Archives For Forgiveness

Amish people in PennsylvaniaChristians horrifically injured by unrepentant offenders should point an onlooking world to the Cross.

It has now been over 10 years since Charles Roberts IV murdered five Amish little girls in Nickles Mines, PA, and injured five others, before killing himself. Two recent articles give an update.

Several have asked me to comment on the recent stories of how Amish forgiveness has brought healing to the shooter’s mother.

The above articles offer positive evaluations of the Amish response. I wholeheartedly agree that the love the Amish have demonstrated is beautiful. Amish grace has done so much to stop what could have been a cycle of anger and revenge. But there is a crucial element missing.

When the Offense is Grave and the Offender Is Unrepentant

In Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Wounds I argued that when the offense is grave and the offender is unrepentant Christians must follow the example of Christ in 3 ways. These principles are explicit in Romans 12:17-21 and 1 Peter 2:21-25.

  1. No revenge. Scripture clearly prohibits Christians from retaliating in any way (Romans 12:17, Romans 12:19). Any bitterness or vindictiveness is completely off limits for Christians.
  2. Proactively show love. Christ demonstrated his love for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). Likewise, Christians should look for ways to positively and creatively reach out to those who injure us (Romans 12:17).
  3. Leave room for the wrath of God. God has promised that he will see that justice is done (1 Peter 2:23, Romans 12:19). The Bible consistently comforts victims, not by saying that the sin will be overlooked, but rather by encouraging us to give the matter to God (cf. 2 Thess 1:5-10, 2 Timothy 4:14, Revelation 6:10).

In Unpacking Forgiveness, I showed how commendably the Amish have followed principles 1 & 2. Here is an excerpt of what I wrote:

The beauty and loveliness of Christ reflected in the lives of the Amish in how they responded to Roberts. There was never a thought of revenge. They showed love proactively and creatively. First, there was the thirteen-year-old, Marian, who asked Roberts to shoot her first. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). God bless Marian.

The families continued what Marian began. When donations began to pour in to help with the expenses, the Amish immediately offered assistance  to the family of the man who had murdered their daughters. One Amish elder explained: Who will take care of their family? It’s not right if we get $1,000 and they get $5. We must set something up for these children’s education.

The stories of Amish grace and love after the shooting can only be highlighted here. More than half of the people who attended the funeral for Charles Roberts were Amish. Parents of the slain children invited Roberts’s widow, Marie Roberts, to attend the funeral for their daughters. Overwhelmed by such love and grace, Marie Roberts wrote to the Amish, “Your love for our family has helped to provide the healing we so desperately need. Your compassion has reached beyond our family, beyond our community, and is changing our world.

It is principle number three that concerns me where the Amish response is in view. In terms of what has been reported, there is almost nothing written that shows the Amish pointed an onlooking world to the justice of God and the necessity of the Cross. Here is another excerpt from Unpacking Forgiveness:

. . . I believe the Amish community of Nickel Mines glorified God in how they proactively and lovingly offered grace to the family of the man who murdered their daughters. They were so exemplary in their love amid such awful circumstances that one hesitates to differ with their response in any way. And yet because their actions were widely represented as a model of how Christians should respond to evil, it is appropriate to consider if their response could have been more balanced.

So far as I am aware, and I have not done an exhaustive study, there was little or no mention by the Amish of the justice of God. From the beginning they automatically forgave Roberts. An Amish woman said on television that they had to forgive if they wanted God to forgive them. The grandfather of a victim said, “We shouldn’t think evil of the man who did this. “

It is true that Christians must not be overcome by hatred. Yet, Christians must also warn an onlooking world about the justice of God. Christians should most explicitly point people to the cross when evil is darkest. There is a way to lovingly remind people that God’s judgment is certain (Hebrews 9:27). There is not room here to dialogue thoroughly with the Amish position. Several quick points, however, can be made.

The Amish do practice conditional forgiveness with their own members. They shun those who breach their order and do not receive them back into fellowship unless they are repentant.

The Amish do believe in hell and eternal judgment. While they may say that they forgive an unrepentant offender, they believe God will deal justly with him or her.

The Amish are not evangelistic. While a rare event such as Nickel Mines may draw attention to Amish faith, it is hard to square their radical separation from culture to Jesus’ commandment to go into all the world to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). Amish passivity is not effective in calling people to faith and repentance.

See also:

The Forgiveness Quiz – This will get you started thinking about forgiveness.

Didn’t Jesus Forgive Unconditionally on the Cross? – One of the first questions that comes up when we talk about the truth that Christians should not always forgive.

Others on Unconditional Forgiveness – This is a collection of quotes from others who interact with the subject of conditional forgiveness.

