Jan 092014 6 Responses

What Forgiveness Doesn’t Mean

At the core of the Christian message is the hope of forgiveness. What God has done for us through Jesus Christ, we are now to give to others. It is a reminder to us of what God has done. It is a testimony to others of what God is willing to do for them. It is the very heart of the Christian message.

Yet there is something forgiveness is not.

Christians often assume that when we offer forgiveness to another, we have no right to use discernment in how we interact with that person moving forward.

This idea is blatantly false.

Forgiveness does not disqualify us from using discernment in interacting with people.

Some might object, “But shouldn’t we forgive and forget?” And I would say, “We should forgive, but it might be unloving to fully forget.”

Bobby Petrino is the new football coach at the University of Louisville. He returns to the school having been its highly successful coach several years ago. He left Louisville for the Atlanta Falcons and then left the Falcons to coach the Arkansas Razorbacks. He was fired from Arkansas for having an inappropriate relationship with a former student, giving his mistress a job, deceiving his bosses about the job and the relationship, and covering up the presence of the mistress at a motorcycle wreck. (For more, see the story from the Arkansas Business Journal)

With word of Petrino’s hiring at a program of a major conference and for a significant amount of money, people’s responses have revealed the confusion over forgiveness and discernment.FORGIVENESS

Without question, we are called to forgive.

Forgiveness includes:

  • a recognition of the pain created
  • an admittance that the pain was caused by a person
  • a willingness to no longer hold the person responsible for the pain
  • the extension of kindness which the offender does not deserve

However, forgiveness does not include:

  • the removal of all negative consequences for their actions
  • the automatic reinstatement of any position or relationship lost
  • the inability for a person to use the past action in discerning a future relationship with the person

While we are called to forgive, we are also called to act in wisdom.

A person can forgive their spouse of adultery, yet still get a divorce.

An employer can forgive an employee of embezzlement, yet still choose to terminate them.

We can forgive our friend, yet rightfully choose to distance ourselves from them in the future.

Forgiveness does not mean we must forever act as though the incident never happened. Forgiveness demands that we forever act as though the offense did happen and that we chose to forgive the person. There is a major difference between the two.

I can’t say whether or not Bobby Petrino should be given another chance as the coach at Louisville. I have opinions, but they are not based on much knowledge of the situation.

I do know that if he has not done extensive work on his family and his own soul, the most unloving action which a person could show toward Petrino is paying him millions of dollars and giving him the notoriety of leading a major football program. Unless he has changed, he is being placed into an identical situation which allowed his first series of mistakes to take place. Unless he has changed, he will repeat his errors in some similar fashion. Unless he has changed, he is being used for his football mind with no consideration of his needy soul.

Yet, if he has changed, he may make the most of the situation.

Only time will tell.

Either way, you and I are called to forgive, but we are also called to discern. One does not happen at the exclusion of the other. Both are an aspect of the love we have been given by God and are called to give to others.


6 Responses to What Forgiveness Doesn’t Mean
  1. […] If I were Louisville, I wouldn’t have hired Petrino, but I don’t get to hate him. For mo... steven-hill.me/?p=267
  2. glendakuhn Reply

    I have been troubled about a relationship. I thought I forgave, but still remembered the offense. This bothered me. Your message today really helped.

  3. Cassidy Kincannon Reply

    I need to listen to your sermon a long time ago about how God forgives and forgets. I will have a question then.

  4. […] When we fail to forgive others, we often view them as a caricature of who they actually are. We see... kevinathompson.com/forgiveness
  5. Lindy Ingraham Reply

    Hi Kevin, I have been struggling in this area and have been seeking Gods clarity. I would very much like to find the scriptures you based this subject on. I want to be in obedience to God through His wisdom, so I would not be in sin by my fleshly feelings and emotions. Could you please share them?

  6. […] When we confuse forgiveness as simply a point, we can miss opportunities of growth and understanding... kevinathompson.com/how-to-forgive-when-you-cant-forget

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