To Forgive is Not to Condone
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).
When our heavenly Father forgives our trespasses, He is not condoning our behavior. He is not saying, “It is OK; don’t worry about it.” Rather, as Jesus dealt with a sinful person caught in adultery, He provided forgiveness with the admonition of “from now on sin no more” (John 8:11). I forgive you, but it is not OK. What you did is wrong. I am releasing your sin into the authorities’/Authority’s hand. You will need to deal with them/Him. Praise God for the shedding of His blood that deals with our sin.
I know a lady who is experienced in working with children. When she witnesses one child cross boundaries/sin against other children, she teaches an important lesson that forgiving is not saying what was done is OK. It is not condoning bad behavior. For example, Billy cuts in front of Bobby, stepping on his toes. “Hey, stop it!” followed with a shove from Bobby. There is continued pushing and squawking until the lady steps in. The children are settled down and taken aside. Billy is led to tell Bobby, “I’m sorry.” Billy responds, “It’s OK; no big deal. Don’t worry about it.” They are regular playmates.
The lady responds, “That will not do. It is not OK to cut in line, push, and argue. Billy, tell Bobby what you are sorry for.” Billy looks a bit bewildered and kind of says/asks, “I’m sorry for cutting in front of you and stepping on your toes?” The lady says to Bobby, “Remember, it was not OK that he did that, so what can you say?” Bobby also kind of says/asks, “I forgive you?” “Yes,” says the lady, as she leads them to apologize for the exact behaviors with the resulting response, “I forgive you.” (This is a powerful sensation.) The lady also levels consequences for their behavior.
Forgiveness is central to Christianity. God is trying to tell mankind two things:
1) We are sinners, and 2) You are forgiven in Jesus Christ as He has already paid the consequence. When we forgive someone, we release them into God’s hand. He is the Authority. In so doing, we are not condoning their behavior. We are freeing ourselves from the heavy burden of unforgiveness.
Does that mean we, as earthlings, forget about how the person sinned against us? Do I continue to hang around them? Surely not. The lady set consequences for Billy and Bobby, one consequence being that they could not sit by, stand by, or play at recess with each other for a week. She would see how they did. Jesus told the person caught in adultery to have a major change in lifestyle. The details of “sin no more,” meant breaking some relationships and nurturing others.
Please apply forgiveness to painful sins others have inflicted on you. You are not condoning or saying, “It is OK; don’t worry about it.” However, you are faithfully setting yourself free and trusting God to care of you. And yes, God’s desire is to turn sinners from sinful ways. God and Christians rejoice when sin is not practiced any more. May we all be brought to contrition (being sincerely sorry) and repentance (turned from evil to receive from God).
The Lord be with you,
Pastor Sam Wiseman