Thursday, February 25, 2010

Due to the way that BLOGGER lists posts...

...I would suggest that you read my FIRST post (at the bottom of the list) and then make your way to the most recent.

My previous blogs somehow were compromised by a trogan virus (what's with that Google?) so I have had to delete previous posts and upload what I could find.


On Forgiving People Who are NOT Sorry About What They Did

I know, you have heard all the modern psycho-babble about "forgiving" people who hurt you when they have not honestly confessed and put forth honest effort to repent of their sins against you. They say, "It will make YOU feel better."

Really? Is forgiveness all about you? What did Jesus say about forgiving people who sin against you?

Luke 17:3-4 is a key passage that quotes our Lord:
"Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, 'I repent,' you shall forgive him."

What do you think of that? Jesus does not say, "If you brother sins against you just forgive him" but "rebuke him!" In other words, you cannot just lay down and let them run rough-shod over you and everyone else! They need to know what they have done! Let's face it, we and a lot of other people are pretty dense, and unless the offender is awakened to their offense they will go merrily on hurting and offending yet more!

So Jesus' first instruction is this: Don't ignore the sin. Your first duty is to let them know (as graciously as possible, as you would have them graciously rebuke you!)

"Oh, but I hate confrontation!" Who does? But Jesus knows it is NECESSARY!

The next instruction Jesus gives is: "...and if he repents, forgive him."

Let's take a good hard look at this. First of all note that it is unlikely the offender will repent until they become aware of their sin, and the responsibility for that awareness falls on you.

Secondly, "...IF he repents..." Notice Jesus DOES NOT say, " doesn't matter if he repents or not, you HAVE to forgive him." No, Jesus puts the requirement of "...if he REPENTS..." as a CONDITION of forgiveness. Now don't get the wrong idea ("Really? Then I can hold a grudge and bitterness towards them until they do repent?") This is NOT a license to that kind of attitude or behavior! The point is that, just as repentance is the first condition we must meet to be forgiven of God so, too, they should not expect forgiveness in its fullest sense from you just because you are a Christian "and Jesus says you've got to love me and forgive me!"

Once again, forgiveness is not directly about you and your feelings. It is about restoring the relationship and doing so, not by ignoring the sin or excusing it, but by open and honest rebuke and open and honest repentance on their part. Forgiveness is to release from hard feelings, yes, but it is also to release from revenge and to help them overcome their sins!

The point of Jesus' introductory statement ("Take heed to yourselves...") is a warning against "just letting it slide" (while you hold animosity and bitterness against them) AND against setting yourself against any possibility of forgiving them (allowing a root of bitterness to grow in you that will make restoration impossible). Both of these Jesus warns against.

Now we have to deal with the third part: "And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, 'I repent,' you shall forgive him." No, Jesus is not asking you to be a doormat for them to step on! Notice that this offender "returns to you, saying..." In other words, THEY realize they have messed up again and they ON THEIR OWN come to you and confess their sin against you. This clearly implies THEY ARE AWARE and are TRYING to overcome their behavior. That is a far cry from taking advantage of you. And the main point here of Jesus is that we must be prepared to extend forgiveness to this kind of person, who is trying to change their behavior. (Remember: Repentance is not just feel bad about one's sins but also turning from that behavior and acting in love and rightly.)

Haven't you found yourself at times REPEATING the same sin and having done it shake your head and say, "Now why did I do that? I know it was wrong!" And didn't you hope that the person you sinned against would give you a second, third, fourth,....seventh chance? Then, Jesus would say, give them the grace you would want extended towards you!

So, in summary, forgiveness is dependent upon honest repentance.
If you forgive with out putting forth the effort to correct them you cannot truly forgive them. Why? Because don't love them enough to help them out of their sin.
If you forgive without them acknowledging their sin and putting forth effort to repent then they will see no need to change their behavior/attitude, and you will be allowing them to carry one in their sins. That is not what Jesus wants you to do.
If they confess their sin to you and put out any effort to repent and you DON'T forgive them ("I'll wait until they get it 100% right before I forgive them!") you have already demonstrated that God's love is NOT in you as it must be! Did God wait until you "cleaned up your act" before He forgave you? I don't think so! This is Jesus' warning to you! To not forgive is to IMPRISON them in their sins and that is not the love of God! And Jesus' warning to you is found in the verses just following the Lord's prayer: if you will not forgive people their sins against you, neither will your heavenly Father forgive you your sins! Why? Because you haven't repented of your sin of bitterness!

"But what am I supposed to do UNTIL they confess and repent of their sins against me?" Pray for them! Be patient with them! Be ready to restore the relationship! Don't let the pain breed bitterness! Remember God is still working on you and hasn't chucked you yet, so don't give them up as a hopeless case (that is the essence of Jesus' command not to "judge"; it means to pass final judgment as beyond the grace of God)!

