Who Does God Refuse to Forgive?

When I was a child I witnessed a perplexing sight. The pastor had preached his sermon (on sin, no doubt) and gave the altar call. For those who don’t know, an altar call is given at the end of sermons and ‘sinners’ are urged to come forward to pray and be ‘saved’.

A woman went forward, knelt at the altar (a backless bench in front of the church devoted to this purpose), and began to pray fervently. Others joined her and prayed just as fervently for her. This was all routine; I had seen it many times and even had gone to the altar, myself, to be saved. But after praying for a while the woman said, ‘I don’t feel satisfied!’

I was puzzled. She was at the altar begging God to save her; who was she to expect God to satisfy her when it was God who needed to be satisfied with her travail? Later I realized that she meant she was not satisfied God had ‘saved’ her.

I’m Tired of Sin and I Want to be Saved”

There is a long tradition that believes God is reluctant to forgive certain people—that in fact he refuses some people no matter how deeply they desire him. This is well illustrated in a plaintive song current during my childhood. It was first released by the Louvin Brothers in 1955 and was included on several later albums.

 

This song is filled with bad ideas, but it did not occur to me that it was odd in any way. My church was part of a tradition in which it was widespread for people to seek God in church service after church service, and revival after revival, and leave each time fearing that God would never ‘save’ them.

This is horrible! God is not like that. Why would anyone think this way?

Among some believers there is a fear that they have missed their last chance to be accepted by God (My Spirit shall not always strive with man – Genesis 6:3 KJV. Way out of context!). Often this is part of a view that we can only come to God when he is wooing us and if we resist too many times he might never draw us again. Therefore we can never be forgiven because we have wasted our last chance.

Besides this, and the old tradition and expectation we’ve already discussed, the unforgivable sin might play a part in their thinking.

unpardonable sin

What is the Unforgivable Sin?

In some conservative circles, a lot of concern and speculation revolves around the Unforgivable Sin. Mark 3 contains the passage below, and Matthew 12 and Luke 12 reference the same incident—both probably borrowing from Mark:

People can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin. He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.”

There is little explanation here of what this means. Some scribes had accused Jesus of casting out demons by Satan, but how is this offense the one unforgivable one? With so little clarification, there is all kind of speculation about the unforgivable sin.

Hebrews 6 mentions this:

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance.

This leads some to speculate that the unforgivable sin is apostasy, but in my opinion the contextual meaning of the writer is lost to us. It might mean that a mature believer who abandons their belief is unlikely to embrace it again, but I cannot see this to mean that they are beyond God’s forgiveness were they to recognize their error.

Another suggested unforgivable sin is suicide, the idea being that suicide is murder and once you are dead you cannot repent of that sin. This represents a very legalistic view of sin; in fact many think that dying during the commission of any sin is unforgivable. A famous tent evangelist was once found drunk and dead. In our circles we knew for sure that he was already in hell for his drinking because he was drunk when he died.

However, there is a more loving understanding of God’s forgiveness.

Why Do We Beg for Forgiveness when God Desires our Reconciliation?

Jesus never made anyone beg for acceptance into the kingdom of God. Instead, hear what he says in Mark 1:

Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

Jesus urged people to change their minds and direction (repent) and believe the good news of the kingdom. It is an invitation; it did not require convincing Jesus to accept them into the kingdom; they didn’t have to agonize in prayer to be accepted.

In Matthew 11, Jesus says it another way:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Jesus doesn’t refuse those who want to follow him; he invites us to come to him to remove our burdens and to learn of him. He does not push us away. There ARE commitments in becoming part of the kingdom, but this growth comes later (Jesus said take my yoke and learn of me). Is it then appropriate to ask permission to come to him? He already gives permission in the invitation.

The Father already offers forgiveness. We don’t have to beg for it; we just accept it and align with God and his kingdom. The desire for God and the kingdom is itself proof that a person has not committed some unpardonable sin. We are assured of God’s acceptance because he loves us and desires our healing and reconciliation. We never have to beg or doubt our acceptance.

