Archives For Forgiveness

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

unpackingcoverTwo recent quotes on conditional forgiveness from Doug Wilson:

“We cannot forgive those who are defiant, however much we might like to. Because forgiveness is a transaction, if someone steals your car, you can’t run down the street after them, yelling out your forgiveness” (For a Glory and a Covering, p. 95).

“But you can have a heart full of forgiveness, full to the brim, ready to overflow the moment repentance appears. Until that happens, there is no forgiveness. We need to distinguish forgiveness in principle and forgiveness accomplished” (For a Glory and a Covering, p. 95).

Others on Conditional Forgiveness

Didn’t Jesus Forgive Unconditionally on the Cross?

Bible Verses on Forgiveness

Chris —  July 2, 2013

Bible verses on forgiveness are covered throughout Unpacking ForgivenessAny list of forgiveness Bible verses should point to key passages to study. The goal is not to wrench verses out of context. Rather, we need to identify passages to be studied in context. Below are verses from the Bible on forgiveness with suggested links.

Bible Verses on Forgiveness: 9 Forgiveness Passages to Study

  1. The Joseph Narrative (Genesis 37-50) – Joseph’s amazing response to his brothers (Genesis 45:5-7), and Judah’s repentance, make for a gripping story. Among other things, the Joseph narrative shows how vital the doctrine of providence is to beating bitterness. (See Peter Kreeft’s witty quote on providence in the Joseph narrative).
  2. Jesus’s 4th Discourse (Matthew 18:1-35) – The Lord begins with an urgent lesson on humility, outlines interpersonal and church discipline, reminds us to forgive one another with the grace given to us and concludes with the parable of the unforgiving servant.
  3. The “Get Over It” passages: Proverbs 19:11, Proverbs 17:14, and 1 Peter 4:8 – Not everything should be confronted. These verses remind us that love covers over a multitude of sins. See Tim Challies’, Love Covers a Multitude of Sins.
  4. The Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) – What Dickens called the greatest short story ever written challenges us all not to be the older brother. Tim Keller’s book, The Prodigal God, is highly recommended.
  5. Philemon: The entire book of Philemon is a biblical case study on how forgiveness should be unpacked between two individuals. Paul shows how the gospel comes to bear pastorally on a sticky situation. Doug Moo has written what is now the go to commentary on Colossians and Philemon.
  6. Jesus’s Prayer on the Cross (Luke 23:33 – 34) – See Didn’t Jesus Forgive Unconditionally on the Cross
  7. How can I stop thinking about it? Psalms 37 and 73 – Psalm 37:1 exhorts, “fret not because of evil doers,” but that is easier said than done. One of the most difficult aspects of unpacking forgiveness is getting off the mental gerbil wheel. Psalms 37 and 73 are wonderful gifts for those who need to find peace from a deep wound. You might also read this post, Memorize a Psalm in Order to Be Moved.
  8. What if they’re not sorry? Romans 12:17-21, 2 Timothy 4:14. In 2 Timothy 4:14 Paul implements the theology of forgiveness he outlines in Romans 12:17-21: (1) Show love. (2) No revenge. (3) Leave room for the wrath of God.
  9. Paul’s favorite Word for Forgiveness (charizomai) – Ephesians 4:32 and Colossians 3:13 – Paul’s choice of forgiveness words is very interesting, see this overview of biblical words on forgiveness.

See also:

The Forgiveness Quiz

9 Forgiveness Links

5 Problems With Unconditional Forgiveness

Unpacking the Casey Anthony Case

 

Unpacking Forgiveness by Chris Brauns

Unpacking Forgiveness by Chris Brauns

As a teenager and college student, I viewed living the Christian life with a sense of grim obligation. I knew that I should live for Christ, but I was not very excited to do so. John Piper helped me understand how living for Christ is both right (it glorifies God) and best (it maximizes my happiness). This material is adapted from my book, Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Wounds (Crossway, 2008).

