Biblical Forgiveness by Dorothy Anderson

I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t had an experience with sin. It’s a fact of life and Romans 3:10-18 testifies of it. But how are we, as Christians, to handle it?

Years ago, I had a close family friend do something to one of our family members that literally enraged me. I had never experienced someone so close to me act in such a selfish, self serving role, with a total lack of understanding or even a hint of sensitivity to the situation. I was beside myself with an uncontrollable rage. I do tend to suffer more anger when I see others harmed, but you see, her sin revealed a huge chink in my armor that I needed to deal with. Had she apologized that day, I don’t believe I could have really forgiven her. I may have given her lip service, but I realized I would not have forgiven her the way God forgave me. So, God dealt with me and I learned a valuable lesson.

Low and behold I happened to glance at my bookcase and saw a book on forgiveness. I don’t ever remember buying it, but surely I had picked it up on one of my thrift shop forays, so I grabbed it and started reading when I ran across this verse:

Matthew 6:14-15

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

I must have read that verse a hundred times. I’ve gotta tell you, I walked the floor for three days praying that God would remove the rage I felt over the offense. I wasn’t sleeping or eating. I was in a battle to find forgiveness in my heart. I knew what I had to do but I couldn’t find the strength on my own. I knew that only God could bring me into a forgiving state, so with much prayer and crying out for help that we find in the Psalms, on the fourth day, He brought me to a state of peace. All of a sudden I realized I wasn’t angry anymore and I had clarity of thought. I can’t begin to explain the relief and the calm that came over me. I could deal with the situation with wisdom and the battle within my heart was over.

I learned some valuable lessons those three days that I’d like to share.

Luke 6:27-28

“But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.

Colossians 3:8

But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.

So my question was this, how do I do that? I came to learn that I needed to work from a position of forgiveness in my heart first. That doesn’t mean I withhold discipline, or I just ignore what was done, but it means that I need to work in a constant state of forgiveness within myself and realize what that person did, I could just as easily do to another. When someone does something that makes me angry, then I need to remain silent until I reach that state where I can respond with a sound mind and a forgiving heart. I firmly believe our goal should always be focused on reconciliation and I know I can’t achieve that goal unless I am in a forgiving state from the onset.

Let’s face it. We all sin BUT we have an antidote to sin. We have an advocate with the Father and we have a tool called repentance. For a Christian, when we sin, we experience remorse. We know we have sinned, but it’s what we do after we know it that makes all the difference in our daily walk and it’s what separates the Christian community from those outside. Repentance is the answer. Often we would rather justify our sins by claiming an “eye for and eye” entitlement, but that’s not Biblical. Our Father forgave us while we were in our sins and we must do the same to those who sin against us.

Hebrews 12:7

If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?

Working in a state of forgiveness does not grant us the license to ignore or bypass the sins of others. There is a judicial side that must be addressed. We execute discipline, not out of spite or to harm the other, but to restore the other to a rightful place before God. The critical part of discipline is bringing about remorse in our brother or sister, so they are compelled to repent and can thus be restored. I like to say, it clears the conscience.

Hebrews 12:9-11

Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Too often I see Christians who withhold discipline and it does great damage when we do that because there is no more clearer example of the grace extended to us, than the practice of repentance and forgiveness. I have also witnessed forgiveness extended before repentance and we must be very careful that we don’t rob the offender of the profit of a clear conscience that can only be brought about through repentance and restoration.

Luke 18:11

The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.

Luke 18:13

And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!

Last but not least, we should all realize there is no sin we are not capable of committing. Our moral upbringing may prevent us from committing some sins, but we all have the capacity to sin. We should always keep that in the forefront of our minds when dealing with others. It’s because we sin and desire forgiveness for our own sins that we should always operate in a state of forgiveness and desire restoration.

Matthew 6:14-15

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Strong words and a vital instruction on forgiveness. May forgiveness and restoration remain our goal as we continue the work being done here.

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18 thoughts on “Biblical Forgiveness by Dorothy Anderson

    • Hi Todd,

      AMEN! I had a tower of Babel that needed to be reduced to dust.

      When I have events like this, I so realize that I am nothing. All my strength comes from God. He is the provider.

  1. Dear Dorothy,

    How are you? I found out that you left FP. You had told me you would let me know if you decided to leave, but I guess you forgot. Anyway, I have been reading your work on Theology Today, and I took special interest in your latest article on Biblical Forgiveness, as you might expect since we are still dealing with the estrangement of our daughter, Julia. The latest news on that is that I have been talking to Julia’s sister-in-law, Dewana, in another effort to get her to see if Hollis and Julia would come to the table with us to at least try to discuss this matter with the help of a mediator. We had the offer from the pastor at Dewana’s church, and he is willing to help us try to work this out, but they will not agree to sit down with us. Dewana told me that Hollis and Julia said that “Gold told them not to reconcile with us.” Dewana said that Julia and Hollis have told her that they have forgiven us “in their hearts,” but that they cannot reconcile with us. Of course, I brought her all the scriptures about forgiveness and reconciliation and pointed out to her that what God tells us in the Bible does do agree with the special revelation that they claim that God has given them, but this doesn’t bother them.

