Forgiveness, and the Lies We Believe

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This is a message I would rather not deliver. It’s so counter-cultural that it’s bound to cause some frustration with people. Even Christians. Nevertheless, there are lie-ridden, sweet sounding, “inspirational” sayings and twisted words we are accepting as gospel truth. The importance of sharing this today was made clear to me when I saw a woman, whom I admire VERY much, sharing some of this confusion on social media.

Brothers and sisters, the world’s view about forgiveness has become our own. This worldview about forgiving, its purpose, its necessity, and it’s function, are beginning to warp the hearts of the best of us. And, because we are to guard OUR hearts above all else, I am going to guard yours today for you.

Here are a few phrases we need to reconsider:

“Forgive yourself”

This one is just utter nonsense that doesn’t derserve a mention outside of me reminding you of something you probably already know…

You cannot give what you don’t have and we are NOT the creators of forgiveness. God is, ergo you can’t “forgive yourself”. If you could, then the cross of Christ was a cruel and unnecessary joke. (Which we know to be otherwise)

Next we have this gem of earthly “wisdom”:

“Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace”

It baffles me on how this even made the cut to get into our thinking in the church. These words musthave found a back door into our minds through the gate of pride, sneaking in like a thief in the sheep pen. I deserve peace, but another does not deserve forgiveness?? Um, excuse me if I am wrong here (I’m not), but didn’t Jesus die because NONE of us deserve anything but hell? Where do we get off professing to be Christians (which means “little Christs”) and saying stupid, hateful things like this?

Best to drop this one in the trash, set it on fire, and walk away triumphantly as pride goes up in flames behind you like a scene from a bad action movie (think Steven Seagal explosions).

We need to obliterate this saying from our vocabulary and, more importantly, from our mindset. Not only is it used to show unjust partiality to our selves, but the idea that a person should be forgiven because they “deserve it” negates everything we know about Jesus’s sacrifice and what grace is. It steals the hope of our own salvation (not salvation itself, but our surety of it), and stifles our ability to be an instrument of the Holy Spirit in carrying grace and forgiveness to a dying world. Each time we spew this lie, it is as if we are at the foot of the cross, jeering insults with the crowd as Jesus hangs for us.

Lastly, we have a beautiful, theologically sound statement (by a theologian at that), which has been taken out of context as the be-all-end-all authority on forgiving, rather than an excerpt from the discussion on forgiveness that it actually is.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that prisoner was you”

The man who spoke these wise words, Lewis B. Smedes, was a brilliant and renowned thinker… but that doesn’t mean he got it all right. Mr. Smedes also referred to “people who do terrible evil” as “monsters”. Clearly there was something clouding his judgement which led him to speak in contrary to what the Word tells us. Which is this:

For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.

Ephesians 6:12

This great thinker had some other wise words we should consider, especially in light of our current discussion on forgiveness. Lewis Smedes once stated:

“There are some things about God that, were I to stop believing them, my world would change color, my hope would turn sour, and the meaning of my life would be yanked inside out.”

I couldn’t have said it better. This is precisely that state of heart we are headed for when we take upon any manner of considering what forgiveness is that is not fully and solitarily defined by what occurred at the cross of Christ.

We seem to of lost touch with the purpose of forgiveness. We stand in public and profess our faith, even dunking each other under water to make sure people see what we are proclaiming about forgiveness and “death of self”, and the next moment we stand in judgement as though we are God Himself.

We agree, heads nodding and smiles widening, that forgiveness is solely for the person who does the forgiving. This is not only incomplete, it is an offense to the cross and what Jesus did there. I know this is redundant, but I will say it a hundred times to see my family freed of this lie…

Jesus forgave us for US! If there were anything He did for Himself in dying on Calvary, it was to make way for a restored relationship (another topic for intricate dissection at a later date). His intention, as ours should be, was for restoration of relationship with the Father. 

I will forever be an advocate of the rugged cross and the severity of what was accomplished there… through a sovereign God who loves us WITHOUT RESERVATION, even unto death. It is only at that cross that we comprehend Love and it is only in bearing that cross that we can show that Love to the world, thus healing it.

So here it is…

Yes, forgiveness is for you

But it is not ONLY for you

If it is… you have missed the whole point of Jesus’s death and ministry.

The church needs to embrace, once again, the fullness and the extremity of the sacrifice of the man we profess to be our Savior… and then we need to walk that out in our own lives.

Until next time, may God keep you humble and forgiving without reservation or partiality.

Your sister,

Monica

6 Comments

  1. Eye opening! Well put together and expressed. Many “churched” people, (those with longstanding church involvement and history) will refute your message. Hopefully, it will resonate with those that need it most.

  2. Thank you for this post. I agree this is a topic which I often misunderstood and misused. I found this out first-hand after an incident which landed a former roommate in prison after an, I will call it, interaction with my then 2-year-old daughter. The conflict came when I was able to offer forgiveness to this man but my daighter’s mother was not. Her feeling on the matter was that my offer of forgiveness was commensurate to an offer of allowing this man back into the family’s lives as if he had done nothing wrong. No amount of explanation on the merits of or commands for forgiveness laid out in Scripture could convince her to see any dissenting points of view to hers.

    1. Wow. You have an incredible testimony here! It is a difficult topic that requires our full submission to the Lord in very difficult times. Praying for her that she will embrace that if she has not already.

  3. Regarding “forgive yourself”, it is clear that God is the author of forgiveness but to say we don’t have forgiveness is contrary to the Lord’s Prayer, we must forgive others as God has forgiven us. This clearly shows we have the ability to forgive. The statement “Forgive yourself” exists within this context. If I can forgive another, then I can forgive myself for the things I have done. It’s simply accepting the fact that if God is able to forgive me, in spite of what I have done, I can also forgive myself. So many hold themselves prisoner because their actions were not perfect but that is a standard which is higher than God’s.

    1. I understand your perspective. Because words can be twisted easily, I believe it is important to stop saying “forgive your (my) self.” If we are held prisoner, it is only due to a failure to accept God’s forgiveness as being sufficient.

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