Antioch Community Church

Repentance and Forgiveness

Aug 11, 2014 | by Andy O'Rourke

Repentance and forgiveness have an essential role in the Christian life. Unfortunately, these two topics are often neglected, misunderstood and misapplied in the lives of many followers of Jesus.

Repentance is not only a one-time event that occurs at conversion when a person believes in Jesus as Lord and Savior. It is also a turning from sin that must characterize the entire pattern of the lifelong journey of a disciple [1]. Failing to repent before God and harboring sin can lead to all types of problems, spiritual and physical [2].

Having been forgiven such a debt of sin before God, we are “on the hook” to forgive others who have sinned against us [3]. Our own experience of the grace of God should cause us to overflow with grace, mercy and forgiveness toward others around us.

Of the many issues surrounding repentance and forgiveness, a couple practical comments are helpful in order to live these disciplines out. First, most people do not know how to ask another person for forgiveness or extend forgiveness. This is astounding, but true. For example, in a situation involving conflict resolution, most believers will need to be coached and guided in this area. In asking a person for forgiveness, they will need to be taught to say something like, “I’m sorry for doing _________, and for how it hurt you ________. Will you please forgive me?” In extending forgiveness, people will need to be taught to respond by saying something like, “Yes, I forgive you for _________.” Most adults have never seen this modeled or practiced it themselves. Ken Sande, in his book The Peacemaker, has an excellent section on what forgiveness looks like practically in our relationships with others [4].

Second, we must remember that forgiveness is both an event and a process. A person must choose to forgive. There is a point in time where one releases the power to hold an offense against another person. They choose to say, “I forgive you.” That is the initial event of forgiveness. However, the feelings of anger, bitterness, or even the consequences of sin, may continue well into the future. The person who has said “I forgive” will need to continue to say “I forgive,” while bringing the situation before God. This is the ongoing existential or experiential side of forgiveness. To encourage a person to “forgiven and forget” is neither biblical, nor possible. For example, a hurtful word that I have forgiven in the past may come into my mind in the present and cause me to become angry or discouraged. I must bring those feelings before God, trusting his grace and power to not “keep a record of wrongs” [5] in living out authentic Christlike love.

 

 

[1] 1 Jn 1:9; Lk 11:4

[2] Ps 38:3-8
[3] Mt 6:12; Lk 11:4; Eph 4:32
[4] Ken Sande, The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict, 3rd Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2004).
[5] 1 Cor 13:5

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