    Anyway, you said this in your article:

    “So my question was this, how do I do that? I came to learn that I needed to work from a position of forgiveness in my heart first.”

    and

    “Working in a state of forgiveness does not grant us the license to ignore or bypass the sins of others. There is a judicial side that must be addressed. We execute discipline, not out of spite or to harm the other, but to restore the other to a rightful place before God. The critical part of discipline is bringing about remorse in our brother or sister, so they are compelled to repent and can thus be restored. I like to say, it clears the conscience.”

    I want to add an extension to this, Dorothy, because I don’t believe that we can “forgive in our hearts” and still enforce discipline on our offenders. If one forgives someone in their hearts but then continues to punish them after they have spent over two years repenting to them, asking them for a hearing, but yet receiving nothing from them, then this is not true forgiveness.

    Here is an article that helped me understand Biblical Forgiveness better than any of the books I have read. I hope it is helpful to you.

    Love,
    Minna

    http://www.thefaithfulword.org/forgiveness.html

    • Hi Minna,

      When I talk about forgiveness in the heart, I’m talking about a state where we are not operating in anger, where vengeance is not our focus so our goal is restoration and our prayers go forth to God asking for Him to forgive them.

      In the article he talked about forgiveness being a “mental state”. I say no, it’s a state of our heart giving us the ability to operate in good conscience. The foundation of forgiveness is based on “love”, not a mental exercise.

      Let me give an example of a pastor in a Church who is caught in adultery. He should be removed from office right? What he has done has compromised his ministry. What man would trust that pastor to be alone with his wife? That pastor has effectively reduced his ability to be a pastor to 1/2 of his Church. To with hold sanctions would damage the entire Church body. Everyone there can fully forgive him, but it doesn’t remove the necessity of taking him out of his ministerial duties. The focus of the Church should move to assisting him in restoration of his marriage, his family, and his spiritual life.

      Discipline is not a show of unforgiveness. It’s a very loving act when done in the right spirit. Sin doesn’t just affect the person who sinned, it’s a reflection of the whole body and it can affect everyone in proximity. It must be dealt with.

      Prov 12:11 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.

      Prov 13:18 He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored.

      Prov 15:32 He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.

      • Minna,

        I wanted to add that I didn’t mention my leaving HP privately to you since I made it public. I’m sorry if you felt I should have told you privately. Since you had left the list we were both on, I didn’t see any reason to look you up. I figured everyone would get the message.

        Also, if you daughter says she has “forgiven you in her heart” and ignores restoration, then she is outside the framework of forgiveness imho.

        I’m sorry to see that these personal issues are still plaging you. As hard as it is, there are some things we just have to place in God’s hands and let Him deal with it as He sees fit. I know that’s much harder said than done. I’ll keep you in my prayers.

  2. I posted this multiple times several hours ago, but it would not take. I hope it works this time.

    Dear Dorothy,

    Thanks for you prompt replies.

    No, I understood the author to be saying that the modern day practice of “forgiving one in their hearts” was a psychological technique used to free the victim from his anger, which I thought was the same thing that you were saying. I do believe that our hearts have to be softened, however, before we can truly forgive someone, so I think we are in agreement here. But if we have forgiven someone, we have pardoned them and we do not inflict punishment on them. One cannot claim that they have forgiven someone and still want vengeance. So the way I am understanding what you are saying is that our hearts are put in a state of wanting to forgive so that our anger is no longer aimed towards them but rather is looking for their repentance so that we can truly forgive them and move to a state of restoration and reconciliation. Is that correct?

    Most of the books I have read on Biblical Forgiveness do approach the issue from a psychological perspective, which is not Biblical. Most of them have a goal of making the offended feel better (feelings) without any attempt to restore the offender. As you said, the goal here is for restoration. I do have a question about something you said in your blog. You said:

    “Our Father forgave us while we were in our sins and we must do the same to those who sin against us.”

    Please correct me if I am wrong, but do we not first need to repent before our sins are forgiven? I looked this up in R.C. Sproul’s book, “Essential Truths of the Christian Faith,” and on pages 193 – 194, he says that, “Repentance is not the cause of new birth or regeneration; it is the result or fruit of regeneration.” And he says, When repentance is offered to God in a spirit of true contrition, He promises to forgive us and to restore us to fellowship with Him.” 1 John 1:9

    So what I am asking is, is it not backwards to forgive someone before they repent? Again, please correct me if I am wrong.

