4 Things Forgiveness Is NOT (part I)

No one says when they were a child, I want to grow up to be a bitter, jaded, angry person, who spends his days hoping for revenge…but the reality is life is tough. We’re in a broken, sinful world, where we go through trials, tribulations, and difficult circumstances. Unfortunately, there are times when people hurt us. But thankfully, we have a God who has saved us from this world, and while we hurt Him… nailed Him to the cross even… He if faithful and just to forgive. And as I stand in the freedom and light found only His forgiveness, I can find it in my heart to forgive those who hurt me. In this three week blog series, I want to talk about the challenges we face when trying to forgive someone who has hurt us. Conflict is inevitable. Growth is optional. I believe if we learn these principles, discuss them with our kids, and apply them on a regular basis, we will be better in our relationships.

Forgive – to cancel a debt

We can forgive others because Christ first forgave us. He cancels our debt because our sins were paid on the cross. Canceling a debt does not mean the debt does not exist, but rather, you don’t expect the other person to pay it any longer. In week three of this blog series, I will talk more about a biblical definition and description of what it means to forgive. I will also offer four steps to forgiving someone. Now, in these first two weeks, however, I wanted to clarify what forgiveness is NOT. You see, one of my hangups over the years in forgiving people is my faulty understanding of forgiveness. I felt that if I forgave someone, I was saying what that person did was okay. That is simply not the case. Forgiveness is the first step to trust and reconciliation, but forgiveness is not the only step to reconciliation. They are not exclusively the same thing. If you want to truly forgive someone, then avoid that these four ideas. If you want to F.A.I.L. at forgiving someone, then try doing these four things.

1. Forgiveness is NOT Forgetting what happened.

You might have heard the saying “forgive and forget,” but while that saying may be commonplace, it’s not practical. In understanding Scripture, we have to match premise with reality. We have to match principle with practice. For example, Isaiah 43:25 does say that God “remembers our sins no more,” but God is also omnipotent and omniscient, meaning He’s all-powerful and all-knowing. If God forgets something, then He is not God. What does this verse mean then? God does not “forget” our sins, but rather, He does not act toward us in light of our past sins once they are forgiven. Face it… the reality is that you will not forget anytime soon if someone hurts you deeply. It’s okay. Acknowledge what the person did. Recognize how it hurt you. The key is to treat a person in light of God’s grace for them, and not light of your pain from them. Forgiveness is more about obedience we follow than an emotion we feel.

2. Forgiveness is NOT Absent of consequences.

Colin Powell once said, “You can’t make someone else’s choices. You shouldn’t let someone else make yours.” Choices have consequences, and even though you might forgive someone, that does not mean that consequences will not soon follow. When parenting children, you might forgive their actions, but disobedience still requires consequences. Consequences are a part of training up children and maturing them into fully functioning productive adults. Consequences are also found in the Bible. While God has forgiven many sins throughout the Bible, many “godly” characters still faced severe consequences because of their sin. Moses couldn’t enter the Promise Land because of sin. David’s kingdom was diminished, people lost their lives, and he lost ministry because of his sinful relationship with Bathsheba. Solomon, who was considered to be the wisest person to ever live, lost his kingdom and his house became divided because of repeated sexual sin. Consequences happen. Spiritual forgiveness, does not negate earthly consequences. Present day consequences can look like broken homes, broken relationships, custody battles, and filling for bankruptcy (to name a few examples). But know that in the midst of all these consequences, God still works, and forgiveness is still possible. God still shows His grace and mercy. How do I know that sin always has consequences?  I know because the greatest consequence of all history happened when Christ died on a cross as payment for OUR sins. God takes sin seriously, and we should, too.

What do you think? How is it helpful to know that forgiveness is not the same thing as forgetting? How is it helpful to know that forgiveness does not negate consequences? How will you discuss these truths with your kids? I’m always open for more discussion on the topic, and I would love to hear your feedback. Stay tuned to next week’s post as we share two more things forgiveness is NOT.

God bless,

Jon Kragel
High School Pastor
North Ridge Community Church

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