God never refuses to forgive anyone.

Articles in this series: Sin and Forgiveness

The Story of Sin and Salvation—Common Baggage Version (CBV)
What is Sin but Pain and Alienation?
Addressing Sin in the Old Testament
The Prophets Begin to Talk about Sin in a New Way
What Does Jesus Say about Sin? Not Much!
The Misguided Concept of ‘Loving the Sinner and Hating the Sin’
What does Jesus’ Death on the Cross Do for Us?
How Substitutionary Atonement Fails

Why Did Jesus Die on the Cross?
Does Jesus Tell Us to Judge People in Matthew 18?
Are Sins Primarily Sins against God?
“If There’s No Hell then I Will Sin All I Want!”
Problems with the Sinner’s Prayer
What does the Story of Eden Tell Us? Is it about Sin?
We Do Not Inherit Original Sin from Adam
Original Sin or Original Self-Centeredness?
Who Does God Refuse to Forgive?

See also:

What Does Jesus Think of Sinners Today?

*****

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82 Responses to Who Does God Refuse to Forgive?

  1. I believe if our hearts are sincere we’re welcomed. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. cborgstadt says:

    Repentance– a change of mind and direction– is recognizing that what you’ve been doing isn’t working to build relationships. It is Jesus’ invitation to try something else, hopefully something healthier. It carries the implication that we will always be repenting and trying something else. (The creation story shows us God “tinkers” with creation, each day making it a little better.) 2 Corinthians 3:18 tells us we are being changed from one degree of glory to the next to reflect the image of Christ. Repentance is not feeling sorry for our failures as much as it is recognizing that God invites us to try a new approach and be moved closer to reflecting Christ.

    Liked by 2 people

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Cborg, I like that! I had never considered it before but making a decision to change direction and accept Jesus’ invitation to follow him leads to other changes of direction. This is called growth. As we learn more about Jesus and the kingdom we make other decisions, and you are right–we will always be repenting (changing our mind and direction) as we mature as followers of Jesus.

      Thank you for this!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. mark says:

    I believe the problem is that many or most people can’t forgive and get over themselves. FATHER forgives us…but we have unforgiving hearts that can and will cause destruction in many ways.
    Jesus told us to forgive that we might be forgiven.
    How many are haunted by their past deeds? I know I have been at times…and it’s caused me a slew of problems.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mark says:

      We also need to remember that repentance doesn’t mean crying and slobbering snot on the altar….repentance means “changing direction” or “changing one’s mind and attitude about something.

      Liked by 3 people

      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        Oh boy, Mark. I love this! Your very visual description is exactly the way some folks understand repentance.

        Like

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Mark, I think you are right on target. When we are forgiven we are free of the burden of guilt for what we have done; we should not continue to carry that guilt. This does not mean we have no remorse for our behavior. The consequences of our behavior do not go away. If we hurt someone, they are still wounded. If we killed someone, they are still dead.

      We should continue to regret what we have done, but we should NOT continue to carry the guilt. We must forgive ourselves.

      Like

      • mark says:

        Yes…and thats the key…we must forgive.. If GOD forgives us why can’t we? Why do we suppose or even impose to be one-up on GOD and hold the grudge that FATHER has already forgiven and forgot? Are we more righteous than GOD?
        There have always been those church goers that just can’t get saved enough times for it to stick..so it would seem. Their petty BS always seems to out trump GODS GRACE. Each Sunday morning they prostrate at the altar and wail and blabber on about their sin’s .
        Some have told me they hardly could wait to get to service to hit the altar to confess.. in front of the entire assembly.. I would ask….what happens if you die before you got here? (playing devil’s mind you)
        I have been as guilty as any on that…in the old days!…certainly I have spoken here on my past and the psychotic behavior of fundamentalism and how it affected me. In a warped mind there is NO forgiveness…Praise be to our LORD and Savior ….Jesus Christ who forgives us of ALL… if we would just ask!

