Apprentices in Forgiveness

“For want of a nail, a shoe was lost; for want of a shoe, a horse was lost …” Most of us have never shoed horses, but we understand this proverb. Neglected details can turn out to be important, especially in making repairs. We protect things we value by making strong repairs. Forgiveness is repair. It means choosing to salvage a relationship rather than writing it off. God himself specializes in relational restoration. After Satan vandalized creation by turning mankind against the Creator, God set about to restore us. He pardons our sin through Christ and gathers us into his family. He will finish his renewal on the day he unites everything in heaven and on earth under Christ (Eph. 1:10). We should see ourselves as repairmen under God. Jesus apprentices us in forgiveness when he calls us to pardon our debtors. We find it challenging, though, to let go of offenses. As Herman Bavinck observed, “People who know themselves … also know how terribly difficult true and complete forgiveness ... Read more

Reconcilable Differences in Christ: Philemon and Forgiveness

At times, relationships in the church can be marked more by the way of the world than the way of the cross. When one believer is wounded by another, the relational pain can cause the offended believer to listen to the world’s advice. They cut off the other person. Give them the cold shoulder. Never forget their sin. Make them pay for what they did. They are quick to cite Luke 17:3, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents , forgive him,” but more so as a license to sin, to hold a grudge, and to live in the misery of unforgiveness—all in the name of “righteous anger.” But the way of the cross shatters the debilitating shackles of unforgiveness. The world happily affirms the reality of irreconcilable differences, but the gospel speaks a better word. Just think about God’s love for you in Christ. His love, John Owen writes, is like the sun rather than the moon. It never waxes and wanes. [1] Even after years of a rocky relationship with him, he will never sit you down and say, ... Read more

The Fallout from Forgetting Forgiveness

“America has forgotten how to forgive.” So came the indictment from journalist Graeme Wood in the title of his March 2021 article in The Atlantic . Wood was reporting on the news that another periodical had reneged on a recent hire after some unsavory tweets surfaced from her past. The woman’s sincere apologies weren’t enough—nor was the fact that the posts were from her adolescence—and this new chapter in her career ended before it got started. Our current culture struggles to know what to do with “the guilty.” Beyond losing the tools to enact forgiveness, I fear we are losing even the desire for it. Ours is an inquisitorial age, one that seems to almost relish condemning others. We could cite the disappearance of forgiveness as yet another proof that Christianity’s influence in the postmodern world is waning rapidly. Arising in its place is a godless approach to life—namely, secularism—which has little to no conception of grace. It was C. S. Lewis who, when asked what ... Read more


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