procrastination, heresy, and navel-gazing.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

to forgive is human, grace divine.

last week was the 2nd in our now annual summer series (well the 2nd of something makes it annual, does it not?), entitled the untouchables (check out for further details); the topic this time was domestic abuse.

in thinking about what the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ has to say on the topic, you would assume forgiveness would be one of the main things.
indeed, the gospel allows the victim of such a heinous thing as domestic abuse to offer forgiveness to their abuser.

however, the definition of forgiveness given in the talk was that for full forgiveness to be given, there needs to be repentance from the abuser: they need to recognise their evil, admitting their culpability; their repentance recognising any forgiveness they receive would be completely undeserved.

when pressed on this, the idea was that forgiveness is a motion towards reconciliation. further to this, the normal context of forgiveness in the Bible is in that of seeking reconciliation.

which of course brings us to grace.
grace, Biblically, is the idea that forgiveness and reconciliation are given, not because we deserve it, but in spite of ourselves, in spite of our unrepentant sinful hearts.
as Ephesians 2:8-9 so well puts it,
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

indeed, a helpful book put out by matthias media, Forgiving Hitler explains, understanding that grace from God through Christ means we are able to give up our need for vengeance, to give up the requirement for the injurious party to seek forgiveness.

but still, after discussion, and in the case of domestic abuse, it was clear that without repentance there can still be only a partial forgiveness. the abused can never feel safe and secure in the presence of the abuser, the abuser in remaining unrepentant, only multiplies their gross sinfulness.

my question remained, "but can we not forgive with grace - not requiring their repentance?"

but that, it seems, is for God alone.
what in this case is impossible for man, ie forgiving and reconciling despite the enormity of the sinner's actions, is possibly - nay, is done, in Christ.

and for this we can give great thanks.

if you would like to do some more thinking on forgiveness, i can recommend byron's short series on forgiveness (1st post)

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