Thursday, March 14, 2013

Mark Driscoll on What Forgiveness Is

From Mark Driscoll's book Who Do You Think You Are: Finding Your True Identity in Christ. In it, Driscoll dedicates an entire chapter to the subject of forgiveness beginning with the truth I Am Forgiven! There he clarifies what forgiveness is and is not. First, what forgiveness is:
  1. Forgiveness is canceling a debt owed to you. When someone sins against you, a wrong is committed and a debt is accrued. In forgiving others, you relinquish your right to make them repay that debt.
  2. Forgiveness is removing the control your offender has over you. So long as your offenders remain unforgiven, they continue to loom large in your life by maintaining an emotional presence. through forgiveness, you not only free them from their debt to you but also emotionally free yourself form them.
  3. Forgiveness is giving a gift to your offender and yourself. Forgiveness includes the physical benefits of reduced anxiety, stress, and blood pressure; and the mental benefits of no longer obsessing over a person or act, freeing you up to move on with your life. Forgiveness also allows you to move from a life centered on pain to one centered on God and others as you regain emotional health, empathy, and perspective. This improves all of your relationships and is a gift to you, your friends, and your family.
  4. Forgiveness is forsaking revenge. Romans 12:19 says, "Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord." When we seek revenge, we place ourselves morally alongside our offenders. When we forgive, we rise above them by grace and leave them to a perfect and holy God. Revenge may temporarily placate our rage, but it can never undo a wrong. By feeding rage, we become like the person who hurt us - self-interested and dangerous. This is why one ancient Chinese proverb says, "He who seeks revenge should dig two graves."
  5. Forgiveness is leaving ultimate justice in God's hands. Sometimes forgiveness is difficult because it violates our sense of fairness and justice. But the Bible promises that god will deal with everyone's sins justly. For those who repent of sin and come to faith in Jesus Christ, justice came at the cross of Jesus, when our Savior suffered and died in our place for our sins. those who don't repent of sin and come to faith in Jesus Christ will have justice in the punishment of conscious eternal torments of hell. In forgiving, we don't neglect justice, but rather, we trust God for perfect justice and get out from between the sinner and God.
  6. Forgiveness is often an ongoing process. In Jesus's time, a rabbinic teaching said that you only had to forgive someone three times, and after that no more. In Matthew 18:21-22 we read, 'then Peter came to [Jesus] and said, 'Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?' Jesus said to him, 'I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.'" A noted Bible commentator says of this, 'It is a way of saying that for Jesus' followers forgiveness is to be unlimited."*
  7.  Forgiveness is wanting good for your offender. In forgiving our offenders, we change from wanting them to suffer and pay to wanting them to repent and change by God's grace. (164-165)
In short, live the gospel that saved you. Freely forgiven. Freely forgive.

I would also add that forgiveness is a one way street. Reconciliation, another aspect of the gospel, is a two way street. We are called to forgive and work towards reconciliation.

* Leon Morris, Matthew, 472.

For more:
Driscoll on What Forgiveness Is Not
"Death By Love" by Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears: A Review
Doctrine by Mark Driscoll
"Real Marriage" by Mark & Grace Driscoll
Religion Saves by Mark Driscoll
The Radical Reformation by Mark Driscoll
Vintage Jesus by Mark Driscoll 
"God's Hand in Our Suffering" by Mark Driscoll

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