What Forgiveness Isn’t

Forgiveness is not in any way saying something is okay or acceptable, nor is it saying that you deny appropriate justice. It's not even pretending something didn't happen—it totally happened and it definitely sucked.

What forgiveness is, is simply releasing someone from their debt. It's saying that the sin they committed is no longer held over them, for you have freed them from what was owed you.

Forgiveness and peace are not some masochistic way of embracing violence or seeking it out. This is a common misconception of Christian pacifism. People think we're somehow advocating that you should go get beat up by others and be all lovey-dovey and subject yourself to horrible situations without even trying to avoid them. But to quote Derek Flood, "The goal of enemy love is not to subject oneself to violence, but to act to break the cycle of violence" (Derek Flood, Disarming Scripture, p 191).

Jesus never said, "If someone molests you, forgive them and pretend it didn't happen and stick around." Absolutely not! Jesus came to set the captives free, not subject them to a theology of repetitive violence. Pacifism means embracing peace, love, and forgiveness over violence, hatred, and bitterness and it means doing it as many times as a sin is committed against you.

Pacifism and forgiveness still seek justice. The judgment and ruling of courts and judges and juries are completely acceptable—so long as a death sentence is not the answer, for Christians are to be pro-life in all ways, knowing redemption is always possible. Prison is still a possibility. Creative ways of making amends are still a possibility. God is a God of justice just as he is a God of forgiveness. Forgiveness is not a way of allowing us to get away with things.

We often misunderstand what justice is as well, because we usually turn it into revenge. For example, I once felt that some injustice had been done to a friend of mine and I wanted to raise awareness so that those who had committed the injustice would have to face themselves. I called my friend looking for their opinion as to how far I should go to find that justice.

“Well, how bad do you want to get back at them?” they asked.

“I’m not trying to get back at anyone!" I laughed. "I’m just trying to find justice.”

“Right," they paused. "So how much justice do you want?”

I laughed again. We use the words so interchangeably and think of them as the same thing, but they're not. Justice is done in love, revenge is done in hatred. Justice is done in righteousness, revenge is done in unrighteousness. Justice is done in peace, revenge is done in violence. Justice is what's right in God's eyes, revenge is what's right in ours. We must be people of justice, not of vengeance, for Christians are to have nothing to do with vengeance (Ro 12:19).

This is an excerpt from my new book, "A Taste of Jesus." Grab the Kindle version for $10 or a physical copy for $20.

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New Book: A Taste of Jesus

Thanks for all your support over the years in reading my blog! When I look back at my earliest posts, I kind of want to throw up a little bit as my writing was so bad! But today it has perhaps paid off a little bit in helping me write this 516 page book: A Taste of Jesus: Growing the Fruit of the Spirit. You can purchase it now at Seattle Book Company. You can also read an excerpt on Relevant Magazine. Thanks for your support!

Narnia Concept Album

This weekend I released Of Lampposts and Lions—my 20 track, 80 minute concept album based on C.S. Lewis’ books, The Chronicles of Narnia. If you’re familiar with all 7 books, I think you’ll enjoy the story being told. If not, I hope you’ll enjoy the music anyways as it’s quite a blend of genres. You can download it for donation or for free on NoiseTrade.

Moana Hits Close to Home

Spoilers ahead…


I saw Moana for a second time tonight with a bunch of family and friends and somehow found it even more satisfying the second time around. The first time moved me, but the second time somehow hit me harder, even bringing me to tears a few times. (Fortunately I was sitting behind everyone so I could cry freely.)

Here’s two that really hit me. 

The Head and the Heart Short

The short before Moana is gold. Not only does it encourage those who live in constant anxiety, but it so perfectly shows the disconnect many of us have between our head and heart. I’ve preached about this a lot over the years. Recently we even had an altar call at church for those who felt they needed Jesus to move from head to heart and quite a few replied. The short showed clearer than anything else I’ve seen just how strong that disconnect can be. 

The Ocean

Again, spoilers, but towards the end of the movie there’s a scene where Moana gives up on her calling, and it’s painful to watch. The ocean (a character itself in the movie) has called Moana off of her island to complete a task that’s bigger than herself and truly seems impossible to complete. In this scene she gives up and tells the ocean that it chose the wrong person. It must have all been an accident and it needs to find someone else to take on the mission. 

I’ve found myself in this place many times in ministry. “God, I think this is all just coincidence. I originally thought you called me here, but maybe it just worked out that way. Maybe there’s someone better and you got the wrong person.”

That’s just a more open side of how I feel sometimes. It varies. Other times I know I’m doing what I need to be doing. This is one of those scenes that can bring you to your knees if you can feel all that Moana is feeling. Especially for that brief moment where she does give up and the ocean allows her to do so.

Three Amazing Books

Occasionally a book comes along that changes your life and you just can’t stop talking about it. It’s not super common. Often you’ll read through a ton of books and only a select few will impact your life in this way. That being said, here’s my list of those few.

1. Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne

When I learned in a college class one day that Jesus spent most of his time talking about the Kingdom of Heaven, I was confused. Why did he talk so much about the afterlife? Or did I not really understand what Heaven was? When Shane Claiborne’s book, Jesus for President came out, I immediately bought it due to the fact that (A) I loved Shane Claiborne and (B) every page was graphically designed the whole way through. I didn’t really know what to expect from this book, but as I made my way through it I began to realize that it was dripping with the understanding of what Heaven was. It was a place that existed here and now, had its own backwards ways of life, and even its own politics that ran very much contrary to our own. It caused me to think differently about how I needed to live my life and I actually became a different person in many ways after reading it, which is something just about no book ever does to its readers. If you want to live the Christian life out as a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven here and now, there is no book I could recommend more for you to read.

