October 4, 2006

Forgiveness in a CANon

Posted in religion, scripture, theology at 12:24 pm by Jerry

Some people use forgiveness as a gift. Others use it as a trade (forgiveness has to be earned).

If forgiveness is a gift, it requires nothing of the forgiven. The only strength it requires is to let go. It’s not even necessary for the forgiven to receive this gift. It can be an entirely individualistic endeavor without any participation from the wrongdoer.

If forgiveness is earned, alot can be required from the wrongdoer before forgiveness is given, depending on the forgiver. When forgiveness is earned, there is more than one person involved in the process. Both the wrongdoer and the forgiver must communicate an acknowledgement and understanding of the wrong done.

But enough of what I think. Lets read the words ancient theologians tell us came from the mouth of Jesus:

25“Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.

26[“But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.”](Mark 11 – NASB)

30“He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.

31“Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.

32“Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matt.12 – NASB, italics mine)

34“And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.

35“My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” (Matt.18 – NASB)

47“For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke7 – NASB)

34But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing ” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves. (Luke 23 – NASB)

Am I missing something here or do I see a double standard between human and divine forgiveness? God’s forgiveness is not without stipulations for those needing forgiveness. Penance (forgiveness between humans) is involved. Forgiveness from a Supreme Being is a legal process. But no stipulations are required when forgiveness is between human beings.

However, it seems, in the last verse I’ve quoted, Jesus contradicts himself, asking for God to forgive humans without asking the humans to earn it. Is God changing his mind about earning forgiveness? Forgiveness between humans was commanded by God (according to scripture) to be given freely. Does God now think he should give it freely, too?

Is forgiveness better to be given freely than earned? I’ll tell you my personal thoughts on this in the next post.



  1. Robert Speeter said,

    I agree that forgiveness can be classified into two types, forgiveness as a gift and forgiveness to be earned. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forgiveness Under sumary of differing views on forgiveness, which I compiled. I believe that true forgiveness can only be a gift. Requiring one to earn forgiveness I have seen best described as “forgiveness to destroy.” To believe God needs a bargain to grant forgiveness is the height of arrogance. In other words, it would mean that we can control God’s perfection and serenity by our little actions. The only inconsistence in the Bible is in man’s translation and ability to get it right in the first place. For an uncompromising and comprehensive view of forgiveness, which never ascribes “human” unforgiving traits to God see: A Course in Miracles, published by Foundation for Inner Peace.

  2. Jerry said,

    Dear Bob,

    If you insist on believing that not ‘A’ = ‘A’, that’s your perogative. And you can justify it however you like, whether it be faulty translations or otherwise. Maybe you need to believe the bible is inerrant. Fine. But the texts I’ve quoted speak for themselves.


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