5 Problems With Unconditional Forgiveness – Numerous problems arise when we encourage cheap grace. Here are 5 examples

Should I confront an offender or just get over it? – What should be confronted? What should be let go? This post will help you work through the question of when to confront.

How can I stop thinking about it? – The “mental gerbil wheel” is one of the most difficult aspects of deep offenses.

How can I forgive myself? – This is another forgiveness question people often raise.

Chris Brauns Review of Totally Forgiving God by R.T. Kendall – Is it okay for Christians to forgive God. Some authors argue there are times it is appropriate. In this review for The Gospel Coalition I interact with R.T. Kendall’s book.

 

Should We Forgive God?

Chris —  August 16, 2016 — 1 Comment

Following my appearance on the national Moody radio program, Up for Debate, hostess Julie Roys asked me to write a guest post for her blog addressing the question, “Should We Forgive God?”

Here is how Julie introduced the post:

Today, people commonly talk about forgiving God. But, is this idea biblical? This question surfaced last Saturday on my radio show, Up For Debate, and sparked passionate dialogue. Interestingly, my guest, who maintained that forgiveness is unconditional, argued that we can forgive God. But, author and Pastor Chris Brauns, who believes forgiveness is conditional, argued emphatically that we cannot. He further asserted that the notion of forgiving God is inextricably linked with the notion that forgiveness is unconditional — something he defined as “therapeutic forgiveness.” Intrigued, I asked Pastor Brauns to follow up by writing a guest post for my blog on the topic. Graciously, he agreed —and I am so glad he did because I think his reflections are extremely helpful. Enjoy! —Julie

Read the rest here.

UpforDebateI will be on the Up for Debate show with Julie Roys at 11:00 AM CST, 8/13/16. Listen here

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I’m looking forward to unpacking forgiveness today with Julie Roys and another guest (Remy Diederich). We are going to go right after tough forgiveness questions and common Christian misunderstandings.

Hopefully, many of you can listen live. If not, I will post a link to the audio if one is available. In the mean time, below are forgiveness links that well help you begin to think through relevant forgiveness questions.

The Forgiveness Quiz – This will get you started thinking about forgiveness.

Didn’t Jesus Forgive Unconditionally on the Cross? – One of the first questions that comes up when we talk about the truth that Christians should not always forgive.

Others on Unconditional Forgiveness – This is a collection of quotes from others who interact with the subject of conditional forgiveness.

5 Problems With Unconditional Forgiveness – Numerous problems arise when we encourage cheap grace. Here are 5 examples

Should I confront an offender or just get over it? – What should be confronted? What should be let go? This post will help you work through the question of when to confront.

How can I stop thinking about it? – The “mental gerbil wheel” is one of the most difficult aspects of deep offenses.

How can I forgive myself? – This is another forgiveness question people often raise.

Chris Brauns Review of Totally Forgiving God by R.T. Kendall – Is it okay for Christians to forgive God. Some authors argue there are times it is appropriate. In this review for The Gospel Coalition I interact with R.T. Kendall’s book.

I’m looking forward to being on Moody Radio with Julie Roys on the show, Up for Debate.” Here is the program description given:

Should Christians Forgive No Matter What?

Should Christians forgive someone even if he’s not sorry?  Or does true forgiveness require repentance and a desire to reconcile?  This Saturday, on Up For Debate, Julie Roys will explore this issue with Chris Brauns, a pastor who believes forgiveness requires repentance, and Remy Diederich who believes it does not. Listen and join this challenging discussion, this Saturday at 11 a.m. Central Time, on Up For Debate!

Read more here.

brusselsI wrote a guest post for Grand Rapids Theological Seminary regarding the Christian response to terrorism.

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The reluctance of Christians to soberly consider the biblical doctrine of God’s wrath leaves us vulnerable to bitterness.

 It was the picture of an x-ray that punched me in the stomach. My wife got emotional when she heard the sound of a baby crying. But for me, watching the nightly news, it was the image of a bolt embedded in the chest of one of the victims of the Belgium terrorist attacks that made me mad.

 There is such a thing as righteous anger. But I was somewhere beyond righteous. Looking at the x-ray of shrapnel that had viciously ripped its way into someone’s chest, I did not feel constrained by the love of Christ.

Read the rest here.

 

Karl & June Mornings on Moody RadioUpdate: I will be on the Karl and June show again tomorrow morning (Good Friday, 3/25/16 @ 7:00 AM CST. Click through to their site to stream.

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I’m looking forward to unpacking forgiveness on the Karl and June Mornings show on Moody Radio Monday morning (3/21/16) at 7:00 AM CST. The hosts and I are going to go right after tough forgiveness questions and common Christian misunderstandings.

