Pristine Grace

Unforgiving Forgiveness
by John Pedersen

Christians are called upon to predicate their judgments and dealings with others on the truth, the teaching, the doctrine of the gospel. They are to regard fellow believers as brothers and sisters in Christ, knowing they have the same Spirit, without Whom they would not believe at all. They are to love as they know themselves to have been loved and to be loved. They are to forgive as they know themselves to have been forgiven. 

What is it, then, when a person professing to know the gospel uses the phraseology of contemporary psychology to describe forgiveness, professing to “forgive” but never “get over” or be able to “forget” what another has supposedly done or actually done? How is that like God’s forgiveness? Are humans only able to “get over” and “forget” the small, relatively insignificant offenses others commit, but not the significant, affecting ones, regardless of whether they believe the gospel of God’s grace? Why would we be enjoined to forgive as we have been forgiven if it were not possible for us to do so? 

It is understandable and obvious a person may have memory of a particular offense another has committed, unable to forget something has happened. Does this justify his not “getting over” it? Not if the gospel is the standard of judgment. According to the apostolic instruction, believers are to forgive as they have been forgiven. Rest assured: God has “gotten over” the offenses of His people on account of Christ’s sacrifice. 

If one is convinced of their true need for forgiveness, they will not see themselves as needing a band-aid. They will not see themselves as small, insignificant sinners. When God convicts of sin, it is a disclosure of destitution: we know ourselves utterly bereft of the righteousness acceptable to Him Whom we have offended. We come to see nothing good in ourselves, and everything good in Christ. We go to Him for all righteousness. 

In view of this, when another commits an offense against us, the only way we can “not get over” the offense is if we think ourselves to be lesser sinners who know what we may call forgiveness for our lesser sins, more easily “gotten over”. The only way to be scandalized by the offenses of others is by relative comparison to ourselves, to see ourselves as separate from the offense we can’t “get over”. Otherwise we would be seeing our own sin in the scandalous sin of the one offending us and, knowing ourselves forgiven of this sin, forgive the one offending us as we ourselves have been forgiven. 

“Not getting over” an offense a fellow Christian has committed against us is a backhanded way of complementing ourselves for our own righteousness. 

Jesus concludes his address to Simon in Luke 7 with these words: “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” (Luke 7:47).