Monday, October 13, 2008

Forgiveness: new book, and survey results

Chris Brauns has written a new book, Unpacking Forgiveness. It comes with the high marks of commendations by Jerry Bridges and m'man Ligon Duncan.

Regular readers know that my own thoughts on forgiveness don't mirror lockstep evanjellybeanicalism. (See mainly here, and as well the tag forgiveness.) My impression is that Brauns' book is along the same lines. Obviously, I haven't read it yet, but plan to read and review it when I can.

In the meanwhile, see the results of a survey Brauns did on the subject.


Rhology said...

I'd like a post on: you've got an unrepentant unbeliever, and he's sinned against you. What now? You don't forgive him, b/c he didn't repent, but what do you do? You can't let the anger devour you, etc... ever thought about that?

The Reformed Doug said...

Matthew 6:15

"But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions."

DJP said...

Yep. No Christian should refuse to forgive those who repent and ask forgiveness (Luke 17:3).

Rhology said...

No no no, he DIDN'T repent, DIDN'T ask for forgiveness.
You don't forgive him, but you don't stay perpetually angry, etc. See what I mean?

Trinian said...

I think Matthew 18:15-20 answers your question very specifically and practically.

Rhology said...

Not for UNrepentant UNbelievers, though. That's the point of my question.

Trinian said...

But your question is so much simpler if we ignore part of it. ;)
Hmm, well, you already know that an unrepentant unbeliever is unnecessary repetition (except to commenters who don't read good). On the one hand, whether or not you forgive them, they've not asked forgiveness from the truly wronged Party and so your forgiveness will do nothing except ease their mind. On the other hand, part of our testimony to the world is that we forgive those who trespass against us, and most especially we individually show love to our enemies and actively bless those who curse us and certainly don't ask for our forgiveness for it. So perhaps forgiveness in the sense that we would normally practice with Christian brothers is just the wrong term when dealing with unbelievers. Perhaps we should say instead that if we encounter an unbeliever who sins against us and does not repent, we bless them, love them with the Gospel, and thereby heap hot coals upon their laps. You've given me something to think about, though.

trogdor said...

While the specifics of each instance will vary, there are some Biblical principles that always apply.

1) Above all, make sure you don't sin. Make sure that whatever is coming your way is undeserved, that it's not the just (or even unjust) response to your own sin. Peter mentions this several times:

Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:21-25)

Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:13-17)

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And "If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?" Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. (1 Peter 4:12-19)

2) Pray for your enemy. Obviously see Matthew 5, et al. But what should you pray for, exactly? Consider Paul's instructions to Timothy:

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (2 Tim 2:24-26)

It seems that the most significant thing to pray for is their repentance. This is, after all, the greatest blessing they could possibly receive. Praying for their material comfort or other earthly blessings without appealing for their salvation would be misguided and possibly even cruel.

3) Similar to #1, make every legitimate effort to reconcile without sinning.

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:12-14)

This passage comes on the heels of an exhortation to endure suffering as discipline, which in this case included things like imprisonment and confiscation of property for associating with Christians (10:32ff). The author teaches them about the eternal perspective of faith, and tells them to view this temporal suffering as producing righteousness which will benefit eternally. Then he comes to the quoted passage. First off, be encouraged (strengthen knees, lift hands)! Second, make straight paths for your feet. Roughly paraphrased: you're already experiencing enough suffering for doing what's right, make sure you don't start doing things wrong to add just suffering on top of it! Finally, strive for peace with everyone (pretty self-explanatory), and for holiness (in making peace, do not compromise and sin).

4) Finally and most importantly, entrust your case to God. We saw this already in the example of Jesus, but it never hurts to read again:

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:21-23)

And a good passage to sum everything up is from Romans 12:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 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 12:14-21)

This passage is rich enough to preach on for a year without exhausting it, but the wife doesn't want me typing that long now. So, note that it basically includes all the above points, and could've just been quoted first. But why do things the easy way? Anyway, the point I want to elaborate on is the prohibition against revenge, and entrusting the case to God's wrath. The point here is fairly simple: every sin that has ever been committed receives the full punishment of God's wrath it deserves. For those who are in Christ, the punishment has been meted out on the cross. For those who are not, their punishment is payable upon death and judgment. Therefore, we have no place to take our own revenge for wrongs done to us, but should entrust it to God, knowing it will receive its just retribution. Instead of revenge, we should respond with blessing - including prayer for their repentance. Hopefully, they will repent of their sin and come to faith, and we will rejoice together as fellow sinners saved by grace. If not, we can know they are not getting away with their sin, and there will be no injustice against us. Either way, the command is to do what is honorable, and bless them, and live at peace as far as it is up to us, and may God have mercy on them.

CR said...

I read your first link, Dan you cited:snip snip So where does the idea come from that I am morally obliged to forgive every sin, whether it is repented of or not? I do not know. God doesn't do that (1 John 1:9), and I know of no passage where He says I must.snip snip

This sounds similar to the position of Jay Adams who writes in From Forgiven to Forgiving in which he says forgiveness is modeled after God's (Eph 4:32), it must be conditional and he cites examples like the Pharisees and scribes who would not repent.

MacArthur takes a different position (he does give praise to Adams but disagrees) in The Freedom and Power of Forgiveness where he says while forgiveness at times must be conditional he says to make conditionality the gist of Christlike forgiving misses the whole point of what Scripture is saying. He cites passages like, Matt 6:12, 14-15; James 2:13; Matt 18:35; and Luke 6:36-38. He says the emphasis is forgiving freely, generously, willingly eagerly, and speedily and from the heart. He says the attitude of the forgiver is where the focus of Scripture lies, not the terms of forgiveness.

So, MacArthur would agree with your point in that we are not obliged to forgive every sin where forgiveness is conditional. But he would say, that when forgiveness is unconditional, it should be offered freely. He (Mac) does give some examples where forgiveness is conditional in his book, but MacArthur argues that Scripture instructs us to forgive in the manner we have been forgiven, and what in view is not the idea of withholding forgiveness until the offender expresses repentence (he uses the aforementioned vs. above I cite).

Anyway, I took Adam's position early on in walk, because that's what I was taught at the church I use to go to, but then got Mac's book later in my walk and I think he makes a good case.

And the fact Duncan and esp. Bridges gives this book high marks that makes me even more bias. Anyway, just my very late thoughts.