So there you have it in a nutshell. Do it Jesus' way and in the right heart attitude and you will understand the power of true forgiveness!

On Forgiving People Who Do OTHERS Harm

Let's take another moment to examine this idea of forgiving a mass murderer.

You have heard people talk of our need to "forgive" the young man who brutally murdered 32 people at Virginia Tech.

Once again I think that words are important because they communicate ideas. The wrong use of a word very often leads to misguided and wrong opinions and those lead to wrong responses or actions. Such is the case with this talk of us having to "forgive" this or any other person who does someone else grievous and often deadly wrong.

As you know, I am a pastor and a person who takes the teachings of Christ seriously and a person who is just as challenged as you are in applying them to one's own life.

First I would note that Jesus DOES command us to forgive. In teaching us to pray, there is that clear part that says "...forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us..."

But take another good look at that command. It does NOT say that we are to forgive those who sin "against others" but who sin "against us." This leads us to the first responsibility Jesus lays on us of WHO we are to forgive: those who sin "against us" personally.

From this, it is clear from the teaching of Jesus (as well as common sense, at least to those who still have theirs!) that a person NOT directly sinned against DOES NOT have either the right to forgive that wrong-doer NOR the responsibility to do so.

Now don't get all worked up! I'm not done yet!

Think about it: If Person A sins against Person B, what right does Person C (who was not DIRECTLY wronged) have to absolve Person A of guilt and need of punishment? Example: If someone steals your identity and ruins your credit, what right or responsibility do I have to forgive them of this grievous wrong? NONE ! The wrong was done against you, not me. And what does my "forgiveness" of them accomplish for them? NOTHING! In fact, it may just give them reason to do it again to someone else, since I am in such a mood as to forgive them, like nothing happened!

"But, but", some of you will say, "but I know about what happened to that other person and it hurts me that they did this wrong, so I have to forgive them!"

Look, there is a HUGE difference between the harm that person did to someone else and the side affects it has on you. They are NOT the same thing and so the response is not exactly the same.

True, if you are emotionally effected you have to respond PROPERLY to the evil done or else you will either become a basket case or you will become bitter. But the issue is NOT having to "forgive" the wrong-doer but choosing not to allow hatred and bitterness to govern your life, nor to poison other people with your excessive anger at wrong and evil!

Now let us also note that the parents, siblings, spouses, etc of those who were murdered at V. Tech. WERE directly affected by this young man. They will have to deal with the grief and pain. But is FORGIVENESS what they need to express?

NO !

You cannot "forgive" a dead person, folks!

Let go of the garbage psycho-tripe that you have been taught! You cannot "forgive" a dead person for there is nothing that it does to HELP them! They are DEAD! And YOU are not God, who alone can forgive sins finally and ultimately.

The purpose of forgiveness is NOT PRIMARILY for your benefit but for them. It's purpose is to "clear the slate" and make it possible for renewed friendship and fellowship. But how can you have restored fellowship with a dead person?

Forgiveness's effect on you is totally SECONDARY to the issue of forgiveness! As needful as having a forgiving, gracious attitude is, as wonderful as the relief that comes from true forgiveness, it is SECONDARY to the purpose of forgiveness.

Let me give you an example: Let's say someone abused you as a child. Let's say all your life you were never able to come to grips with confronting them about their sin. And they never repented of it, they never asked for forgiveness, they never expressed grief over what they did. And you know that as a result you either had little or no relationship with them of any value. NOW, let's say they died. NOTHING has changed in them and yet psycho-babble says, "Now you can forgive them!" WHAT? WHY? Are you going to absolve them eternally of their unrepented sins? Have you forgotten that they also sinned against God in doing this to you, that you are not the only one they wronged but a holy God as well?

"Oh, no, you misunderstand", says the psycho-babbler, "forgiveness is about letting go of the past and moving on!"

Once again, words have meaning and to make forgiveness about YOU is to destroy the very essence of forgiveness as a concept!

No, the need is not that you forgive them but that you choose not to dwell upon it any more, leaving that person in the qualified hands of Almighty God who is the Judge of the universe. It is now past. That person is now in the hands of God who will justly judge and punish them for their sins. Let go and let God take care of them (Romans 12, later part of the chapter, read it, PLEASE!) God has BETTER things for you if you will allow Him to handle the issue now! His peace can be yours now.

So in closing on this post, let's stop using the word "forgive" in relation to a dead person. Instead let us apply the truth to our hearts that we need not concern ourselves with the dead because they are in God's hands now.

He can "wipe away the tears from your eyes" as you choose to focus on His will for your life and His love for you, rather than the hurts, direct or indirect, from those who are now dead.

On "Judging" Murderers

...A lot is said in these days after Virginia Tech about "not judging" the young man who took the lives of 32 students and faculty before taking his own. Let's examine this just for a moment.

