What Forgiveness is and what it is Not

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one
another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13

To understand forgiveness we must realize what forgiveness is NOT:

· Forgiveness is not forgetting. Deep hurts can rarely be wiped out of one’s

· Forgiveness is not reconciliation. Reconciliation takes two persons, but an
injured party can forgive an offender without reconciliation.

· Forgiveness is not condoning. Forgiveness does not necessarily excuse bad or
hurtful behavior.

· Forgiveness is not dismissing. It involves taking the offense seriously, not
passing it off as inconsequential or insignificant.

· Forgiveness is not a vague notion of ‘tolerance’. This is, at best, a
low-grade parody of forgiveness. At worst, it’s a way of sweeping the real
issues in life under the carpet.

· Forgiveness is not pardoning. A pardon is a legal transaction that releases
an offender from the consequences of an action, such as a penalty.

Throughout the Old Testament we read that only God can forgive sins. We hear
David exclaim, “He forgives all my sins…” (Psalm 103:3). We also see examples
of human forgiveness—even in pain—like Joseph forgiving his brothers for
selling him into slavery. Joseph gains true freedom. He then names his son
Manasseh, “one who causes to be forgotten.”

In the New Testament we see Jesus, the Lamb of God, come into to the world to
die for our sins. Through His shed blood we can once and for all receive
ultimate forgiveness. This is the pure “gospel of grace.” This forgiveness is
a gift. We do not deserve it but God, in His grace, reached out to provide
forgiveness to a dying world.

Then we read in the verse above the impact of this on those of us who have
received that forgiveness. Its ethical challenge parallels “love your enemies”
and “pray for your persecutors.”

In the final analysis, forgiveness is an act of faith. By forgiving another, I
am trusting that God is a better justice-maker than I am. By forgiving, I
release my own right to get even and leave all issues of fairness for God to
work out. I leave in God’s hands the scales that must balance justice and
mercy. I simply forgive others and leave them to God.

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