Hopefully, many of you can listen live. If not, I will post a link to the audio if one is available. In the mean time, below are forgiveness links that well help you begin to think through relevant forgiveness questions.

The Forgiveness Quiz – This will get you started thinking about forgiveness.

Didn’t Jesus Forgive Unconditionally on the Cross? – One of the first questions that comes up when we talk about the truth that Christians should not always forgive.

Others on Unconditional Forgiveness – This is a collection of quotes from others who interact with the subject of conditional forgiveness.

5 Problems With Unconditional Forgiveness – Numerous problems arise when we encourage cheap grace. Here are 5 examples

Should I confront an offender or just get over it? – What should be confronted? What should be let go? This post will help you work through the question of when to confront.

How can I stop thinking about it? – The “mental gerbil wheel” is one of the most difficult aspects of deep offenses.

How can I forgive myself? – This is another forgiveness question people often raise.

Chris Brauns Review of Totally Forgiving God by R.T. Kendall – Is it okay for Christians to forgive God. Some authors argue there are times it is appropriate. In this review for The Gospel Coalition I interact with R.T. Kendall’s book.

Screenshot 2015-07-28 18.58.13Pastor Michael Boys of Christ Community Church in Houston recently preached one of the best sermons I have heard on forgiveness. You can listen here.

I would encourage you to listen for yourself. Be prepared to notice several points:

  • Notice how Michael consistently reminds us that the gospel is basic for our understanding of forgiveness.
  • Michael introduces the term “layers of forgiveness.” This is a very helpful way of saying things and clarifies some points I have made in the past. If I revised Unpacking Forgiveness right now I would use that language – – and ideally give Michael credit.
  • Michael makes the important point that passages that are detailed and specific (such as Luke 17:3-4) help clarify more general passages like Mark 11:25.

There were other profound thoughts. But I forget what they were. I listened while I was walking and it was very hot, though not Houston hot!

On forgiveness, see also:

The Forgiveness Quiz

Others on Unconditional Forgiveness

A One Page Overview of Forgiveness

Is Forgiveness Always Right and Required? by Justin Taylor

Slowing Down the Runaway Forgiveness Train: Is there such a thing as too much mercy? by Scot McKnight

As We Forgive Our Debtors a sermon by John Piper

I Faced My Killer Again by Chris Carrier: A Christian shares the Gospel with a man who stabbed him, shot him in the head, and left him for dead. In connection with Chris Carrier’s amazing story, see Leonard Pitt’s column, God is in the Rain, Not the Thunder

Amish Extend Hand to Family of Schoolhouse Killer

Scott and Janet Willis willing to meet with imprisoned Governor Ryan – Story on my blog of Scott and Janet Willis who lost six children in a fiery mini-van accident due, in part, to corruption in government.

5 Problems With Unconditional Forgiveness

Another point of encouragement for Christians who cannot agree

Unpacking the Casey Anthony Case

Should I confront an offender or just get over it

How can I stop thinking about it?

Didn’t Jesus Forgive Unconditionally on the Cross

Unpacking Forgiveness in Cambodia

Chris —  January 29, 2015 — 1 Comment

christopher-lapelI highly recommend this story of forgiveness.

An estimated 1.4 million died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge in the Killing Fields of Cambodia. The film company Moving Works has produced a new movie that shows how the light of Christ can shine in the darkest places possible. This film is:

An astonishing story of God’s love and grace, The Foremost chronicles the journey of Christopher LaPel, a Cambodian pastor who escaped the clutches of the Khmer Rouge regime only to return and cross paths with one of the most feared men in the country’s dark history. It’s an honest and hope-filled film that will challenge your views on forgiveness and grace no matter what you believe.

The Foremost from Moving Works on Vimeo.

HT: JT

Al Mohler interacts with Ariel Castro’s protestations that he is not a monster:

“I am not a monster. I am a normal person. I am just sick.”  Those were among the words Ariel Castro addressed to an Ohio judge as he faced the bar of justice yesterday. Shortly thereafter, Judge Michael J. Russo of the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court sentenced Castro to life in prison with no chance of parole, and then added an additional 1,000 years of prison time.

Castro, age 53, had kept three women imprisoned in his Cleveland home for a decade, treating them as sex slaves. All of the women were young when Castro abducted them; two were teenagers. He entered a guilty plea yesterday in order to avoid the death penalty. He eventually pleaded guilty to more than 900 criminal counts, including aggravated murder, rape, and kidnapping, among other crimes. The aggravated murder count was tied to Castro’s brutal beating of one woman when she was pregnant with his child. The unborn child died and the woman miscarried.