For years I struggled to understand the relationship between God’s glory and my happiness. To begin with, as a child and young person, I had the sneaking suspicion that a person really committed to God would serve Him out of some sense of duty. And I also assumed that dutifully serving would be a miserable task. Songs we sang at church, about missionaries packing everything into a metal container, like “So Send I You,” didn’t help. Think about these words:

“So send I you to labor unrewarded, To serve unpaid, unloved, unsought, unknown, To bear rebuke, to suffer scorn and scoffing—So send I you to toil for me alone.

Kind of makes you want to sign up for missions, doesn’t it? Wow, did I respect missionaries, especially missionary doctors! They could have made a great living, but instead they sailed off to Kookamonga to be miserable (but dutiful!) servants of God.

I respected them. But I didn’t want to get on the boat with them. So I tried to live the Christian life on my own terms. That route, I found, was the truly miserable one.

Ever been there? Ever tried to do things your own way only to realize it doesn’t work very well?

Finally, as a graduate student, I began to really grow for Christ. To my surprise, I found far more joy in following Christ than I had known living on my own terms. And after a few years, my wife and I were leaving my first career and going off to seminary.

Yet even then, I did not really understand the relationship between all that the Bible says about God’s glory and my own desire to be happy. It was about this time that I came across John Piper and the central thesis of his life, ministry, and writings.

Piper says it this way. “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”  Reading his books, I finally realized that there is no competition between God’s passion for His glory and our desire for true, lasting joy or happiness. It is not one or the other. It is both. Glory for God and real joy for us are not mutually exclusive possibilities.

Following Christ is right – – He is God and He deserves all glory. But following Christ is best – – there is no greater joy than following Christ whole-heartedly.

One of the goals of my book, Unpacking Forgiveness, was to apply this thesis—that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him—to the area of forgiveness. We should seek to glorify God in how we work through broken relationships, knowing that even as we glorify God, we will maximize our joy. Or to use my words, we ought to unpack forgiveness because it is both right (it glorifies God) and best (it maximizes my happiness).

You cannot “get” this truth just by reading it once over. Think about it more deeply.  God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.  As Piper points out, this statement brings together two truths.[1]

  • The first truth is that God’s central passion is for His glory.  Everything should be done for the glory of God. We are called to be mirrors which reflect the glory and the brilliance of Christ. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Co 10:31).” We are blessed so that we can praise His glory (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14).
  • The second truth is that all people pursue joy or happiness. This is true of all people in all places. The great thinker Blaise Pascal said:

All men seek happiness, this is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.[2]

People, by nature, go after happiness. They pursue it wherever they believe they will find it. Piper emphasizes that this striving after happiness “is a law of the human heart as gravity is a law of nature.”[3] Think carefully about this point or, as Piper calls it, this “law.” You will pursue your own happiness.

Now here is the magnificent bringing together of these truths. We do not have to choose between one of the two, God’s glory or our happiness. In fact, we cannot truly have one without the other. Where forgiveness is concerned, if I do what is right (what glorifies God and is most Christ-like), then I will also do what is best (that which maximizes my own joy and happiness).

This is how we can understand what the Bible teaches about forgiveness and act (with determination) upon that understanding: not because unpacking forgiveness is a bitter pill you must swallow, but because you desire more than a grudge or long-term baggage from the past. You can be motivated to forgive because you long for God’s glory and because you long for a better country, a sweeter place.


[1] John Piper, God’s Passion for His Supremacy, Part I (Audio)(Desiring God Ministries, 2007, accessed March 17 2007); available from http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Radio/.

[2] Quoted in Piper, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, 16.

[3] Piper, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, 16.

Conditional Forgiveness is the position which best fits with what the Bible teaches on Christian forgiveness.

Unpacking Forgiveness by Chris Brauns

The question of whether or not Christians should forgive conditionally or unconditionally is one of the first that comes up when unpacking forgiveness. I wrote a great deal about conditional forgiveness in Unpacking Forgiveness – — I won’t rehash my argument here – – though links are available below.

However, I recently came across a post by Kevin Lewis of Biola University. In response to an email inquiry, Lewis shares some helpful thoughts on whether or not Christian forgiveness should be conditional or unconditional.

