“Whenever I have counseled or preached on forgiveness, I always cover what forgiveness is not. Too many of God’s people struggle with guilt, believing they haven’t forgiven somebody, when in reality they are not thinking about biblical forgiveness at all. The following list is adapted from a sermon by John Piper, who borrowed it from the Puritan Thomas Watson.
- Forgiveness does not mean that we treat evil deeds as if they were good. True biblical forgiveness requires that sin be called sin and nothing else.
- Forgiveness is not pretending that what happened to me was somehow not really bad.
- Forgiveness does not mean there cannot be righteous anger at the wrong done and pain caused by the sins of others. There should be righteous anger, without sin (Eph.4:26)
- Forgiveness does not mean there are not painful consequences for those sins. David is the prime example. God forgave David. David’s sin was wiped away. But the consequences remained. If a person sins against us in a way that requires the involvement of law enforcement and the courts, forgiveness does not mean erasing the legal consequences.
- Forgiveness does not look the same when the offender has not repented (Luke 17:3-4). We always have the obligation to release all offenders of their debts before God (Luke 23:34). This means we do not hang on to offenses; we do not harbor ill feelings, anger, or bitterness. If the offender does not repent, then forgiveness is not explicitly expressed and reconciliation does not occur (Rom.12:19).Forgiveness is freely letting go of the offense, not expecting penance or payment or getting even.….All of God’s people have been forgiven of far more than we will ever forgive. Therefore, forgiveness from the heart is the true indication that we have received God’s forgiveness and cherish it. When we see the majesty and holiness of God, then we see our sins for what they are—unpayable debts against divine holiness. Cherishing God’s forgiveness of our billion-dollar debt will compel us to relieve the hundred-dollar debts against us. When we breath in the air of the cross and the Father’s love in wiping away our sins, the last thing in the world we will do is look for the person who owes us a hundred bucks!”
Feelings and Faith – Cultivating Godly Emotions in the Christian Life by Brian S. Borgman; Crossway; 2009; pg. 118-120