        Peace Brother.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          I’m right there with you on this, Mark! This spiritual behavior is very dysfunctional; if a person wants to experience God in a mature way they should stop doing this one thing over and over. They should grow and experience God in an even more rewarding and effective way.

          Like

          • tonycutty says:

            I’m also coming to the opinion that God isn’t all that bothered about sin, except in that it harms us and others. He’s not repulsed by it, he’s certainly not allergic to it as many modern writers suggest. He came ‘down’ and lived with us ‘sinners’, for goodneess’ sake; He got right in there and if He’d really been as repulsed as we often think, He’d not have been ‘able’ to do that. I’ve ben reading a really good book by Jeff Turner called ‘Saints in the Arms of a Happy God’; I have written more on it here: http://www.flyinginthespirit.cuttys.net/2016/04/27/saints-in-the-arms-of-a-happy-god/ and there’s also a link in that piece to a ‘proper’ review by a learned friend of mine. That book aligns very closely with what you have on your blog, Tim.

            Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Tony, you make some really good points. Thanks for sharing the book; I looked it up on Amazon and it seems very interesting.

            Liked by 1 person

      • tonycutty says:

        Tim, I know you like this post so I will take the liberty of sharing it here; it might give Mark additional perspective. Mark, enjoy 🙂
        http://www.flyinginthespirit.cuttys.net/2016/02/24/dealing-with-guilt-shame-and-remorse/

        Liked by 1 person

  4. consultgtf says:

    God is not a Egoist, You build your own grave!

    What will He gain or lose for your enjoyment? I go to a pros… to satisfy my senses, knowing very well that I may be carry HIV virus from her/he but the urge is stronger than my conscience.

    Result?

    I get attacked by any disease! and start blaming God? Whom are you trying to FOOL?

    Like

  5. Chas says:

    Tim, there seem to be two things here. One is that it seems quite common for people to continue to feel guilty when they ought not to do; the question is: Why? The second is that there appear to be several (independent) descriptions in the NT of people in a certain state of mind, or something else that the writers were trying to understand. The gospel account is the one you have given, but it also says (having combined the three synoptic accounts): ‘the final state of that person is worse than the first’. I had been unaware of the one from Hebrews that you have quoted. Also 1 Peter or 2 Peter also describes a person who had accepted Jesus and then turned back. My recollection is that this described a worsening of condition. If these three different people were able to see some effect that they attributed to this ‘turning back’ are they describing the opposite of repentance and is it possible to see this happening now? (I personally have no experience of having seen it.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chas says:

      Just to bring the passage to which I referred (2 Peter 2:20-22) ‘If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        On the other hand, I think I can see the validity in the comment in 2 Peter. I think a person who knew and followed Jesus, and then went back, WOULD be worse off than at first. But I don’t see a suggestion that such a person could not change their direction and follow Jesus once more and be accepted.

        Like

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Chas, that is a good question: What did they have in mind? What did they see in people to cause them to write these things?

      I can tell you that I am not sure at all what they meant; there is not enough detail or information to know. But I feel strongly that it does not mean that a person who wishes to follow Jesus will be denied or that they will not be forgiven; this runs counter to everything Jesus taught and practiced.

      Like

      • Chas says:

        Tim, I think that your point in reply to 2 Peter is probably right . It is the imprecision of the timing of ‘at first’, or ‘before’. There is a tendency to read it as the state they had been in before they believed in Jesus as the Son of God, rather than after. It may well be that the writers were using, as an example, people whom they knew had believed and knew that they had turned back, and they could see that they were in a worse state than they once were, as a believer. We should not infer that they were worse than before they believed.

        Nevertheless, the writers seemed to think that people who turned back would not be able to repent and turn toward God again. My problem is that I have no ‘sample group’ to use as a comparison, so I cannot apply the Scientific Method to determine whether this might be true.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Chas, I think you are probably right in your point in paragraph 1. On paragraph 2 I think anything I conclude would be quite speculative as I just don’t have enough information to attempt a solid answer. You could be on to to something, but I just don’t know.