 

2. The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

I remember hearing about how popular this book was when I was a kid, but being a bit of a hipster, I guess I didn’t want to read it since everyone already knew about it or something. Many years later I saw the movie Ragamuffin, in which an actor portrayed Brennan Manning in a few short scenes. I didn’t know if the lines the actor said were pulled straight from Brennan’s books or just based on him, but I knew I wanted to read his books after hearing those lines delivered—some of them nearly brought me to tears. Some time later I busted out The Ragamuffin Gospel, and came in contact with God’s love more clearly than I ever had before. No book had ever been more convincing that God loved me even in my brokenness. No book had ever been more convincing that I had to love other people—all other people even in their brokenness. Some of the greatest quotes I’ve ever read are found in this book. Love is pretty much what ever Brennan Manning book is about and they’re all great, but I would start here.

 

3. C. S. Lewis: Essay Collection and Other Short Pieces

We all rave about C.S. Lewis and rightfully so. The man is a genius. I don’t know where to begin to tell you to read as most of his work is eye-opening, so I’ll recommend one of my favorites from him. I thought when I bought his Essay Collection and Other Short Pieces, that I may just be buying into a publisher’s attempt at milking Lewis for all he’s worth by throwing all of his extra material into a book, but I found that wasn’t the case. Lewis’ essays are wonderful to read and they get into all sorts of topics (even aliens!). They’re also often succinct, so you get a concentration of his wisdom in each essay quicker than you might find in some of his books. It’s a long read, but it’s worth it. Though if you’re looking for fiction, his Chronicles of Narnia series have become some of my favorite fiction. #AslanGivesMeShivers

 

For Kevin and Janae’s Big Day

My wife and I like to mentally hook single people up at our church. Kevin and Janae were one of those couples. It was like watching a sitcom, every Sunday ending on a cliffhanger. I can’t wait for next week’s episode! I was excited when both Janae and Kevin mentioned to me separately that there was someone they were currently interested in.

Yes, this is gonna work out! I thought. Wait… unless… unless they both mean they’re interested in someone else!!! OR EVEN WORSE! Maybe Kevin likes Janae but Janae’s into some unknown dude back at college! SO MUCH TENSION!

And then, during one of the episodes, my friends from Chelsea Free Methodist called and asked me if I knew of any good worship leaders because they were looking for one. “Uh… well, I think Kevin’s got some good potential, but… you know… he’s at our church right now… playing in our band, so…”

But you all know what makes a good cliffhanger for season one, right? Inevitable betrayal. Kevin left to “follow after God” (I guess) and left not only our church, but Janae behind! Oh no! Would their paths cross again in season two!?

Fortunately, my wife and I were right all along. They were totally into each other and were getting to know each other better back on the campus of Spring Arbor University throughout the week. Look, I was surprised that they had lives outside of church too, trust me—but I was happy they did, because when the episode aired that they had finally hooked-up, we got the good mid-season 2 finale we were looking for.

I’ve gotten to know Kevin and Janae real well over the years. I knew Kevin when he was still a wee little lad (well okay, wee-little has never really been the right word for Kevin). Back then he was always trying to butter me up all the time because he thought I was cool for playing a guitar and being in a band. He ended up learning guitar himself and now I’m the one who’s like, “Hey man, how do you do solo like that again?” To date, he’s still one of the nicest people I know. He’s one of those like, so-nice-to-you-at-all-times kind of people that you’re never really sure if he’s human or a Ken doll, but that’s what makes him so special. God has made him kind beyond belief. 

The man has class, and he has chosen well. (After all, he has chosen the one my wife and I picked out for him.) He has chosen one of the most talented people I have ever met—a person who can literally see the depths of music in her mind, call out any note just by hearing it, and still somehow stay quiet enough as to not call out my flat guitar tuning every two seconds. Kevin has found favor in a girl who, like himself, has a deep, deep drive for God. A girl who despite her indecisiveness and shyness, is willing to make a spectacle of herself for Jesus, which I can speak into her whether she sees it in herself or not.

I believe these two will do great things for the Kingdom of God in their ministry and their marriage and I ask God in His unifying of their spirit’s with His own today, that he would bring fresh anointing on them. Today is a special day for many reasons.

Christians and Climate Change

I imagine Christians down the road are going to turn to God and say, “You promised you’d never flood the earth again!” His response? “I didn’t. You did.”

In his very first book, The Pilgrim’s Regress, C.S. Lewis allegorically refers to God as the “Landlord.” That’s a pretty good title actually. In the beginning, God created man and woman in His image, blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28 ESV)

And so the Landlord left the planet in our possession, essentially saying something along the lines of, “Take good care of it,” yet here we are thousands of years later saying, “Oops.”

We’ve let our greed get in the way and these 70 degree fall days have gone to show it. Our CO2 levels this September (which is usually the lowest month of the year for CO2 levels) just passed the 400 PPM mark—a mark that some have suggested would be permanent.

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“Jesus is going to have come back sooner than He expected,” I often joke with my friends.

“Or maybe the reason He said He didn’t know when He was coming back was because He was waiting to see when we destroyed it all,” they joke back.

To be honest, I don’t fully know how to be the solution, though I’m certain I’m part of the problem. Like losing our virginity, we may not be able to uncross the line, but we can make better decisions from here on out.

We can vote better. We can use clean energy wherever possible (here’s what we can do here in Jackson, MI). We can decide to make better choices now rather than later.