I wrote a recent post about how to treat sinners based on Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:15-17. In the comments that followed, Luke had a great question about what to do with people who are destructive, and how to engage them when they are unrepentant. That got me thinking about the dynamic of relational reconciliation, and the process (yes, process) of forgiveness. This post is an attempt to engage more fully in the larger question about how to relate to people who offend us, and to provide a way forward — even if they never really repent.
The Bible calls followers of Jesus to learn to live in forgiveness toward those who offend them. The problem is that many of us have wrong ideas about forgiveness. These wrong ideas can be simplistic ideas, imbalanced ideas, unreasonable ideas, and unhealthy ideas, which are all – at their core — unbiblical ideas. If our idea about forgiveness is wrong, then chances are, we’ll never find the way to forgiveness, which can lead to bigger problems in our relationship with God, and with others.
To begin, let us briefly look at some thoughts regarding what forgiveness is not!