          Like

  6. mandibelle16 says:

    I very much enjoyed this and like you I’m not exactly sure what that unforgivable sin is, even though I’ve been to church most of my life and had pastors explain it. What I have concluded is, turning our back on our faith on God and not believing when we know better, is unforgivable but only if you die being that way. Otherwise, for anyone who has faith and believes, they are saved even in their final breathes, even if it is at their last moments committing suicide. I learned that to God all sins are equal, unlike on earth, so even the sin of suicide to God, is no bigger sin then the toddler who refuses to share his toys. So yes, suicide is forgivable is what I’m trying to say. Glad to have found your blog. You explain Christianity and God/Jesus wisely and understandably.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Mandibelle. And also for contributing your thoughts; I think they are on solid ground. God will accept us up to the very end!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. tonycutty says:

    I love this: “There ARE commitments in becoming part of the kingdom, but this growth comes later (Jesus said take my yoke and learn of me).” So often it’s like ‘Right, you’ve been saved, now here’s this list of things you have to do/believe/not do/not say’. And yes, we change once we accept Christ, but it’s more like how you say it here – not by men’s demands. You put it elsewhere in this blog that being saved is simply ‘waking up’ to what Christ has done, and I love that too. The whole thing is Jesus, not men. Take His yoke and learn of Him – that’s the way it should be. Great post, Tim.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Why thanks, Tony! I, and many others here, were raised or taught in exactly the way you say: ‘Right, you’ve been saved, now here’s this list of things you have to do/believe/not do/not say’ Good news! You are a Christian now and here are the burdens you must take up–and be careful not to get anything wrong!

      No! This is a very poor and harmful substitute for the good news.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Chas says:

      tony, I very much agree that being in the Kingdom involves a process of growth, through learning from God. We have re-aligned ourselves so that we are going in God’s direction and the growth brings us nearer to Him and more like Him in our thinking. We move from destructive behavior toward behavior that does not lead to suffering.

      Liked by 2 people

      • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

        Well said.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Chas says:

          Tim, This response probably fits here better than anywhere else. A point raised by your initial post concerns the woman who felt no different – nothing had changed, so she still felt guilty. It seems to suggest that nothing had changed in her relationship with God, so she was still experiencing alienation from Him. That in turn implies that the message she had received was inadequate, or in some way incomplete. From previous conversations here, we have concluded that an awareness of being alienated from God, combined with belief that Jesus is the Son of God, is necessary before we can experience a relationship with God and begin to receive from Him. So was she missing one part of this message?

          Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Chas, I think you are right. I think her sense of continuing alienation was due to receiving an incomplete and inadequate message about God and forgiveness.

          Like

  8. tonycutty says:

    Oh and I love how you describe it as ‘Growth’ too. Genius.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. JoshWay says:

    Another stirring post about God’s pervasive forgiveness and the “good news” that has seemed too-good-to-be-true for so many Christians!

    I have a post in the docket about the “unforgivable sin” passage. I’ve been thinking about it lately.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Rik says:

    In the context of Mark 3 the unforgivable sin seems to be calling the work of the Holy Spirit the work of the devil.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      I agree, Rik. But what does this really involve? There have been many people who done this who later became strong Christians and even Christian leaders. I just can’t say. Do you have further thoughts about it?

      Like

  11. John Jackman says:

    It is important to look at the context. Jesus has just had a confrontation with the Pharisees, who saw him do a healing and said that it was “by Beelzebub.” When rigid theology is so reversed that it looks on good and calls it evil, and evil and calls it good, those folks stew in self-righteousness and do not repent.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Good point, John. But why would it say that the sin can’t be forgiven? If the person should change their mind, accept the good news, and seek to follow Jesus, why would Jesus turn them away? Why would God refuse to forgive? It goes against everything Jesus tells us about God’s character.

