To Forgive Is Not to Condone
by Dr. D. Wayne Beeks
“There is such a big difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. It takes two to reconcile, so it is not always possible to be reconciled. But it takes only one to forgive. So, if people do you wrong, forgive them, whether or not they ask for forgiveness. You cannot cancel their sin. Only God can do that, and He will only do it if they repent. But what you can do is set aside your own anger, bitterness, and resentment towards them.” Philip Graham Ryken (Philip Graham Ryken is Senior Minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia since 1995, and has authored many books and publications.)
There may be some misunderstanding by some of what the definition of forgiveness really is. The dictionary definition of the word “forgive” is to cease the feeling of resentment, and letting go of negative feelings and vengefulness generally held towards another for some wrongful action perpetrated upon them. Essentially forgiveness is not allowing the wrongful act to have control or power over you any longer in your feelings and actions.
What forgiveness is not, and this is where the confusion is with many; “forgiveness” is not the condoning, the overlooking, or the pardoning the offense as if it never happened. Additionally, forgiveness is not a sign of weakness on the part of the forgiver, but instead a sign spiritual strength and maturity. Depending on what the wrongful action was may heavily influence the ability of one to forgive another. Studies have shown that if the wrongful action consisted of violence perpetrated upon anther, the ease of one’s forgiving is greatly reduced. Consider forgiving someone of murder verses the theft of a candy bar. But remember the final, ultimate authority to judge another for their actions rests with God. In forgiving another for their action, no matter how severe is not condoning, or forgetting of the action, but instead leaving the final judgement authority where it belongs, with God. You instead are no longer allowing yourself to be consumed with the negativity stressful feelings associated with that act.
The act of forgiveness is a core principle of Christianity, and the act of forgiveness is referenced throughout scripture. While we ask for forgiveness from God for ourselves, we are also expected by God to forgive those that have wronged us as written in the Gospel of Matthew 6:12-15. The gospel goes on to say that if we cannot forgive others, we cannot expect God to forgive ourselves.
“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:12-15)
Similarity the need for forgiveness of others is written in the Gospel of Luke:
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37)
And again, in the Gospel of Mark:
“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25)
By forgiving another for their wrongful actions as we are told to in the Bible, you take away the power and negative influence they, and the act, may have over you, not only spiritually, but physiologically. There is not only the biblical aspect of forgiveness that brings peace and calm to our lives, but there are scientific findings presented in a report from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine showing evidence that forgiveness reduces stress levels leading to lowered blood pressure, reduction in heart rates, with improved overall long-term health benefits.
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16)
I remember an old saying from when I was a child that holds true to this day; “it takes more energy to remain angry, than to forgive and forget.” If you think about that for a minute, I don’t think anyone could disagree. Anger and hate poisons the body and the spirit, and by not forgiving you are allowing another the power to poison you, and not living in God’s word. God has told us to forgive one another, for none of us is without sin, and He alone has the final judgement authority over us all.
Lord we pray for your forgiveness of our sins and our trespasses, as we forgive those that have trespassed against us. We leave judgment of their transgressions to you, for this authority of final judgement resides only with you. May our hearts be filled with forgiveness, and not the negativity brought by feelings of vengeance and resentment towards another.
We pray in Jesus’s name