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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Last Christmas Standing

I don’t know if you’ve seen Tim Allen’s new show Last Man Standing at all, but so far it has been pretty funny. This past episode was an especially good one on forgiveness. I never really watch it expecting to think, but this one at least engaged my thoughts and had me cracking up at the same time.

There’s one conversation in particular about mid show that had me laughing out loud and wanting to include it in my next message on forgiveness (and imagine this being said somewhat jokingly incase you can’t catch it in the text):

“Dad, I was sort of thinking, you know you make everyone go to church every week and listen to sermons about forgiveness.”

“So?”

“So… maybe you should just forgive Ryan.”

“(Scoffs) That’s what you take away from church? Forgiveness? Wow. What about the vengeful God? All that Isaiah stuff, huh? Rain toads on people. Rivers into blood, harden the heart of the pharaoh. How come that didn’t sink in? That’s my God.”

“Not mine.”

And so if you wanna crack up and think about forgiveness a little bit, check out the latest episode. You can currently watch it for free on Hulu or buy it on iTunes.

Speaking of Christmas, here’s a little random Christmas gift from my friends and I:

When God’s People Brought Hell to Earth

As you read through the Bible, one thing should become incredibly obvious:

God loves us.

This, especially becomes incredibly obvious to me when I read the story of King Manasseh in 2 Kings 21. Allow me to explain real quick.

Manasseh was a young 12 year old boy when he became king in Jerusalem and he reigned significantly longer than most of the other kings at the time. This is not good for God or his people because Manasseh completely corrupted God’s people during his reign. In fact, he went so far as to do all the following:

1. He rebuilt the high places that were for worship for false gods.
2. He built altars for the false god baal.
3. He made an asherah, which is a wooden symbol of a female deity.
4. He built altars to false gods in God’s temple.
5. He made his son pass through fire, a ritual for false gods.
6. He practiced witchcraft.
7. He used divination.
8. He dealt with mediums and spiritists.
9. He did so much evil He provoked God to anger.
10. He shed so much innocent blood that it filled Jerusalem from one end to the other.
11. He seduced God’s people to do more evil than any of the wicked nations God had destroyed prior to this time.

What do you do when your people become the very opposite of what you stand for?

No. Wait…

What do you do when your people go to the farthest extreme of the very opposite of what you stand for?

Seriously. This is the holy, good, loving, pure, beautiful, magnificent, Lord God Almighty Who Was and Is and Is to Come, and the very people who are meant to represent him on earth have become satanists. And that’s not just a comparison. These people are totally worshipping satan, for it is out of the kingdom of hell where witchcraft, divination, mediums, are spiritists are created. And passing children through fire? If you ask me, that sounds somewhat like a hellish baptism.

God’s people have changed sides…

Yet, they are still God’s people?

Yes, although when you do that much evil, God’s vengeance catches up with you:

11 “Because Manasseh king of Judah has done these abominations, having done wickedly more than all the Amorites did who were before him, and has also made Judah sin with his idols;

12 therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I am bringing such calamity on Jerusalem and Judah, that whoever hears of it, both his ears will tingle.

13 ‘I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria and the plummet of the house of Ahab, and I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down.

14 ‘I will abandon the remnant of My inheritance and deliver them into the hand of their enemies, and they will become as plunder and spoil to all their enemies;

15 because they have done evil in My sight, and have been provoking Me to anger since the day their fathers came from Egypt, even to this day.’ ”

-1 Kings 21:11-15

This is where God’s love becomes so incredibly obvious to me. We have switched sides and yet he doesn’t leave His people and the promise He made to them. He waits for things to be fixed. He waits for his people to need Him. And when the time comes, He gives His people the promise of Jesus. A promise so great that it will change the face of the planet forever. A promise that dominates and defeats satan’s rule over God’s people. Because where satan baptizes with fire, God baptizes with water, and I think we all know who wins that battle.

So the fight continues. I’m sure satan is dying to turn the earth back to the days of Manasseh and turn God’s people into satanists. Because during the days of Manasseh he brought hell to earth in more fullness than ever before. So be on the defensive Christians, for we are in constant warfare.