      Like

      • John Jackman says:

        If their values are so reversed that they call evil good and good evil, why would they repent and seek forgiveness? The self-righteous are caught in a hell of their own making.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Chas says:

        Tim, it would not be that God refused to forgive them, but that they might not be capable of turning again toward God, if they had believed in Jesus and then turned back. It would be their action (or inaction), not that of God.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Chas says:

          Tim, with further time for thought, the above discussion(s) has raised a further question: if someone has received the full message, but has then turned back, what caused them to do so? At this point, it is necessary to consider certain people I have known, who had troubles despite being fully in the kingdom (as evidenced by their speaking in tongues). Their problems were coming not through temptation to go back to old ways, but instead from depression, suggesting that damage, as a consequence of childhood factors, was more likely to have been the source. If that was so, then maybe they had not been able to come into a full relationship with God because of those factors. (i.e. they projected a relationship problem caused by a parent, or some other important person in their early life, into their relationship with God.) The next question is: could such a problem cause someone to turn back completely? That must surely be impossible, since it would mean that God had abandoned them: He would never do such a thing. That appears to leave, as their motive, being tempted to return to something ‘desirable’ from the past, because the responsibility for that would lie solely with them, rather than with somebody who had abused them during their childhood.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Chas says:

            Tim, If everyone is going to hear the good news unambiguously and clearly after death, what would be the point of us living this life, with all its suffering, now?

            Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Chas, this is an interesting scenario. I think there could be many reasons for a person to lose their enthusiasm or fall back into old destructive habits, or even change their mind about Jesus and God; but I don’t think anyone is ever abandoned by God–or rejected.

          As you might recall, I have written elsewhere that I think there will be an opportunity for everyone to see the reality of Jesus and the good news with a clear mind–no garbled message, no misunderstanding, no emotional scars–and be able to choose God. This will likely be after death for most people.

          In this situation, some ‘unforgivable sin’ loses its significance entirely.

          Like

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Chas, I think life is more than suffering; it is much richer than that. It is in life that we mature, learn, and develop into who we are. It is living life that gives us identity and individuality as a person. It is in life that we develop relationships. It is in life that we can show empathy, compassion, and care for others.

            There are a number of aspects of the good news that apply to this life. If a person does not receive the good news until after death, they receive the benefit of eternal life but miss all the benefits during their normal life–and that is quite a loss.

            At one point in my life I had to make a choice between Hospice and a road of suffering a rough cancer treatment that might not work. Guess which I chose? Which would you choose?

            Like

          • Chas says:

            Tim, to begin with your last point, the answer now would be to choose the hospice, but before I believed, I don’t know? I would probably have chosen the treatment. My guess is that you chose the hospice.

            My point about the suffering was that God would not have chosen to bring us to Him the way that He has, if it could have been avoided, since it has involved much suffering. My belief is that He works to minimize overall suffering.

            Surprisingly, our approaches have arrived at the same place, from an opposite direction, because the factors you listed: developing relationships, showing empathy, compassion, and care for others are all things that reduce suffering (and also give pleasure to us), so in doing these, we are actually helping God toward one of His objectives.

            Your point in regard to enjoying the benefits of the Kingdom during this life are valid. I am not able (nor willing) to muster an argument against it.

            Liked by 1 person

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            I chose the treatment and the suffering. Had I chosen Hospice, I was predicted to survive six weeks; with the treatment (rough as is was and with low chances of survival) I have been in remission 8 years.

            Though I am not afraid of death at all, I think life is important. I have done a lot over those 8 years, including writing this blog for more than 3 years. We have work to do; we can’t spread the kingdom of God and help others if we are dead.

            But that is just my perspective. I have nothing bad to say for those in pain, and in their right mind, who wish to opt out.

            I don’t have any argument with your thoughts on the matter either. I think the issue is much larger and complex than either of us can get our heads around.

