Sunday, December 13, 2009

Bearing the Forgiveness of God

Timmy Brister brought up a great question about the place of forgiveness.

Do we forgive unconditionally?:

"Sin/Offense –> Forgiveness –>Repentance –> Reconciliation (Unconditional)"

Or do we forgive conditionally?:

"Sin/Offense –> Repentance –> Forgiveness –> Reconciliation (Conditional)"

He gave arguments for both and asked his readers for observations. Here's mine:

"Clarifying what entails forgiveness is key and the role both the human forgiver plays as well as the role that God plays in the life of the sinner. When I first started skimming through this article to determine if I should read more deeply, I thought you were talking about the forgiveness of God. When I realized that you were talking about human forgiveness, then I had to ask myself the question, “What’s the difference?”

"That is to say that true forgiveness comes from God. Inasmuch as we practice the pattern of forgiveness, we imitate God, but we cannot forgive as Christ forgave. Only Christ can pay for sin. That means that when we extend forgiveness to the unrepentant, we bring the gospel to bear on the situation. Our conscience in the matter is cleansed at that time and the rest must be according to the movement of the Holy Spirit.

"However, God can extend forgiveness himself when we have not and one can repent when no human forgiveness has been extended. At this moment it becomes incumbent on the one who has not extended forgiveness to do so lest they become the sinner and repentance can bring this about.

"At this, the two scenarios you offer break down because the true forgiveness from God logically precedes the sin. If we practice God’s forgiveness, then we must anticipate sin and be prepared to extend forgiveness where no sin has occurred yet. This is especially true for the Christian because we have already been forgiven. And if we don’t live like this, then we endanger our assurance."

Forgiveness is not a matter of whether is it conditional or not. It's a matter of whether we are prepared to live out the gospel of grace in the form of forgiveness to sinners who need Christ.

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