FORGIVENESS AND ITS LIMITS
Forgiveness does not equal healing, but hope and a basis for going on. Forgiveness is a prerequisite for healing. We should not assume a person has changed when we forgive them. This might take time and will probably not be complete. Perfectionism spoils forgiveness. God made us to be perfect and will make us perfect in Christ. He put the desire for perfection in our hearts. We live in a fallen and frustrated condition where there is the stress and tension between God’s promise of perfection and the present imperfect reality.
To “forgive” is to “give for”. If someone owes me a debt, perhaps they gossiped about me and the gossip spread like feathers in the wind. They cannot collect the feathers and pay the debt they owe me. I must pay it. I must give it for them. I must forgive. The money to pay comes from Jesus Who paid it all. After I forgive the gossip, they might be changed and become not a gossip, but they might not. How many times should I forgive the gossip? Jesus said “70 times 7”. How do I keep forgiving without encouraging the gossip? This is wisdom that cannot be formulated but can be shown to us by the Holy Spirit.
Forgiving does not mean forgetting. We forgive the kleptomaniac but do not forget their tendencies and put temptation in their way. We forgive the child molester but do not ask them to baby-sit.
What needs to be forgiven is sin; actions that miss the mark of good relationships with God and each other. Sin produces alienation, which is death. Since God is a Trinity and life is only in and from Him, life is only in relationships and community. Curse is to reduce life. Bless is to increase life.
When someone sins against us we are alienated from them. Our forgiveness restores the relationship and increases life. I Peter 3:9.
Actions can be forgiven but they cannot be undone in history – only in eternity. You cannot be a little bit dead or sort of pregnant. We should seek wisdom concerning which things can be undone and which not.