The crimes Ariel Castro committed defy the moral imagination. Added to the enormity of his crimes is a lack of remorse. Castro seems to have little moral conscience or sensibility. He is clearly not haunted by the knowledge of what he has done. He even told the judge that, in his own mind, he saw the three women he abducted, assaulted, raped, and  imprisoned as part of a happy home.

In his most provocative statement, Castro declared: “I am not a monster. I am a normal person. I am just sick.” Even after admitting that he committed over 900 crimes, including aggravated murder, rape, and assault, he insisted that he is “not a violent person.” He claimed to be the victim of a sexual addiction and exposure to pornography.

So, what is he?

Read the rest here.

See also: Unpacking the Casey Anthony Case

Knowing forgiveness quotes is essential if we are to find answers for deep wounds and complex questions.The below forgiveness quotes are some of the most important in history. But you can probably add important ones that I am missing in the comments!

Forgiveness Quotes from Jesus

. . . And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors . . . For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.  Matthew 6:12, 14-15.

Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart. Matthew 18:32-35

And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.  And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”~ Luke 23:33-34 See Didn’t Jesus Forgive Unconditionally on the Cross

Forgiveness Quotes from The Apostle Paul

 Repay no one evil for evil,but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:17-21 – See Forgiveness and Virginia Tech

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:13

Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.  Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. 2 Timothy 4:14-15

Forgiveness Quotes from the Psalms

Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Psalms 37:1-2

Forgiveness Quotes from Shakespeare

The quality of mercy is not strained, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven, Upon the place beneath: it is twice blessed; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes. Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, IV, i.

Forgiveness Quotes from Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance. The Cost of Discipleship, page 47.

But do we also realize that this cheap grace has turned back on us like a boomerang?  The price we are having to pay today in the shape of the collapse of the organized church is only the inevitable consequence of our policy of making grace available to all at too low a cost.  We gave away the word and sacraments wholesale, we baptized, confirmed, and absolved a whole nation unasked and without condition.  Our humanitarian sentiment made us give that which was holy to the scornful and the unbelieving.  We poured forth unending streams of grace.  But the call to follow Jesus in the narrow way was rarely ever heard.  A Testament to Freedom,  310.

Nothing can be more cruel than the tenderness that consigns another to his sin.  Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe rebuke that calls a brother back from the path of sin. Life Together, 107.

. . . it is only when God’s wrath and vengeance are hanging as grim realities over the heads of one’s enemies that something of what it means to love and forgive them can touch our hearts. In a letter to Eberhard Bethge, Letters and Papers from Person, ed. Eberhard Bethge, 157.

Forgiveness Quotes from C.S. Lewis

“Last week, while at prayer, I suddenly discovered—or felt as if I did—that I had really forgiven someone I have been trying to forgive for over thirty years.” Letters to Malcolm Chiefly On Prayer, page 106.

Forgiveness Quotes from L. Gregory Jones (author of Embodying Forgiveness)

“Cheap grace denies any real need for deliverance from sin since it justifies the sin instead of the sinner.  As such, cheap grace offers consolation without any change of life, without any sense of either dying or rising in Christ.… Bonhoeffer concluded that…the Lutheran church in Germany had been unable to resist Hitler because cheap grace had triumphed…. Repentance and confession must be practiced in specific and concrete ways, as part of the larger craft of forgiveness, if they are to result in that truthfulness that empowers people for faithful discipleship to Jesus Christ.  That is why Bonhoeffer stressed the importance of church discipline and why he insisted that forgiveness cannot be unconditional.” Embodying Forgiveness, 13, 19.

Forgiveness Quotes on Defeating Bitterness

Fret not yourself because of evildoers, and be not envious of the wicked, for the evil man has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out. Proverbs 24:19-20. Old Testament Theologian Bruce Waltke summarizes this verse, “Keeping the extinction of [evildoers’] lamp in view will extinguish burning envy.”The Book of Proverbs 15-31, ed. R.K. Harrison and Robert L. Jr. Hubbard, The New International Commentary of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 285-286

“An obsession with enemies and rivals cannot be simply switched off, but it can be ousted by a new focus of attention; note the preoccupation with the Lord himself.” Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72, 149.  Kidner makes this comment in reference to Psalm 37 which is also a wonderful resource for conquering bitterness.

Forgiveness Quotes from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Formerly you never forgave anyone.  You judged people without mercy.  And you praised people with equal lack of moderation.  And now an understanding mildness has become the basis of your uncategorical judgments.

Forgiveness Quotes on Conditional Forgiveness

See Conditional Forgiveness is Taught by Many Christian Authors and Theologians

See 5 Problems With Unconditional Forgiveness

Other Forgiveness Links

9 Forgiveness Links

The Forgiveness Quiz