|It Takes Two to Tango (And to Grant Forgiveness)
When an offense is too serious to overlook and the offender has not yet repented, you may need to approach forgiveness as a two-stage process. The first stage requires having an attitude of forgiveness, and the second, granting forgiveness. Having an attitude of forgiveness is unconditional and is a commitment you make to God (see Mark 11:25; Luke 6:28; Acts 7:60). By his grace, you seek to maintain a loving and merciful attitude toward someone who has offended you. This requires making and living out the first promise of forgiveness, which means you will not dwell on the hurtful incident or seek vengeance or retribution in thought, word, or action. Instead, you pray for the other person and stand ready at any moment to pursue complete reconciliation as soon as he or she repents. This attitude will protect you from bitterness and resentment, even if the other person takes a long time to repent.
Granting forgiveness is conditional on the repentance of the offender and takes place between you and that person (Luke 17:34). It is a commitment to make the other three promises of forgiveness to the offender. When there has been a serious offense, it would not be appropriate to make these promises until the offender has repented (see chapter 6). Until then, you may need to talk with the offender about his sin or seek the involvement of others to resolve the matter (Matt. 18:16-20); see chapters 7 and 9). You could not do this if you had already made the last three promises. But once the other person repents, you can make these promises, closing the matter forever, the same way God forgives you.
Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 210-211
Food for Thought
Today’s Food for Thought is pretty simple: When it comes to granting forgiveness, don’t forget to involve the offender! Many times, forgiveness is described as “letting go” or “getting over it.” This is true and absolutely necessary, to the extent that “letting go” is, in essence, a matter of taking your eyes off the offense and the offender and putting them on the cross, where the ultimate act of reconciliation took place. But again, this only gets us to the beginning of the first stage of forgiveness. To be able to make all four promises of forgiveness (i.e., to experience complete reconciliation), however, we must involve the other person.
Now ideally, the granting of forgiveness takes place in the context of a confession by a repentant offender. When the offender can’t or won’t repent, then it is true that our only choice is to maintain an attitude of forgiveness. But when our offender hasn’t had a chance to confess, then we owe it to him (or her) to go to him and give him that chance. As we “gently restore” the offender, and God works in his heart, then we both have opportunity to experience the joy of true and complete reconciliation. Forgiveness is a gift–so let’s remember to let the offender know he received it!
|Resources to Help You Respond to Conflict Biblically The Peacemaking Pastor, by Alfred Poirier. Every pastor faces conflict in the church, and Rev. Poirier has this loving reminder: we can run, but we can’t hide. Jesus set the example as the Incarnate Peacemaker, and Scripture clearly calls his servant-pastors to be ministers of reconciliation. Thoroughly exploring the theology of reconciliation, Poirier adds lessons from personal experience and lists practical steps for effective ministry. You may order this book through our online bookstore or call our Resource department at 800-711-7118.
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