can imagine such a thing… either the Father HONORS that prayer, and FORGIVES… who?… well, All of us, right? All of us whose sins piled into Jesus that afternoon. All of us who crucified Him in our fallenness? Anyway, either the Father Honors Jesus’ prayer… or else the Father refused Jesus.

I know which I believe to be true. I know Jesus forgives before repentance. I know in my own life, it is often experiencing forgiveness I don’t deserve, that opens the way for repentance I would not permit.

Not sure where Dr. Beaber found his “Rule”, but I know where mine come from… and Jesus simply requires me to Forgive… and leave judgment of repentance to Him and the Father and Spirit.

Grace to thee, Gentle Reader. — The Little Monk


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

6 responses to “Conditional Forgiveness

  1. Don Merritt

    May 1, 2014 at 6:12 AM

    What a great post!


    • Little Monk

      May 1, 2014 at 6:16 AM

      Thank you, Don. I always kind of hold my breath when I put this sort of thing out here, because I know just how “counter culture” this is, to our mainstream conservative brethren. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve just bit my lip as someone preached on merrily about… We can forgive “if”… or “when”… and then ties some lovely, holy-sounding condition to it. As I say… I BELIEVED it for a long time, until Jesus finally broke through my pride, and showed me the screamingly obvious of what He taught, over and over again.

      So many ways, so many places, we find ourselves trying to do His job for Him, rather than focusing on the much simpler (but hard) job that He gave us.

      Grace — LM


      • Don Merritt

        May 1, 2014 at 6:22 AM

        I understand, went through it too. Funny, unforgiveness only punishes the one who has to carry it around with them; it never punishes the unforgiven! What a big lesson that was for me!


        • Little Monk

          May 1, 2014 at 6:24 AM

          So true… A friend of mine (who admits this is not original with him), says…

          “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison, expecting the other guy to get sick”.


  2. insideheathershead

    May 1, 2014 at 10:42 AM

    LM, you have graced me with such a magnificent post. I understand that feeling of “I’m doing you a favor by forgiving you” but we are really doing ourselves a favor. Unforgiveness, as your friend said, is a poison. We carry around such toxic waste and act as if our “righteousness” doesn’t have its root in pride.

    You have many word-jewels here, but I will ponder the following for awhile: ” it is often experiencing forgiveness I don’t deserve, that opens the way for repentance I would not permit”. Simply. Utterly. Beautiful.

    Thank you, LM. Thank you.


    • Little Monk

      May 1, 2014 at 11:17 AM

      You’re so welcome, Heather. But (as usual) I deserve no thanks. It’s just one of those “grace things” that really so amazes me about how Jesus REALLY works (rather than the “suit we like to stuff Him into to look more like us”)… that He does this all the time. He simply forgives, loves, and hugs. Even when I am all bound up in a defensive/offensive “snit” ready to fight anyone who wants to take me on! Do you realize how DISARMING that is? How utterly defeating? HOW do you “get defensive and hostile” against THAT?

      Once He’d done this for/to/at me one or two or three (dozen) times, I started to get the point. Defensive shields do no good with forgiveness and restoration of relationship. I mean, we so easily forget the POINT of “forgiveness” anyway. It is NOT meant to “restore justice”, or be a “punishment”. Forgiveness is restoration of relationship, and what does it matter who makes the first move towards that? Whether the first move is made by the offender, through repentance and apology… or through the offended, through forgiveness, is entirely irrelevant.

      It’s all love. It’s all relationship. It’s all Him!

      Grace — LM



I love comments, Gentle Reader!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: