Why study forgiveness? Don’t we all have an intuitive understanding of what forgiveness is? I want to save a full answer to those questions for the 13th, but I thought it might be helpful to offer you a number of “forgiveness fallacies,” that I believe demonstrate the breadth of our misunderstanding of this very important doctrine. You may find that my list of fallacies contains most of what you currently believe about forgiveness. You may completely disagree that some of these are fallacies at all. I won’t take the time now to tell you why these things are unbiblical – you’ll have to come next Saturday to find out.
This list is not intended to be comprehensive. I’m sure there are others out there. This just represents the fallacies I have heard most often over the years. Here they are in no particular order:
1. “I need to apologize.” Most of us live this one. We have a fight with a spouse, we raise our voices at our kids, we hurt a friend’s feelings, and then we seek to make things right by apologizing or saying, “I’m sorry.” Can an apology really repair a strained or broken relationship? I would venture to say it can actually make things worse.
2. “I’m just not ready to forgive.” This one is based on an underlying fallacy that forgiveness is related to our emotions. We don’t feel like forgiving. “I’m just not ready to forgive” treats forgiveness as if it is a process. I’m sure thankful God doesn’t view it that way.
3. “I can’t forgive you for that.” Sometimes people we love may sin against us in ways that are so hurtful, we may think they are insurmountable, they are too big to forgive, or we will never be able to get over them. However, this completely misunderstands what forgiveness is.
4. “I don’t know how to forgive you.” This one, like #3, is based on the erroneous idea that forgiveness means ridding oneself of the anger and bitterness associated with a wrong suffered. If we look closely at what the Bible teaches on the issue, understanding how to forgive is quite simple.
5. “How do I know if I’ve truly forgiven that person?” Sometimes we may purpose to forgive someone and even say, “I forgive you” to the person who wronged us, but then periodically dwell on that offense and experience the anger and pain all over again. This leads us to wonder if we ever really forgave them in the first place. But if we understand forgiveness biblically, we can know for sure.
6. “I’ve already forgiven you.” It may happen that a person who has hurt us comes to ask for forgiveness, and we reply, “I’ve already forgiven you.” In other words, we forgive before we have been asked to forgive. This shouldn’t happen.
7. “I know I should forgive whether that person asks me to or not.” This is a variation of #6. If we forgive someone who has sinned against us without them asking for forgiveness or without us even confronting their sin or without them even knowing they sinned against us, we have violated Scripture on two accounts.
8. “You’re not hurting that person by holding a grudge against them. You’re just hurting yourself. You need to forgive so you can move on with your life.” This one makes forgiveness all about the forgiver. We’ve probably all either heard this one, or said it ourselves…and it’s unbiblical.
9. “Forgive and forget.” I won’t say anything about this one until the 13th.
10.“It is unloving to not forgive that person.” That is true in certain situations. But sometimes the most loving thing to do is to not forgive. How can that be? Hint: biblical forgiveness is conditional.
You may be thinking “Greg, some of that sounds contrary to Scripture.” I promise you, I’ll explain it all…but you have to come to the Sanctification Series on November 13. Bring any questions, skepticism, doubts, or challenges you may have, and we’ll work through them together then. I look forward to seeing you there.
Posted by Greg Birdwell