"What can a ruined soul, like mine, effect towards the redemption of other souls?—or a polluted soul, towards their purification?"

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Forgiveness: Who's Saying What?, Part 2

In my last blog, I started an article review about forgiveness and I started with secular ideas about forgiveness. Now I'd like to look at a smattering of articles from Christian writers. Please take the time to read the last blog post before reading this one.

John MacArthur, in a sermon on forgiveness states that it is vital to the Christian life to forgive. His definition is pretty good: Forgiveness is a marvelous thing. Forgiveness is a promise. Forgiveness is a pledge. Forgiveness is a statement of undeserved, unearned love that says no matter what you've done there is no anger, no matter what you've done there is no hatred, no matter what you've done there is no desire for vengeance, no matter what you've done there will never be any retaliation. I pass by that transgression completely. I do not hold you guilty. I do not blame you. I feel no self-pity for myself because I've been offended, rather I pass by that transgression completely and extend my love to you fully. That's forgiveness and that's godlike.

He also remarks something I've been echoing in my own mind: I'll tell you something as a pastor. I grieve deeply over people who carry bitternesses. It is so ungodlike. It is so unlike the character of Jesus Christ. I grieve over people who think they have to retaliate for every wrong that was rendered against them. Somehow they've got to get their pound of flesh. Somehow they have to react back to preserve their ego and their pride, they become divisive.

He repeats again a helpful statement: Never are you more like God than when you forgive. Very much agreed. To withhold forgiveness is a very unChristlike thing.

Also helpful is Christian counseling guru Jay Adams' writing on the subject. He's written a lot on the subject, and Brenton Ferry sums up Adams' take on forgiveness well in an online article. Adams' states that we should not forgive until someone repents because that is how God forgives in Scripture. Adams' sees forgiveness as a process that should be gone through instead of a feeling. He states that forgiveness is not the ignoring of sin but it deals with the offense of sin.

Another interesting article I found that echoed some of Adams' thoughts was by Edward Mrkvicka called, "Christian Forgiveness: It's Not What You Think." In it, he stated that Christian forgiveness is different from secular forgiveness because it comes at a price. Repentance and recognition of sin is necessary to move toward forgiveness and a simple, "I'm sorry" just won't cut it.

Here's a helpful site with just about every quote from the New Testament on forgiveness. Here's a good site on forgiveness as well.

After looking at the secular and sacred on forgiveness, I found it interesting that both were headed in the same direction. Both state that forgiveness does not overlook the trespass. Both state that hurt may last for a long time. And both state that there is great benefit in forgiveness.

I found it interesting that a few of the Christian sites (some that I listed, some that I didn't) perpetrated a false view of secular forgiveness. I think there are false forms of forgiveness out there (and there is some in the church as well), but for the most part, the right form of forgiveness is taking place in the world.

I would even venture to say that many non-Christians know how to forgive better than a lot of Christians.


  1. Good post, as always.

    So how do you think John MacArthur's take on forgiveness squares with his views on fallen pastors?

    Just curious.

  2. Unfortunately, MacArthur's belief doesn't seem to carry over into his black and white practice. I think he sorrows over fallen pastors, but it's rather harshly carried out. Not much compassion in it's execution.

    Just my take.