Email Inquiry

Recently, I was reading Dr. Kenneth Bailey’s Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes (IVP press 2008). When commenting on Matthew 6:12-13, he writes,

“It is a common human assumption that the violator of the rights of others must ask for forgiveness before the wronged party can be expected to accept the apology and grant forgiveness…But Jesus here asks the person wronged to forgive the one responsible for the wrongdoing when when there is no confession of guilt… There is a voice from the cross that echoes across history to all saying ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do.’ Neither Pilate nor the high priest nor the centurion offered any apology to Jesus, yet he prayed for divine forgiveness…(p.125)”

Response to Inquiry:

Regarding Bailey’s comments on Matthew 6:12, he errs by not considering the theological context of this statement and fails to consider any implied biblical conditions for forgiveness inherent in the statement.  The text simply does not mean what he says it means.  He is reading too much into the statement.

Bailey states, “Jesus here asks the person wronged to forgive the one responsible for the wrongdoing when there is no confession of guilt…”

Bailey errs.  Here, Jesus is giving a model for prayer commensurate with the way His Kingdom works.  Jesus teaches them to pray:  “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”  This is a statement of the objective, “forgiveness,” without a discussion of any express or implied conditions to accomplish the objective. It is also a statement of the proper attitude of the Christian, that is, that we must have a demeanor of being willing to forgive, just as God was willing to forgive us.  Bailey’s assertion that there is no “confession of guilt” or repentance is merely an unwarranted assumption.

Moreover, the use of “as” (Grk. hos) in the passage introduces a comparison between the way we forgive and the way God forgives.  This comparative phraseology is employed elsewhere on the subject of forgiveness.  For example, Ephesians 4:32 states that we should be “forgiving each other just as God in Christ also has forgiven” us.  Here, the comparative “just as” (Grk. kathos) is employed and indicates our forgiveness is to be just like God’s forgiveness of us, which flows from a loving disposition.  So in the same manner that God forgives, we must forgive.  We are to be “imitators of God” (Eph. 5:1).  See also Matthew 5:48 and Luke 6:36 for exhortations to imitate God.

Read the rest here.

On forgiveness, see also:

The Forgiveness Quiz

Others on Unconditional 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

 

If You Want More Grace . . .

Chris —  June 3, 2013
Unpacking Forgiveness by Chris Brauns

Unpacking Forgiveness by Chris Brauns

The Bible says that God gives grace to the humble.  Sometimes, being humble means saying “I am sorry” first.

Think about it.  Don’t you find it relatively easy to apologize if the other person says, “I am sorry,” first?  Saying it first is sometimes hard to swallow.

You would never claim perfection in marriage.  You just believe your spouse was more wrong; he or she ought to say “I am sorry first.”  Maybe you clattered your bowl into the kitchen sink and shut the door with a grumpy bang on your way to work this morning and left the milk out for good measure.  What silly games we play.

Remember Proverbs 3:34 says, “God mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble.”  Let your pride go. God mocks mighty mockers, but blesses the broken.

Do you want a special measure of God’s grace?  Here is what you do.  Flip open your phone and pound speed dial.  Follow this script, “I am sorry, I was wrong, will you please forgive me.”  Do not, I repeat, “do not,” find yourself continuing after the apology with a criticism of the other person.

You may or may not get a corresponding apology in response.  But, you can be assured of the grace of God at work in your life.  God blesses the broken.

Why not take the forgiveness quiz?

 

Should Christian voters who forgive Mark Sanford for his betrayals of trust have voted him back into office? He thinks so. Mark Sanford interpreted his return to the national political stage through a biblical lens.

To be sure, it was something of a political resurrection for Sanford whose career imploded in 2009 when an extra-marital affair with a woman in Argentina was uncovered.

Ross Douthat rightly questions Sanford’s theological analysis. Douthat writes:

Part of [my concerns with Sanford], I admit, stems from the combination of my personal preoccupations and the experience of reading quotes like these, from Sanford’s victory lap:

“Some guy came up to me the other day and said you look a lot like Lazarus,” Sanford told the crowd Tuesday night, referring to the man who, according to the Bible, Christ raised from the dead. “I’ve talked a lot about grace during the course of this campaign,” he said. “Until you experience human grace as a reflection of God’s grace, I don’t think you really get it. And I didn’t get it before.”

