Thursday Thought — What is Forgiveness?

Another gem from the Gems page….

Forgiveness means turning over to God any supposed right for making the perpetrator pay for his crime or other wrongdoing, releasing us from anger and a vengeful spirit.  It does not require trust or the reestablishment of a relationship, which are separate issues.  Neither does it absolve a perpetrator from having to face the criminal justice system and paying a civil penalty. (from a reader of our ACFJ Facebook page)

22 thoughts on “Thursday Thought — What is Forgiveness?”

  1. Please help me with this: does this mean that I should go to law enforcement and report that my husband was a bigamist which means they will charge him with bigamy, a felony? How do you feel God looks at this in my situation – does God want me to report the bigamy to law enforcement, or does He want to take this into His own hands fully? I struggle with this issue because “vengeance is Mine” says the Lord. Yet, God placed laws for us to use on earth. I would appreciate your comments and thank you so much.

    1. Joyce,
      Reporting a crime is not vengeance. It is turning it over to the authorities to take care of. It will be up to them to prosecute. He should not get away with this because it is a felony.

    2. Joyce – would you hesitate to turn him in if he was a burglar or thief or embezzler or drug-dealer??? He is not above Man’s Laws either.

    3. Joyce, concerning your question, this verse comes to mind:

      Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.
      Romans 13:1-4

      The law is God’s arm to restrain sin through his common grace. If your husband has sinned in this way, you are doing the godly thing by reporting it to the authorities. He will need to face up to what he has done and this is for his own good. Perhaps he will repent, although you should never feel pressured to take an adulterer back. This will also prevent him from doing this to someone else. By reporting it to law enforcement you are following the proper means to give it to God fully.

  2. I believe we have all a responsibility to bring truth to light – but it has to be done in love for truth and transparency and not with a vengeful heart. Examine your motives for coming forward then do what the Holy Spirit convicts you of doing ~~~

  3. Joyce, I believe bigamy is against the law. You, as a law abiding citizen, have an obligation to report him. Morally, his lifestyle has shown him to have committed adultery. Not only that, I would suggest that he has abandoned you. That is all considered abuse.

    Laws are given a place to keep order. The authorities will handle it appropriately. God will handle the sin side of the matter.

    Please do not allow guilt to take hold of you. We victims respond as victims. It is what we do. But it is not healthy and will keep you in bondage. God will help you when you call on Him for strength. I pray that you have some people around you who can be trustworthy and helpful.

    Take care of yourself through your journey. Be gentle and kind to yourself.

  4. Joyce,

    I’m not familiar with your story, and don’t know your present situation, but if you are at risk of experiencing retaliation, I urge you to proceed with caution. If you have been physically abused, threatened with harm or have other reason to fear for your safety, I recommend you confer with a domestic safety resource organization (or whatever they’re called where you live). They should be able to give you ideas how to protect yourself in case of need. They should also be able to review options such as civil restraining / protection orders. If there is immediate danger, call the police (and also report the bigamy), but understand that this will tend to heighten your danger, especially during the immediate future. Do whatever you can, within the law of course, to protect yourself. Oh, and I recommend that you not go to any pastor who has served both you and your husband. He has a built in conflict of interest, and will be more motivated to seek peace, including his own peace, than to protect you. If any part of what I suggest does not fit your situation, ignore it. I am speaking in general terms.

    1. Gary is right. Your safety is priority number one. As he said, your husband may retaliate if you turn him in. Proceed with caution and be sure that you have a safety plan in place.

  5. I just want to say thank you to all who have commented on this post. The amount of support our readers give to each other. . . . it’s wonderful. 🙂

    And Joyce, as well as all the things others have said to you here, I’ll add my twopence.

    Eph. 4:25 (God’s Word Translation) —
    So then, get rid of lies. Speak the truth to each other, because we are all members of the same body.

    It would be right and godly to speak the truth about your husband’s bigamy, Joyce.

    And if anyone tries to counter you by claiming you are being vengeful in exposing your husband’s bigamy, you can say to them (or tell yourself in your own head, if you feel it is too unsafe to say it to them) “That’s another lie. And it’s slanderous lie! I’m not being vengeful by telling the truth about the bigamy. I’m just doing what God calls me to do as a law-abiding, God-honouring citizen.”

