The Sin of Forgiveness by Edward F. Mrkvicka, Jr.
“Is forgiveness a sin? It depends on what kind of forgiveness you’re talking about. Worldly forgiveness is a sin as described repeatedly in the Bible. Conversely, righteous forgiveness is a holy thing that changes lives and eternities.”
“We are to forgive as God instructs.”
“Luke 17:3 say, ‘Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.’ ”
Most of us know that if we build a house on an unstable, flawed foundation, regardless how beautiful the house may be, it is in danger of breaking apart and collapsing. Its destruction could have been avoided if attention had been given to the most important part of the building: the foundation. A foundation may not be attractive in appearance, so it often gets ignored, hidden, and forgotten. In this reviewer’s opinion, the same appears to be true of Christianity. In our efforts to “beautify” the church and make it appealing to as many as possible, people who have good intentions, those who love God, have neglected the foundation of our beliefs–the truth about God as given to us in the Bible.
I agree with the author when he asserts that there is a difference between the Biblical concept of forgiveness and the secular concept of forgiveness. In the introduction of his book, he outlines these differences.
A. Divine forgiveness
1. We are to know why we are to forgive an offender.
2. God desires reconciliation.
3. God desires that we sacrifice for one another.
4. Forgiveness is a serious issue.
5. The process of forgiveness should be done according to Jesus’ teaching
6. Forgiveness is an act of painful payment, restitution and
7. The desire is for the sinner to be reborn and reconciled.
8. The victim seeks what was lost through the sin committed.
9. Forgiveness is a result of repentance.
10. We cannot forgive on our own. We need God’s assistance.
11. Forgiveness is a healing process for both parties; a result of
12. The wronged seeks assurance that the sin will not be repeated
13. Follow the instructions of Luke 17:3 for the Godly pattern.
14. Forgiveness is offered only when the sinner repents.
B. Secular forgiveness
1. Uses half truths for blanket forgiveness. See Luke 6: 36-37
2. Forgive everything all the time (mindless).
3. We forgive for our own mental well being.
4. Unconditional forgiveness is easy.
5. The wronged is denied rightful restitution.
6. It is implied that forgiveness is the responsibility of the wronged.
7. This kind of forgiveness seems spiritual no matter the method
used as long as we forgive.
8. We are not seeking God’s counsel.
9. This kind of forgiveness ignores Jesus’ example on the cross.
10. This kind of forgiveness gives the perpetrator license to continue
offending and doing wrong.
11. This kind of forgiveness harms both parties.
12. This kind of forgiveness makes the victim a partaker of the
offender’s sin (giving permission to continue to sin).
13. This kind of forgiveness responds to “I’m sorry.” But saying that is not
restitution, repentance, or turning away from the wrong behavior.
14. Giving forgiveness when it is not warranted does not heal anyone.
It appears that the Christian church today is moving away from Biblical forgiveness and leaning toward the secular definition of forgiveness. Biblical forgiveness is often dismissed as being ungracious, judgmental, severe, and unloving. “Repentance is dismissed by society as irrelevant…” When is the last time you have heard repentance taught in the church? Yet when you read Biblical events, how often did disobedience and/or unrepentance of a person cause difficulty for a whole family, a community or even an entire nation?
One of the most basic truths about God is that He is not like us. The Bible uses word pictures to drive this important concept home: He is the Potter, we are the clay (Isaiah 64:8, Isaiah 29:16). Most of us understand how little a person has in common with a hunk of clay. A person is animate; the clay is inanimate. A person has life and breathes; clay has no life and it doesn’t breathe. So are the differences between God and mankind. Isaiah 55:8 says God’s ways are not our ways. How many of us can think an entire universe into existence? God can choose to forget. We cannot seem to forget things we want to forget and often forget what we should remember. God exists outside of time and we humans can’t even imagine a life without a past, present and future. God exists in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We can’t even begin to imagine that kind of existence.