“I want to acknowledge a God not just of second chances,” Sanford said in his victory speech in Charleston, referring to his first TV ad in which he asked voters to support him despite his past problems. “But a God of third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth chances because that is the reality of our shared humanity.”

Because of course when Jesus told his disciples to forgive sinners seven times seven times, what he really meant was that they should affirm people in whatever they’ve done and want to do and then return them to high office as swiftly as possible. And when he raised Lazarus from the dead, it was likewise a sign that no political ambition need ever be set aside or abandoned, no matter how the politician in question has failed the public trust. For that matter, who can forget the famous gospel passage where John the Baptist officiated at King Herod’s second marriage, and then encouraged the Roman government to give Herod a few new titles and honors? I’m surprised Sanford didn’t reference that one!

Douthat is right to question Sanford’s theology. Below is an excerpt from Unpacking Forgiveness:

Forgiveness does not mean the elimination of all consequences.

If you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, then you are saved (Acts 16:31). So far as east is from the west, so far does God remove the transgressions of his children from them (Psalm 103:11-12). There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1). Nevertheless, these truths do not teach that those forgiven by God face no consequences for sin. On the contrary! This side of heaven, we will continue to work through the consequences of our rebellion against God. One of the most famous examples of this are the consequences David faced for his adultery with Bathsheba and his subsequent attempts to cover up the sin through deceit and murder.

When God used the prophet Nathan to confront David, he realized the magnitude of his sin and was truly repentant (2 Samuel 12:7). Nathan told David that God would forgive him for his sin (2 Samuel 12:13). However, there were still consequences, and severe ones at that. Nathan told David that there would be violence amongst his family (2 Samuel 12:10) and that the baby Bathsheba and he had conceived would die (2 Samuel 12:13). Even after the death of the baby, David faced those horrible consequences of ongoing violence in his family. One son, Amnon, raped David’s daughter Tamar (2 Samuel 13:1-22). Another son, Absalom, then killed Amnon (2 Samuel 13:23-33). Later, Absalom attempted to take over David’s kingdom (Samuel 15-19).

The reality of consequences raises a question: If God truly forgives, if he no longer holds the sin against the forgiven, then why are there are consequences? The answer is that God disciplines His own, not for the purpose of punishing them but for his glory and their joy in the future. These consequences are not punishment. Rather, they are how God trains and teaches.

The author of Hebrews stressed this point in Hebrews 12:5-12 when he wrote that God disciplines his children as a father the son he delights in. Two words are used to refer to the idea of disciplining. The first one means “to train.” This word was used in relation to raising children.Believers can expect to be “trained” by God. The second word we see is a harsher one. It means to scourge or punish. The ESV translates it “chastises.”This word appears seven times in the New Testament, and every other time it refers to literal “flogging.” Hebrews 12:6 says that we can expect discipline and direction from God, and at times it will be painful.

The reason God disciplines his children is given in Hebrews 12:10-11.

Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Hebrews 12:10-11

God allows us to face the consequences of sin for our own ultimate good, that we may eventually share more fully in his holiness and reap an abundant harvest of righteousness and peace.

Once when our son Christopher was only two, he made an unauthorized trip to our neighbor’s house. He snuck out our front door and crossed the street before my wife Jamie even missed him. He trotted up to our neighbors’ front door, knocked, and asked if he could play with their sons. Now obviously, we could not allow a toddler to leave our home without permission and cross a street again. So, we did our best as parents to make that a painful memory for Christopher. We lovingly sought to associate pain with his memory of disobedience.

Why did we do that? It certainly wasn’t that we wanted to “get him back” for going out on the street. Jamie and I weren’t thinking, “Okay, buddy, now you’re gonna pay.” Rather, we were seeking to train and instruct him for the future.

