A Brick in the Valley

Is Forgiveness Conditional or Unconditional
February 15, 2008, 10:41 pm
Filed under: Forgiveness

The publication goal for my book on forgiveness (published by Crossway) is that it will hit the shelves in October. 

In the mean time, Tim Challies has interacted with my thoughts on whether or not forgiveness is conditional or unconditional. 

 Here are a couple of quick comments.

 In the first, place, I’d love to hear what you think.  Should Christians always forgive.  Read what Tim has to say and then weigh in.

 I believe that the Bible teaches that Christians must follow God’s example in forgiveness.  And, God graciously offers forgiveness to all, but he does not forgive all.

But, some no doubt wonder, doesn’t “conditional forgiveness” lead to bitterness?  Whenever I teach that forgiveness should not be automatic, someone inevitably plays the trump card-“But that approach would lead to bitterness.” Their underlying premise is, “If I can establish that your position causes bitterness, I will have proven you wrong.”

Of course, bitterness is bad.  But conditional forgiveness (not automatically forgiving) does not spawn bitterness.  As I have already said, we must follow the example of God, Who does not forgive everyone, but who does offer forgiveness to all.  The offer of forgiveness to everyone, regardless of the offense, is no more bitter than the father who wraps presents and puts them under the Christmas tree hoping that his child will accept the gifts.  Forgiveness, and a restored relationship, is what offenders will find inside if they choose to open the package.

2 Comments so far
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From personal experience, I find that forgiveness is essential to the healing process. Sometimes we need to forgive someone for our own benefit rather than theirs, as we would otherwise retain negative energy from the bitterness that spawns from continuing to be angry. This leads to depression, health problems, etc. This is a heavy burden to carry. To be honest, I sometimes question if we truly forgive or if we just “move on and let go.” I suppose in some instances it could be; or is in my case, one or the other.

I believe there are times that forgiveness is conditional if the offender continues to offend. In such a case, it would be difficult to forgive and move on until one made the decision/choice to remove himself/herself from the situation. However, if the offender is apologetic and does not continue the offensive behavior, it would perhaps be easier to forgive and/or move on.

I often think of Jesus saying “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” This leads me to feel that we should forgive and take the measures necessary to achieve this.

We can argue that everyone knows right from wrong, but if someone is troubled and truly does not know our Lord, I do not believe they always have the capacity to make right decisions.

Take, for example, the tragic shootings at NIU this past week. I have read a multitude of condolence blogs, all of which stated their sympathies and prayers for the students who were killed or injured, their families and the entire campus. Sadly, I did not see one offer of prayer or sympathy to the parents of the young man that committed this horrific crime. I may spark controversy here, but I feel this young man should be prayed for and forgiven. He was obviously very troubled and it appears that he was likely on a psychotropic medication that he discontinued without titrating his dosages before discontinuing it. I may be misinformed, but thus far I have not seen any evidence that he would have otherwise performed such a tragic act. I also feel that his loved ones should be offered condolences and be lifted in prayer.

I do not believe that the general public is educated enough about depression, depression medications, etc, but that’s a soapbox I will not step up on here.

Pastor Chris, I believe you “opened a can of worms” with this subject and I apologize for running on and on, but it definitely gives us something to think about.

Comment by Sheri

I totally agree with Sheri on praying for the NIU shooter and especially for his family. I hope to never know that kind of sorrow. After reading the blog and Sheri’s comment, I was already typing how I agreed that forgiveness is conditional….and then I stopped because that just doesn’t sound or feel right to me! Is forgiveness suppose to always be there for the taking….and then dependent on the receiver not the giver?? Don’t we forgive others for OUR benefit…not theirs?? Doesn’t it mean “I am not going to be angry at you any more” when we say “I forgive you”? To me it’s saying that you’re not going to let the negative feelings of anger, hate, and frustration,… continue to take up space in your head and in your heart anymore! Does it matter whether or not the offender knows right from wrong or just doesn’t care and keeps on with the offense? Aren’t those things “his/her problem”, not yours? Over the last few months, I’ve made the conscious decision to FORGIVE my biggest offender(s)!! It took more than a year to be able to even think about forgiving my
offender(s)! But a choice that was and is dependent on me…not them!

Comment by Mona

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