            Like

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  28. michaeleeast says:

    This is a very important insight.
    God never refuses to forgive anyone.
    Preachers who concentrate on sin are holding people to ransom.
    Sometimes for ulterior motives (personal or political).
    There is no unforgivable sin.
    God loves and forgives everyone.

    Liked by 2 people

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  30. Joe says:

    I wonder if the woman wasn’t really sorry for her sins. Can anyone forgive someone who is not sorry?

    But I think it is more likely that some people expect some emotional response to happen in them when they confess or publicly accept Jesus (as in an altar call). And when it doesn’t happen, they feel perhaps its not “working.” I, like many Christians, have had emotional responses involving religious experiences. But I think some Christians put too much emphasis on this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • consultgtf says:

      How can a third person, who is not involved in the incident, forgive?

      Everyone emphases that for our first parents sinned, Jesus died so we are saved? How?

      Technically, by Jesus death, everyone should be living a life that is the most satisfying and gifted!

      Neither in America nor in India,

      No one is happy?

      Then Why use of Jesus death?

      Like

      • Joe says:

        All sin is against God. As a parent I forgive my child for their misbehavior even if their misbehavior was not directed against me.

        I think people need to cooperate with God’s grace. I do not believe it is “all God” as some Christians do. Thats not to say we “merit” forgiveness but we do need to cooperate. Let me give an example. We do need to at least try to do what God asks.

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Joe, what are some things God asks us to do?

          Like

          • Joe says:

            Well that can lead to a can of worms can’t it?

            It would depend on whether you think all scripture is God speaking to us and therefore everything that the author of scripture asks is something God asks.

            But even there we can hopefully agree that God commands us to love each other.

            Like

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Yes, Joe. I do agree that we are to love one another, and I believe that essentially is the principle to follow. I don’t think the Bible is God talking to us or is directed by God. It is written by people who felt close to God and wrote from the limitations of their own era, culture, and understanding.

            I believe Jesus indicates that there are no ‘rules’ for us to follow other than to love others–even our enemies. If one can internalize this there is no need for rules.

            Like

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Joe, I agree with you that some people expect emotional responses and put too much emphasis on it. I was raised this way.

      On forgiveness, I think we CAN forgive without the other person being sorry. Forgiveness is about us and our responses and actions; it does not depend on the offender at all. Reconciliation is important, but they cannot hold a burden over us by not recognizing our forgiveness.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Joe says:

        Ok you might be right on a certain level. But there is another level that I am not sure it works. Lets say someone commits some offense. Lets say they steal or murder.

        They are not sorry they stole or murdered. I suppose you can say you forgive them. But how would your view of them change by that forgiveness? To me when I forgive someone it means I no longer hold that wrong against them. It means I will no longer try to view them as someone who would do what they did.

        But if the person clearly is someone who would do that again what does that even mean to forgive them. Is it denying reality?

        Liked by 1 person

        • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

          Joe, that is a very good question. But I also see the point of difference; we understand forgiveness differently.

          Someone broke into my house and tried to steal some electronics, but we came home and surprised him. I forgave him, but I still pressed charges and requested payment for the damage he did.

          I don’t think forgiveness means that you think the person will not do something again–or even that you trust them at all. To me it means that I do not hold a grudge, hate that person, or wish them harm.

          If you haven’t already, take a look at this weeks post, which deals with issues related to your question. Check out the comments as well, especially my response to Perry.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Joe says:

            Thanks for your comment. I have read your latest blog and the comments with Perry. I think they are similar to this but not quite identical.

            I think we do understand forgiveness somewhat differently. You say forgiveness means that I do not hold a grudge, hate the person, or wish them harm.

            Before your forgave the person robbing you did you hate him, wish him harm, or hold a grudge against him? If you didn’t then, according to your understanding, nothing would have changed when your forgave him right? Now maybe you did do one or even all three of those things. But I think you could stop holding a grudge against him, hating him, and wishing him harm and still not forgive him. I think there is more to forgiveness.

