The Point of Radical Forgiveness

One of the toughest parts of Christian doctrine is the requirement that we forgive those who have sinned against us.  I could write out a big long thing about what forgiveness is and is not, but … not where I’m going.

It’s too easy, living in fleshsuits, to think of other humans as our true enemies.  But this is theologically flawed.

Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

People, humans, are all – ALL – potential siblings in Christ.  If they live, they have the opportunity to become redeemed.   It doesn’t matter how black their sins – they could repent, they could come to Christ.

There are two possibilities for all:


1) They choose not to repent, and will pay in Hell for all of eternity


2) Jesus paid for their sins on the cross.  The sinless One was whipped nearly to death, spit upon, and crucified.  Debt – paid in full.

Forgiveness – even radical forgiveness – does NOT mean that justice is not served.  Radical forgiveness turns the justice utterly over to Christ.  It cuts the bonds and pain tying the one who has been sinned against to the one who has sinned.  The obedience pleases God.  It is a fit sacrifice – and anything less is black sin, for our Lord said also that they who would not forgive would not *be* forgiven.

And it allows repentance a foothold.  It returns the potential to the human who has done the harm.  It calls them back home to Christ, and what a witness!  How better to show forth God’s love and His reality than to do something utterly out of your fleshly power?  Jesus forgave.  I want to be like Jesus.

Don’t underestimate the power of obeying God past the place where you can see how it’s even possible.  All things are possible with God.  All things.

Even forgiveness.

12 thoughts on “The Point of Radical Forgiveness

  1. Anonymous Reader

    It is interesting to me that more than a few women I know both on line and IRL take this “unconditional forgiveness no matter what” view. As a man, it looks a lot like “Don’t hold me responsible for my actions no matter how badly I behave”, but that is just my point of view and I admit I have a personal bias.

    You may find this posting and the subsequent discussion to be an interesting view on the topic.

    1. hearthie Post author

      I’ll skip the argument, thanks. 🙂 But no, I wasn’t talking at all about that – wasn’t what I had on my mind when I wrote this.

      I was thinking about grievous sin, and how we are obligated to forgive what hurts us.

      Forgiveness does not mean a restoration of relationship or trust – which is, I think, what you expect women to want from the world at large. I won’t argue, too many silly children in this world who think that the slate can be wiped clean with a smile. Many of those children have two X chromosomes.

      Forgiveness doesn’t mean the consequences disappear – it means that vengeance belongs to the Lord alone, and we have each sinned greatly against Him.

      This was written from a place of struggle in my own heart, and a prayer, as my heart has been turned by the grace of God to pity, that vocalizing my forgiveness would free the one who had caused me sorrow to repair his relationship with God, and that doing so would free me from nebulous guilt that I had failed to obey my Lord and Master in what I believe to be a very clear command.

      I’ll come look though. 🙂

      1. Anonymous Reader

        I’ll skip the argument, thanks. 🙂

        If it makes any difference I’m not a participant, I just read through it and found it interesting. There are quotes from the Bible with a key phrase: and if he repents that seems to be lacking in most discussions of forgiveness, especially those by women. You and Elspeth are the only exceptions I can think of right now, frankly.

        But no, I wasn’t talking at all about that – wasn’t what I had on my mind when I wrote this.
        I was thinking about grievous sin, and how we are obligated to forgive what hurts us.

        Right. An obligation to reward bad behavior, no matter how much it hurts, and never ask anyone to change even a tiny bit. I’ve been seeing this “unconditional forgiveness” for years.

        Forgiveness does not mean a restoration of relationship or trust
        Forgiveness doesn’t mean the consequences disappear

        That’s totally opposite what I’ve been seeing and hearing, for years. Female tears alone are deemed to be sufficient to demand unconditional forgiveness, although a little “I’m sorry I made you mad” on the side might be offered. No actual “I did this and it was wrong and I won’t do it again” admission of error, never mind downright cruel behavior, is ever to be expected. No change in behavior at all on her part is needed. She can do the same thing over and over, his duty is to suck it up, take whatever she’s dishing out, and pretend it’s all good. If he doesn’t, he’s the one with the problem, not her.

        Any man who is unable to completely and totally restore all trust and erase consequences of his wife’s actions as soon as she rolls out some tears or mumbles “sorry” is deemed to be “hard hearted” and “bitter” and “carrying a grudge” and he’s to be chastized for his inability to forgive.

        That is what I have seen, and continue to see all around me, both among churchgoing people and everyone else. Thus I was surprised at Wintry Knight’s posting and comments and chose to share them with you.

      2. hearthie Post author

        I shall be helpful and useful and define my terms a bit… perhaps this will clarify. (And I did enjoy the discussion over there, thank you for sending it ’round).

        Reconciliation is not the same as forgiveness. WK was talking about reconciliation, and he posits that reconciliation is part of forgiveness. I disagree. Forgiveness is part of reconciliation… it’s a stage you have to get through for reconciliation.

        For reconciliation, I *agree* that the person in the wrong must repent. How else can you go forward and rebuild trust? Complete, total, agreement.

        Forgiveness, however, is a Biblical requirement, and it is between each of us – the ones who have been wronged – and God. It’s in the Lord’s prayer – forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us. It is a blot in our relationship to God, to hold something against a fellow human, to call their debt to us in while *we* have been freed from debt through Christ’s blood. Is it a sin that will send us to Hell? I don’t want to find out.

        What I had hoped to convey was the process of forgiving a big thing – like someone who murdered a family member – is still a requirement, and it is possible, however painful, through God’s grace. (Is it possible without? I don’t know).

