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Forgiveness on Trial

Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
–Matthew 6:12

This week we will put forgiveness on trial. Should we forgive others or not? Today we will look at four primary objections to forgiving people who have hurt us.

The first objection is that forgiveness denies the seriousness of sin. We think that forgiving somebody is like saying, “What you did to me wasn’t a big deal.” The Bible gives us wisdom about how we ought to handle petty slights, such as a forgotten birthday or interrupted sentence: “It is his glory to overlook a transgression” (Proverbs 19:11). It is our glory to overlook minor offenses. But some hurts and wounds are so deep that they demand a major surgical procedure. Forgiveness is the procedure God has given us to deal with the major hurts of life.

A second objection to forgiveness is that forgiveness lets people off the hook too easily. We fear that if we forgive somebody, we are inviting that person to abuse us even more. We think forgiveness is like putting a sign around your neck that says, “Kick me again.”

A third objection to forgiving others is that forgiveness places too much responsibility on the victim. It’s like coming up on a car accident, seeing the mangled and bloody victim lying in the street, handing him some bandages and an antiseptic, and saying, “Take care of the wounds yourself.” You are asking the victim to do something he or she can’t do.

A fourth objection to forgiveness is that forgiveness is unfair. This is the bottom-line objection to all forgiveness. It is unfair to let people who have sinned go unpunished. You know, the reason we feel that way is because we have been created in the image of God. God is a God of justice, and He has stamped us with a sense of justice as well.

Now these logical objections to forgiveness are based on a misconception of what forgiveness is and what it is not. Let me explain to you briefly what forgiveness is not. First, forgiveness is not denying the reality of your pain. When you are asked to forgive, you are not being asked to deny the reality of your pain. Second, forgiveness is not letting your offender off the hook. Just because you forgive doesn’t mean your offender gets a pass and no consequences. Third, forgiveness is not unfair. God would never ask us to do anything unjust. Paul wrote in Romans 9:14, “There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be!”

Then what is forgiveness? Forgiveness is letting go of my right to hurt you for hurting me. When we forgive, we are saying, “I’m not going to be responsible for settling the score with you. I am going to let somebody else do that.”


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Forgiveness on Trial” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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