If you choose to disobey, then expect consequences. God loves his children too much to allow you to “play in the road.” But don’t confuse discipline and penalty. Discipline is the loving correction of a parent. Penalty is the price required for the offense. If you are a believer, the purpose of God’s discipline is not to inflict upon you the punishment you deserve. If that were the case, then God would send you to hell. God disciplines his children so that they might understand the seriousness of sin and be increasingly conformed to the image of his Son.

Which is worse: “cheap forgiveness” or “holding a grudge”? Is there healing power in holding a grudge?

Simon Doonan of Slate has written an article defending the healing power of holding a grudge. The article is well worth reading. Doonan’s critique of the cheap forgiveness so prevalent in our culture makes a valid point. Cheap and automatic forgiveness is no way to process grave injustice. It is unbiblical and it doesn’t work (See “A Soft View of Hell Makes Hard People.”). However, Doonan’s alternative to cheap forgiveness is to hold a grudge. Holding on to anger and resentment will not work either. The only way to truly process the evil of this world is to look to our Creator. We can be confident that vengeance belongs to Him and that he will rule justly.

In his article, Doonan surveys what he calls the “now ubiquitous forgiveness movement:

In recent years there has been no shortage of high-profile forgiveness fests. Mary Jo Buttafuoco forgave Amy Fisher, the Long Island Lolita, for shooting her in the head at point-blank range. At one of his many parole hearings, Mark David Chapman, John Lennon’s killer, perturbed his interlocutors by suggesting that his victim would have forgiven him by now. (Impressively, Yoko Ono, a promoter of forgiveness in general, has repeatedly said she’s not ready to forgive Chapman.)

In 2010 a lad in Tallahassee, Fla., named Conor McBride shot his girlfriend in the head. As she was clinging to life-support, her father says he somehow sensed her pleading with him to forgive Conor. He forgave the young man.*

On March 7, just over a month after Oscar Pistorius was arrested on suspicion of murdering girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, the uncle of the deceased beauty told CNN, “I would like to be face to face with him [Pistorius] and forgive him, forgive him [for] what he’s done and that way I can find most probably more peace with the situation but tell him face to face.”

Most recently, we have the Steubenville, Ohio, rape case. Last month, the mother of the victim shocked the courtroom when she told one of the rapists that she forgave him. Though I disagree wildly with her position, I can understand how she ended up there. Immersed in our culture of healing and kumbaya, and confronted with the sobbing, apologetic 16-year-old perp, she probably felt obliged to say something. But instead of offering to forgive him, how about a little helpful advice, for example: “Young man, terrible acts have terrible consequences. You must take your punishment like a man, and then, when you have paid your debt to society, you will be given a chance to rebuild your life.

Reflecting on the death of a friend, Doonan concludes that the alternative to automatic forgiveness is to hold a grudge.

When I run out of grudges I often go back to remembering my old pal. At first I think about how insanely fun and life-enhancing he was. Inevitably, after musing for a while, I start to get irate at the injustice of his death, and I can feel my body fill with anger. But I wear that clenched jaw and tension headache—sorry, Joan Lunden—as a badge of honor. Out of respect for the memory of my pal, I will carry that rage and indignation to my grave. No forgiveness necessary.

It is a good thing to be loyal to our friends. But it is not a good thing to go through life with a clenched jaw and tension headache. Bitterness is poisonous. Instead, as I pointed out in my book Unpacking Forgiveness one of the central ways that Scripture teaches us to avoid bitterness is to rest in the truth that God will see that justice is done.  Hence, Romans 12:17-21 says that we ought not to repay evil for evil, but rather we can rest in the truth that vengeance belongs to God and that he will repay.

For more, read the below posts.

Forgiveness and Virginia Tech is an article about I would say to a parent who lost a child at Virginia Tech.

A Soft View of Hell Makes Hard People explains why a neglect of biblical teaching on the doctrine of eternal punishment makes for hard and bitter people.

Al Mohler: A Dark Night in Denver: Groping for Answers is by the president of Southern Seminary and was written after the Aurora, CO murders.

5 Problems with Unconditional Forgiveness explains why a belief in automatic forgiveness has a negative theological trajectory.

