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Conditional Forgiveness

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

 

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Does God Think Upside Down?

Ever had those days where God is teaching you something… or rather… He HAS TAUGHT you something… and you get it (you think)… but He just keeps teaching it to you over and over again as if you had never heard Him in the first place?

This happened to me once before, years and years ago, when I was listening to some teaching on an audiotape about forgiveness… and the speaker said this phrase, this critically important phrase… and I GOT IT… I thought. But God just kept saying, “Nope, you missed it. Rewind. Play it again.” And He just kept on keeping me at this for 30 minutes, until finally it was like a dam burst in my soul and suddenly I really got it, all the way through me, and my life was never the same. I’ve spent the rest of my life trying to share this phrase with the rest of the world. The phrase, by the way, was…

“The power of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, the strength of His blood and forgiveness, was so complete and so perfect that it forgave all sin for all time, past, present, and future… and removed it from us, as far as the east is from the west… such that there is no further room in the life of the Believer for any ongoing sense of sin, guilt, or shame.”

And while my “head” and my “mouth” could have said this for years, I’d always secretly lived in the little “Perry Mason Heresy”… thinking that while I would, indeed, get to heaven because I belong(ed) to Him… I was still going to have to go through some ridiculous and shameful “courtroom scene” when I died, trying to justify or explain all the stupid things I’d ever done in this life. Somehow I had managed for years, even in ministry, to miss the significance and implications of “take away sins”, or “washed whiter than snow”, or “putting on the righteousness of Christ”.

I was free! Totally and utterly free! Free to respond fully and wholly to the magnitude of such love! O my… changed me forever.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Well, that was a long time ago… and yet, here I am again, hearing the truth, knowing the truth, believing the truth, and yet hearing God say to me… “Nope, you missed it. Hear it again!”

Perhaps ye can help me, Gentle Readers, for I truly think I’ve “got this”. And yet… I am convicted that I’m missing its true significance.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

What am I missing, you ask? Glad you asked.
* hears echoes of ‘what then do I yet lack?’ *

It’s this truth…

God… forgives… FIRST!

I mean, it’s simple and obvious, isn’t it?

“God so loved the world that He gave…” (Jn 3:26)

or “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8 NASB)

Tol’ja it was simple, didn’t I? And yet… and yet… I’m not getting it, not fully, not yet.

I almost know where my problem is. It’s this little niggling hiccup… like a tickle in the throat. It’s this temptation to say, “Yes, but…” in recognition of our traditional thinking that says, “in order to be forgiven, we have to be sorry, we have to say so, we have to feel guilty, and we have to resolve never to do it again!” I mean, if we don’t do all those things, if we don’t beg God on our knees for His gracious forgiveness, trembling in fear… then it can’t really be God, can it?

I mean really, be honest, aren’t you cut from the same cloth? Isn’t there this little knee-jerk conditioned part of you that says, “Well, grace is all well and good, but after all… not even GOD can be THAT Good! I mean, we’ve at least got to feel bad and be sorry… even if we don’t need to totally BEG!”

I mean, really… we must have to do SOMETHING… haven’t we? I mean, we can’t be supposed to really just depend on GOD… HIMSELF… ALONE… to deal with our forgiveness and redemption, are we? He must need us for SOMETHING, doesn’t He?

Here’s the essence of my niggle and conscience.

I get it… I do… really… Grace. God Alone. God did it. God does it. His sovereignty. His authority.

And yet… and yet…

God says, “Nope, you’ve missed it. Go back over that again!”

And so I do.

And it is just so amazing, I guess I struggle to let my head wrap around it.

We get it so backwards. Like that WE have to start all this. WE have to conceive of a grace and love so big it encompasses the possibility of forgiveness and redemption. WE have to suggest it to God. WE have to persuade Him to this path. Like its all OUR idea rather than His.

Really? REALLY??

How can I even START to think this way!?

But even now, God says…

“Behold…”

And this singular image comes to my eyes. Jesus saying, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing…”

And I ask myself, “How many of THEM are sorry or seeking that forgiveness? So… Who does that forgiveness depend on, them? Or Him and HIs will alone?”

So… which came first… Contrition, or Forgiveness?

Is it possible, is it just possible, that perhaps it is God’s forgiveness, the grace that flows from and through that, that makes it possible for us to experience repentance and contrition?

Am I the only one who tends to think backwards?

So a work in progress, Gentle Reader. Keep me in your prayers!

Grace to you!

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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