...First of all, to have NO opinion is next to saying that murder is no big deal and the murder of 32 in one day is no more a big deal than murdering one. To be "neutral" in the face of evil is an evil that cannot be excused. No one likes to believe in evil but it is there all the same. Not believing in it will not make it go away. And the efforts to excuse the murderer's behavior are, at the core, an effort to excuse evil away.

...Secondly, if one has an opinion and they become noticeably upset about what happened and the person by whom it was perpetrated, this is not only entirely natural but needful. Let's face it, folks, if you don't get upset about this you have a real moral problem! God gets upset with our sins and you cannot get upset about a mass murderer? You are more upset by your child's/grandchild's selfishness and self-will than you are about a cold blooded killer? Something is wrong!

...Thirdly, about the issues of non-judgmental attitudes towards this mass murderer, one doesn't have to have a degree in theology to determine that this young man feed himself FOR YEARS on self-pity and hatred of others. How dare someone say, "We shouldn't judge him!" Are you not going to judge your child who does the same thing and say "Oh, he/she is a good person at heart" ? If we as individuals and as a society cannot judge the behaviors of others, what good is the law? And if we are not to judge the behaviors of others, what do we do with Jesus' own words warning His disciples not to fall for the Pharisee's teaching or behaviors? One must judge or else one will fall into company with the wicked.

...Fourthly, ULTIMATE eternal judgment is with God. This is true. BUT... Paul explicitly says that we can NOW be assured that "...murderers... will NOT inherit the kingdom of God" Yes, you can be sure that this young man will not be found walking the streets of gold. And if you cannot be sure, then throw your Bible away. It has nothing to say to you if you reject so clear a teaching.

...Fifthly, when Jesus speaks of "judge not lest you be judged" the Greek word used and the thought behind it is cleary this: "Do not pass FINAL judgment on a LIVING person. You have no right nor can you see in to the future whether that person will repent and turn to God. Don't right them off!" But... if the person is dead, the Bible says this: "It is appointed unto men ONCE to die and after that THE JUDGMENT!" Hence there is no "second chance" and we must not give "hope" to anyone that they can murder 32 people and then murder themselves (suicide) and still find themselves in heaven! What, aren't we going to make a proper "judgment call" in regards to Hitler now that he is dead? Come on, folks, THINK ! Are we so brain-washed by secularism that we will accept into heaven ones who God has already stated He will not? Are we to give hope when God has clearly shut the door? Please would someone out there read their Bible?

...Finally, if by "judging" one means "staying upset" and letting it ruin their lives then one is using the WRONG words to express their thought. There are better words and words mean something. Use language properly so people are lead to right thinking.


We sometimes hear well-meaning Christians say, "We have to forgive people unconditionally !" I think I know what they mean. But words do have meanings and the wrong use of a word can and does lead to erroneous thinking.

The word "unconditional" means exactly that: NO prior conditions have to be meet to have what is offered.

Now the question is: Does God forgive unconditionally? What does the Bible say?

If God forgives unconditionally then why was there any need for Christ Jesus to die for our sins? Of course, someone will say that it was because Christ Jesus died for our sins that God can forgive unconditionally.

But do you see the flaw in that arguement? There WAS a PRE-CONDITION, the sacrifice of the Lamb of God for our sins, and that means that there was at least ONE precondition on God's part.

Hence, His forgiveness of us IS conditional on His side of the equation of forgiveness. (It is needful to note that there is a difference between the GROUNDS of forgiveness and the CONDITIONS of forgiveness.

The GROUNDS of forgiveness is God's love and grace which is undeserved and unearned. If God wasn't willing to forgive, even if we fulfilled what is naturally the conditions of forgiveness, forgiveness would not be ours. The CONDITIONS of forgiveness must not be confused with "earning" forgiveness. If God says we must do something to be forgiven, the doing of that something is not "earning" but FULFILLING what is necessary as a response to His grace.)

"But",someone will say, "on our side of the equation His forgiveness is unconditional !" Really? What Bible are you reading? In the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament everywhere it is clear that there are TWO basic conditions for God to forgive us. 1. Repentance and 2. Faith.

As part of the first, honesty and contrition are essential: God will not forgive a person who refuses to acknowledge their sinfulness as well as their sins, who will not grieve over their sins, nor turn from them and desire to have Christ change their hearts.

As for the second condition, faith, it is more than just acknowledging that Jesus died upon the cross and rose again (i.e. just believing the facts); it really means fully entrusting our lives to Christ for life and eternity. So there ARE pre-conditions on our side of the forgiveness equation BEFORE God can justly and graciously forgive us.

"Yeah, well that may be so but when God forgives it is total!" Ah, is that what you mean when you say that God's forgiveness is unconditional? Then use the right words! It isn't just about "right words" but language is communication of ideas and thoughts and the wrong use of it leads to wrong ideas and thoughts!

Well, this is just "part one" of my thoughts on the whole issue of forgiveness and our response to evil and evil doers.