Unpacking the Casey Anthony Case was written after the trial of Casey Anthony.

The Forgiveness Quiz tests your knowledge of what the Bible teaches about forgiveness and outlines the discussion in Unpacking Forgiveness.

An article about the murder of Kelsey Grammer’s sister was written regarding the parole hearings for someone convicted of the murder of the television star’s sister.

Exercises to stop thinking about how you have been wounded reflects on Psalm 73.

Ravi Zacharias: Tragedy at Newtown

Chris —  December 18, 2012

Ravi Zacharias:

The tragedy that shook Newtown, Connecticut, and indeed the entire nation, defies analysis. What must have gone on in the mind of this young man for him to walk into a school of little children and wreak such devastating carnage numbs the soul. At the same time this was happening, I was under the surgeon’s blade for minor surgery. When I left the recovery room and returned home, among the first pieces of news on my phone was the news of this mass killing. Something within me hoped that I was still not clear-headed, but I knew deep inside that I was reading an unfolding story of horror and tragedy.  What does one say? What is even appropriate without violating somebody’s sacred space and their right to scream in protest?

I am a father and a grandfather. I simply cannot fathom the unbearable weight within a parent’s or grandparent’s heart at such a personal loss. It has often been said that the loss of a child is the heaviest loss to bear. I have no doubt that those parents and grandparents must wonder if this is real or simply a terrifying nightmare. . . .

Read the rest here.

The evil murder of children and others in Newtown, Connecticut will inevitably raise questions about how the Christian view of forgiveness relates to such evil. One of the reasons that I wrote, Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Wounds, was because so much confusion surrounds the Christian response. And because it causes great damage when Christians issue unwarranted and inappropriate forgiveness.

Dennis Prager (who is not a Christian) once expressed frustration in a Wall Street Journal article regarding Christians who espouse cheap forgiveness in the wake of such violence:

The bodies of the three teen-age girls shot dead last December by a fellow student at Heath High School in West Paducah, Ky., were not yet cold before some of their schoolmates hung a sign announcing, “We forgive you, Mike!” They were referring to Michael Carneal, 14, the killer.

This immediate and automatic forgiveness is not surprising. Over the past generation, many Christians have adopted the idea that they should forgive everyone who commits evil against anyone, no matter how great and cruel and whether or not the evildoer repents.

The number of examples is almost as large as the number of heinous crimes. Last August, for instance, the preacher at a Martha’s Vineyard church service attended by the vacationing President Clinton announced that the duty of all Christians was to forgive Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber who murdered 168 Americans. “Can each of you look at a picture of Timothy McVeigh and forgive him?” the Rev. John Miller asked. “I have, and I invite you to do the same.”

Though I am a Jew, I believe that a vibrant Christianity is essential if America’s moral decline is to be reversed. And despite theological differences, Christianity and Judaism have served as the bedrock of American civilization. And I am appalled and frightened by this feel-good doctrine of automatic forgiveness.

The kinds of responses that Prager objects do nothing to point people to the justice of God and the Cross.

Unfortunately, in recent years there have been far too many opportunities to reflect on such senseless murders. I have written about this subject on a number of occasions. My views are summarized in Unpacking Forgiveness but the following links are available online:

Forgiveness and Virginia Tech is an article about I would say to a parent who lost a child at Virginia Tech.

A Soft View of Hell Makes Hard People explains why a neglect of biblical teaching on the doctrine of eternal punishment makes for hard and bitter people.

Al Mohler: A Dark Night in Denver: Groping for Answers is by the president of Southern Seminary and was written after the Aurora, CO murders.

5 Problems with Unconditional Forgiveness explains why a belief in automatic forgiveness has a negative theological trajectory.

Unpacking the Casey Anthony Case was written after the trial of Casey Anthony.

The Forgiveness Quiz tests your knowledge of what the Bible teaches about forgiveness and outlines the discussion in Unpacking Forgiveness.

An article about the murder of Kelsey Grammer’s sister was written regarding the parole hearings for someone convicted of the murder of the television star’s sister.

Exercises to stop thinking about how you have been wounded reflects on Psalm 73.