        I was overjoyed to find out that after years of weeping on my knees, begging God to help me forgive the person I hated, that when it came down to meeting them and saying the words, “I forgive you”, the drama and fireworks I had expected were like a little puff of air. I carried a backpack full of rocks on my back and the day I pulled it forward, I found that God had cut a hole in the bottom of the backpack – it was empty!

        It was that joy in freedom that I wanted to share. I don’t think I’m special. We all have heart-wounds. If I can write something to encourage one of my siblings in Christ, to let you know that it’s possible, and that God will help you obey His will, and that it is amazing when you get to the end of the path, no matter how many sharp stones you have to crawl over to get there… then I should do that. And that’s how this blog should be used, as an encouragement.

        As for male-female stuff… frankly I think that’s why we have time for dating. If someone acts like that, it’s a good plan to cut them loose. No sense trying to make a life with someone you can’t trust to have your back. And that’s something I might write up in the near future, I think the current emphasis on the dating marketplace has occluded common sense to the point of absurdity.

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  3. Anonymous Reader

    As for male-female stuff… frankly I think that’s why we have time for dating. If someone acts like that, it’s a good plan to cut them loose. No sense trying to make a life with someone you can’t trust to have your back.

    People change, and not always for the better, in the course of time. So dating is not necessarily an accurate predictor of how someone will behave 5 or 10 or 15 or more years later. And a strict reading of the Bible rules out divorce except in cases of adultery, for those who follow it.

    Therefore any serious churchgoing man who marries in the modern world is buying into a very unknown and unknowable future, with no way out if it goes bad. So a man may think he’s making a life with someone he can trust to have his back, but after a few life changes (birth of child/ren, death of parent, changes in employment, etc.) he may find that is no longer true.

    From what I see, churches (and women in churches especially) encourage men to forgive women unconditionally, no matter what has been done, no matter how often it has happened, no matter how deep the betrayal, no matter what damage done to marriage vows. But they don’t seem to have much to say about “repenting” to women. Not in my experience anyway. So it’s the same one-sided arrangement that one sees outside of churches, or at least it looks that way.

    Analogy time:
    Imagine a man sitting on a chair while a woman smacks him with a mallet. Each time she hits him she yells “SORRY!” afterwards. So it sounds like this: thwack – SORRY!, thwack – SORRY!, thwack – SORRY!, etc. with no letup. If he tries to get up, other men shove him back down while yelling “DON”T BE HARD HEARTED!”, “YOU’RE BITTER!”, “YOU MUST FORGIVE, SHE”S THE WEAKER VESSEL!” at him. Remember, he’s responsible for keeping the peace in this situation, not her. She’s the “weaker vessel” and that’s a get-out-of-trouble-free card. So what should he do?

    1. hearthie Post author

      As a sister in Christ, I am not qualified to give specific counsel to my brothers – other than the recommendation that they get with elders, one on one, to discuss how to find resolution to the injustice that is being done to them. Calling evil, evil is telling the truth – and telling the truth is the business of Christians.

      As a Christian, I can observe with joy that THANK GOD this life isn’t the promised land.

      As a human, I can observe that humans aren’t all that nice, and that life has no guarantees.

      As a elder woman in the church, I can teach my younger sisters to love their husbands sacrificially and treat them well.

      As a wife, I can treat my husband with respect and speak of him with respect, so that this small light is seen and there is a tiny island of “normalcy” in the sewer.

      As a mother, I can raise my children to love the Lord and follow His commandments, learning not just sex roles and marital roles, but how to be kind, generous, thoughtful children of God.

      I’m honestly not sure what else I *can* do.

      1. Anonymous Reader

        Hearthie, if I may refer to you that way, I’m sure you’re doing just fine. Please don’t feel that I’m asking more of you than you already do.

        What I was attempting to do was to point out that unconditional forgiveness could be done in such a way as to encourage more of the same bad behavior, but perhaps I didn’t make that clear. It’s odd to me that we don’t accept “me sowwy” and a repeat of the same temper tantrum as sufficient repentence from a child, there must be consequences and changed behavior; but “me sowwy” + tears is supposed to wipe away all effects of the bad behavior of some adults.

        What is needed IMO is for adults, all of us, to learn to accept responsibility for actions, and to be able to actuallly apologize in ways that lead to reconciliation.
        Here is another article from Wintry Knight that might be of use to you and others in considering this.

      2. hearthie Post author

        Hi AR! Feel free to call me Hearthie, or Hearth or Hearthrose. 🙂

        I think we’ve drifted from the point of the OP. Yes, of course people can take our forgiveness and twist it – they take kindness and abuse it, they take agapelove and abuse it, they can take most of the great Christian virtues and abuse them. Total agreement. People SUCK.

        And I wouldn’t DREAM of encouraging anyone to say, “you have to forgive me”. Really? Yes. I do. For God, but not for YOU. That attitude would, in itself, be a huge barrier to reconciliation. (And I’d never use that on someone else – ugh. It’s the furthest thing from a humble apology that I can imagine). Would I allow someone like that back into my trust? Piff. No. But I’d still forgive them. Like, someone borrows money and doesn’t repay it. Okay, I’m not going to harass them for it… fine. Done. Wipe the books clean. Am I going to loan them more money? No, I am not – at least not with the expectation that they’ll actually repay me this time. The trust is gone.

        But forgiveness – unconditional, absolute forgiveness IS what God calls us to. It takes faith. It takes a willingness to let God be our justice, our shield, our defense, and our vengeance.

        Oh yes, it can be abused…

  4. Jenny

    the bible is very clear on the issue of forgiveness, even if it doesn’t make sense. He’s right, logically it doesn’t make sense. Forgiveness is about winning hearts to Christ, not about making relationships fair.


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