  6. With regard to forgiveness generally, I think it breaks the bond of pain that keeps two people connected and frees the offended of the burden of resentment he or she carries, but forgiveness may do nothing to change the character of the offender and should never be presumed to constitute restoration of the relationship.

  7. Thank you – thank you – thank you!!
    We had an abusive “marriage” – I was abused emotionally throughout the time together. In much research and with a great therapist, I have found that he was a sociopath – he clearly fits every trait on the P-Scan rating. I didn’t know he was married to someone else . . . I found out he was a bigamist when we were separated, and I was praying – yelling out to God to show me some truths. The Holy Spirit did – directed me to a web site where I could see marriage records and there it was. This was definitely from the Lord. And, I was devastated.

    Tried to work things out with him even after that, but it was a waste of time. He didn’t change, was still abusive and self-righteous. He even had excuses for the bigamy – but what it did to me was not even considered by him. He has never repented once – still telling others that I was the one who threw him out – he did nothing wrong. Since I’ve no longer had any contact with him, and through much time spent with the Lord, I am healing finally.

    [Eds: Some details removed to protect the safety of the commenter]
    By the way – that’s a good statement about checking our motives – I have spent so much time with the Lord about this too. My motives are clean – no anger, no bitterness, and I pray for my “ex” often – that the Lord would take out his hardened hearts and replace it with a fleshy heart and for the Lord to bring him to his knees in repentance – also for the Lord to stop my “ex” from ever doing this again to another woman. I understand he is already on a relationship web site, which is how I met him. Again – thank you for your responses – you’ve enabled me to see that going to law enforcement is most definitely biblical and it is God’s will for me and for my “ex”. It is part of God’s plan.

  8. And thank you for considering that I could be harmed by my “ex” if I report the bigamy. This was also something I have struggled with. [from Eds: details removed here for the safety of the commenter].
    I will be very cautious everywhere. I don’t want to live running scared. if God wants me to report the bigamy, He does not want me to live in fear and I won’t.

  9. This has been the single most helpful truth God has shown me. On the cycle of abuse, this is why I kept going back. I was told by churchies that “If you don’t reconcile, then you havent really forgiven.” Or “if you have forgiven him, their is no need to not reconcile.” And it all SEEMED sort of “Godly” sounding but didnt really make sense in practice and certainly prolonged the endless cycle. It is our desire to please God, to NOT be vengeful and bitter, that makes us want to forgive. The danger lies in thinking that also means you MUST reestablish fellowship. For me, that is why it was always so hard TO forgive, because I equated it with “Now I have to go back” and how scary is that?!! Now, I really have no problem forgiving him. To do so is obeying God, frees me from bitterness and spite and DOESNT put me back into the tiger cage. If only I had known!!! Well, now I do. And things will never be the same…

    1. debby,
      A visiting pastor once told a story to show forgiveness and what it truly is. He said, “If you loan your car to you nephew and he comes back with it totaled because he was driving recklessly and he apologizes, you will forgive him for totaling your car. When he comes back a few weeks later asking to use your car again, are you going to give him the keys?” Chances are, NO!!. You have given bitterness and anger over, but you aren’t going to put yourself out there again for abuse again. The same is with our marriages. Forgiving and reconciliation are not the same thing. I can forgive X, but I’m not crazy enough to allow him to destroy my heart and take away my personhood again.

  10. I wasn’t sure where to post this (but the forgiveness tag seemed apropo) and don’t know if anyone will find it here, but I MUST vent my frustration or bust. So. I have been watching AD, The Bible Continues. Giving some leeway for “Hollywood entertainment” and “Biblical Storytelling” I had a few problems with the portrayals but had enjoyed it so far. Last Sunday’s episode “Saul’s Return” triggered me so much I had no idea what was even happening to me!