            I think when we forgive someone it effects a *change* in our relationship with them. I never hated, held a grudge against, or wished harm on my daughter even before I forgave her. So if that is all it means then my forgiving her does nothing to change our relationship.

            I think forgiving someone means accepting the person as the type of person who would not do that sin again. You accept that they are truly repentant and have changed. But if they clearly and explicitly say they are not sorry and indeed would do that sin again, how can we accept them as someone who wouldn’t?

            If we are repentant God accepts us into heaven as if we were never that person who would commit the sins we are sorry for. He has an open invitation to forgive us. But if we are not in fact sorry and are fully content to sin again how could God or others accept us as someone who wouldn’t?

            These are questions that I have wondered about for quite a few years.

            Alas with God all things are possible. And we can hope for forgiveness even when we are not truly sorry.

            Like

          • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

            Joe, our different perceptions on this issue seem apparent. But I still think an abused wife can genuinely choose not to hold past abuse against the assailant and yet take measures to avoid further abuse. We can wish another person well and still protect ourselves from them.

            Forgiveness comes from our heart and our choosing to forgive. It does not depend at all on the person we are forgiving. If this were so, it would give them power over us. We don’t have to wait for someone to ask for forgiveness before we forgive them. I believe God forgives us before we ask. His love is not conditional.

            Like

          • Joe says:

            Yes I think we do have different understandings of forgiveness. Although I am still not sure what your position is because I am still not sure how you would answer the questions I asked. They were not just rhetorical questions but I do actually wonder how you would answer them.

            Moreover I am not fully committed to my own position on this. It’s been something I have been working out over several years.

            I am not so sure the power is entirely on the person doing the forgiving. I think it is more relational than solely up to one person.

            I think you make a fair point about the woman protecting herself. I agree a battered wife could forgive someone and yet still take measures to protect herself.

            I do think forgiving someone means at least in some sense mentally thinking that person is not so evil as to commit the sin. Your esteem for them is rebuilt when you forgive them. (esteem might be the wrong word) Its a change in attitude toward that person and an acceptance of them as someone as being above committing that sin again. But I also think reasonable precautions can still be taken to protect yourself and others.

            Also I think loving someone and forgiving them are two different things. So even if the unrepentant sinner is not forgiven he can still be loved by God.

            Like

    • jesuswithoutbaggage says:

      Joe, I am moving the comments on this string further to the left.

      You commented: “Before your forgave the person robbing you did you hate him, wish him harm, or hold a grudge against him? If you didn’t then, according to your understanding, nothing would have changed when your forgave him right?”

      I think this is an important question. The fact is as you imply; before I forgave him, I did not hate him, wish him harm, or hold a grudge against him because over the years, as a follower of Jesus, I have learned to skip all those negative responses. Forgiveness is almost instant.

      But there IS a change: my forgiveness changes what would have been if I had hated him, held a grudge, wished him ill, or sought revenge against him. That is a significant change from what could have been.

      As with your daughter, forgiveness affects the relationship. In his case, forgiveness affected the relationship, but only on my side; we were not allowed by the courts to communicate with each other. So he hasn’t asked for forgiveness that I know of and does not know that he is forgiven, But it still affects the relationship on my side.

      What you describe about relationships is what I call reconciliation–the change of the relationship cooperatively on both sides. I think reconciliation is very important, but it is not the same as forgiveness. I can forgive even if I am not allowed reconciliation.

      If a person does not ask for forgiveness, has not demonstrated a likelihood that their behavior will change, and is not interested in reconciliation–I can still forgive them.

      I like this conversation; I think it is honest and helps me to see your thoughts more clearly. Please list the questions you would like for me to address and I will address them.

      Liked by 1 person

  31. rethinkteam says:

    I once heard Bob Goff say “Grace seems unfair until you need some.” Thankful God forgives everyone because none of us deserve it.

    Liked by 1 person

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