With such monumental differences between us and God, how are we to understand Him? From the moment of man’s creation God had a plan; He gave us choices. With the choices came consequences. Through events from the beginning and throughout the next few thousand years of history God demonstrated His nature to us. Ones who loved God, such as Moses, wrote down these events in what became known as the Scriptures (The Writings). Today we call the entire collection the Bible (The Book). From the Bible we learn the best way to live life is to do things God’s way. Obedience to Him, even when His way sometimes doesn’t make sense to us, is walking in faith.
The Bible is filled with examples of real people who walked by faith and received God’s blessings when they did, and of those who went their own ways, walked in disobedience and experienced the consequences that followed. In God’s perfect timing, He further demonstrated His character by manifesting Himself in the person of God the Son, by becoming a human being, the one we call Jesus of Nazareth. Throughout Jesus’ life, He showed us His perfect nature and set an example for us to follow. In His death and resurrection, He displayed His lordship over His creation and how much He loves us by paying the consequences of sin for us. Through Jesus, the Christ, He demonstrated to us that He is interested in reconciliation with us. In chapter three, you’ll read a medical account of the crucifixion that emphasizes this desire. In fact, when you read the Bible all the way through, it becomes clear how much more effort God has put into clearing the way for us to have a relationship with Him than people have ever put into reaching out to Him. The efforts He put out is so lopsided on our behalf we can call the Bible God’s love letter to us.
When we read Bible verses about forgiveness we need to read in the context. The author spends all of Chapter one in his book about context, comparing it to a tapestry. When we see all the threads woven together, the entire picture becomes clearer to us. God doesn’t hide the truth from us. But sometimes when we are lazy or in a hurry, we read a detail out of context and give it our own interpretation to it and miss what God wants us to know.
In chapter two, the author explains that instead of society conforming to the church as it represents God’s Good News to the world, the church is gradually conforming to society. This is why it’s important to know the “why” of forgiveness as God has demonstrated to us in the Bible and throughout history. If we don’t know our Bible and don’t know history, then it is easy for us to follow society. Likewise, “if we understand history, it becomes that much harder for us to be deceived…One reason you want to immerse yourself in the Word is that it makes it almost impossible for Satan to tell us lies that lead us astray.”
Chapter three explains why “I’m sorry” is not good enough if it is not accompanied by action that demonstrates the person is going in a new direction where the offending sin is no longer being repeated over and over. This chapter made me stop and ponder how many times I may have encouraged my children to say they were sorry without ensuring the direction they were heading changed, without repentance. Since I understood the concept of repentance even decades ago, I hope not very often.
Chapter four explains why unconditional forgiveness is harmful to both the one sinned against and the one continuing the sin. He gives a powerful example from his days as a counselor. Chapter five gives us the if, the when, and the how to forgive. He also includes how repentance fits into the picture and why it’s part of the process. It is part of the responsibility God gives to us to help our brothers and sisters in Christ be restored. This is the beauty of being part of God’s family. Reconciliation and restoration is part of being a child of God and we get to be involved in the process. It’s our mission in life; what a blessing!
Chapter six summarizes the consequences if we continue to practice a secular form of forgiveness rather than the Biblical instructions God gives to us in His Word, while chapter seven is a question answer forum from some of the author’s readers. In this final section he fills in any gaps of basic Biblical truth that was apparent in the questions he was asked. It is my favorite chapter since the questions and answers reveal just how strongly the world’s mindset has strongly influenced believers today. Some of the questions are amusing, in a distressing sort of way, while others make a person think. I’m reminded how much we need to pray for each other as Christian brothers and sisters.
I believe this book is unique in its intent to point out the differences in our perception of what forgiveness is supposed to be and the way it is presently practiced in the western world. As was probably intended, the title caught my eye and I happily volunteered to review it. I’m glad I did. The author’s Bible teaching is rock solid, something that is desperately needed in the present age. My only suggestion is not to include too many old cliches such as “The world is going to hell in a handbasket” in any future books.
A complimentary review copy was provided to me by Cross Focused Reviews (A Service of Cross Focused Media, LLC). I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.