    Here is Saul, who had spent the last months relentlessly tracking down “believers in the false messiah, Jesus” and just as relentlessly putting them to death in vicious ways. Now, we of course know that Saul was not a born again believer in Jesus so the spirit was not in him, he was living under the law and doing what he perceived to be whatever was necessary to uphold the law, so killing those who posed a threat to what he believed was the only way to worship the one true God, temple worship, was perhaps understandable (and certainly acceptable) by the standards of the day. But still. People ARE being murdered. And he’s using GOD to justify it. Forward to AFTER he has an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. We all know the Biblical account well, of his complete and total transformation, transferring his zeal for keeping the temple pure by getting rid of “defilers” into preaching the message of Jesus, The Messiah, Savior, King. I was anxious to see the “new Saul” because frankly, I was getting tired of his ugly, abusive tirades and wanted to see the beautiful transforming power of the Holy Spirit change his heart.

    He seeks out Peter and in their encounter, I was SHOCKED to see NONE of the humbleness and brokenness that you would expect from a former murderer (abuser), who, not only supposedly HAS the Holy Spirit in him, but has done “really, REALLY bad things” yet he spends little time showing sorrow, and NO time at all showing regret, humility, or brokenness that is indicative of true repentance.

    And in fact, as Peter struggles with being angry at Saul’s violent history of physical, verbal and spiritual abuse, directed AT Peter and those he loved, Saul not only doesn’t apologize, but chases Peter through the streets, saying “if you would just listen to me!” and then reprimands Peter for “not forgiving” and for “not following what Jesus taught him.” There is little if any remorse shown towards Peter, who has suffered immeasurably at Saul’s hand, and to add insult to injury, the disciples are ENCOURAGING him to “forgive” (sound familiar anyone?!) and a couple scenes later, we see Peter embrace Saul as a “brother in Christ.”

    I was so triggered I started crying. All I could think of was all those in abusive relationships who may be watching and thinking, “So I guess I SHOULD forgive him, even though there doesn’t seem to be sorrow or remorse, but he SAYS he “has changed” because that’s what Jesus taught.” I absolutely want to contact the producers and give them a piece of reality. I’m so angry right now, I can’t even stand it. I know it is hollywood, but I didn’t expect such a distortion from the makers of The Bible, The Series, as Mark Burnett and Roma Downey (LightWorkers Media, a division of United Artists MGM) seem to be sincere Bible-believing folk who have put their own resources on the line to produce these series.

    Before I came out of the fog, and found your site, I NEVER would have even thought twice about what was portrayed. I would have just been left feeling more guilty for “not being forgiving” and as my abuser continued his abuse, I would have served him popcorn while he smugly watched the movie with me.

    1. Thank you so much, Debby, for this. Your vent is fine, and not only fine, but justified and educative in the cause and cry for Justice!

      I shall pray that someone who has watched that series and been disturbed by its portrayal of Saul/Paul, will google and find your comment.

      Preach it, sister!

    2. Debby – I am so grieved that you were triggered. It is a difficult pill to swallow the way so-called ‘c’hristians portray what they feel ‘forgiveness’ should look like.
      I personally do not appreciate anything from “Hollywood” and if I do watch it is for research purposes. I wanted to give you a gentle warning and you can do further research … but Roma Downey and Mark Burnett have a very questionable ‘c’hristian faith. I am not allowed to give links of ministries who have shown them to lean much towards the New Age. (a search engine with their names and New Age will offer various resources on this topic)
      I shall be praying for you and others as we deal with all of this.

  11. I have read and re-read the original post and the comments many times over the last months, and am puzzled why the Holy Spirit leads me back once more…

    I find forgiveness an ongoing process…

    I forgave my abusers long ago, yet find myself faced with repeating the process at the most unexpected moments, no apparent rhyme or reason.

    It was a long, long time before someone told me forgiveness was a decision. Until then, I had thought it was a feeling. Yet when the topic arose, I was able, could, and did, explain the concept of forgiveness.

    I read the last paragraph, and even to me, the words do not make any logical sense.

    Maybe that is part of the answer…forgiveness is not logical.

    After all, there may – or may not – be justice from civil authorities.

    God’s vengeance may be stayed if the person truly repents. We may never know that answer until eternity.

    Forgiveness is not a one time choice…though many “c”hurches and “C”hristians choose to add extra-Biblical, man-made traditions about the process and end result(s).

    Perhaps there is no “one” answer, because there is only One answer.

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