    In our case, our daughter sent us word that they have “forgiven us in their hearts” but that they are going to continue withholding themselves and our only two grandchildren from us. Their goal appears to be not one of repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation, but rather of vengeance. They have “forgiven us in their hearts,” so they feel better, but they have no desire to restore our relationship with one another. Our son-in-law’s family is heavily into the Word of Faith teachings, and they honestly believe that God speaks audibly to them. They have sent us word through Julia’s sister-in-law that God has told them not to reconcile with us. I have sent them scriptures that teach otherwise, but they have admitted that they put more credence in what they think God tells them than in the written word of God. Since they are putting their ultimate authority in what they believe subjectively is God speaking to them rather than in the objective word of God, I can make no progress with them. We do not share the same final authority. I have sent word to them that our relationships with people on earth parallel our relationship with God, as do the principles of forgiveness and reconciliation, but they will not hear me. They also believe that the book of Matthew was written only to the Jews and that none of it applies to the church now, including the Sermon on the Mount, which contains the Lord’s Prayer and Christ’s teachings on forgiveness and reconciliation. So yes, I agree with you that they are outside the framework of forgiveness. Only God can change their hearts, and our family is praying that one day He will bring them out of this.

    I thank you for your continuing prayers. I know that you have been praying for us and for them for a long time. I am sorry that I made an issue out of this, but it has helped me to understand Biblical Forgiveness better, and I thank you.

    I am sorry that I brought that up about not contacting me personally. It was trivial and picky of me to do so, and I hope you will forgive me.

    Thanks so much.

    Love,
    Minna

    • Hi Minna,

      Ok, first of all you missed a major point in my post. We are not capable of making forgiveness a mental exercise. It is an act of God within us. That’s a very critical component. Left to my own devices, I probably would have responded in anger and in a state where I was not capable of forgiveness. That’s not good. So when something makes me angry, I turn to God for help in dealing with it.

      Second – correction is not punishment to a Christian. It is a loving act that we do for each other. When I see those who draw back or out and out rebel against correction then I realize I may not be dealing with a regenerated person.

      When I come under rebuke or correction from another, my first action is to check myself to see if I’m guilty. You see it’s a Christian’s tool of turning me towards God to seek answers and through those answers wisdom. Of course if they are correct, I’ll experience remorse, then repentance, than ask for forgiveness. That response is God enabling me to respond and my experience becomes one of growth.

      I think the reason you view the books you read from a psychological perspective is you’re leaving out Gods’s roll in the equation. I would say that most Christian books don’t focus on God’s role because it is already assumed that a Christian knows all strength comes from Him.

      For me, working with a forgiving heart just means that I am seeking restoration and not vengeance. My actions are not cloaked in ill will. I, too, want to see the other grow in knowledge and reflect Christ in a Godly manner. My actions are not those of punishment but of correction and correction will always lead a Christian back to God. Only non regenerates view it as punishment. They fail the grasp the objective.

      Prov 15:32 He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.

      Now you asked: Please correct me if I am wrong, but do we not first need to repent before our sins are forgiven?

      Here is what I said: I have also witnessed forgiveness extended before repentance and we must be very careful that we don’t rob the offender of the profit of a clear conscience that can only be brought about through repentance and restoration.

      Now I don’t know what else I can say to be any clearer. This is my position.

  3. Dear Dorothy,

    Ok, thanks. I see your position more clearly now. Now I see that you were not trying to make forgiveness a mental exercise. Forgiveness can only come from a regenerated heart. Forgiveness is a gift of God. So you are saying that when we are angered, we turn to God to deliver us from our anger. I agree.

    No, I understand the difference between punishment and chastisement. Punishment is for vengeance, whereas chastisement has a goal of repentance and restoration. When all of this first happened, I did a lot of soul searching as to what I had done to offend them. I wrote to them, since they would not allow us to come near them, and admitted that I had offended them and told them how grieved I was for what I had wrongly done to them. Of course, you know the story. They never would interact with us, so we still stand in a state of unforgiveness with no restoration from them. So all we can assume at this point is that their motives for doing this are for punishment rather than for chastisement.

    I am not trying to leave out God’s role in the equation. Forgiveness, as well as repentance, can only flow from a regenerated heart. So as you can probably tell, since we have received no true forgiveness and restoration from our daughter and her family after two years, we are concerned for them.

    Thank you for interacting with me on this issue again, Dorothy. I appreciate your help as well as your prayers.

    Love,
    Minna

    • Hi,

      Just because someone doesn’t want to interact with you doesn’t mean they haven’t forgiven you Minna. As far as restoration goes that doesn’t always go hand in hand with forgiveness. Sometimes the offense is so deep that restoration is difficult.

      Jesus forgave those who crucified Him without any expectations whatsoever. That is the height of forgiveness and though difficult it is what He expects us to do when others offend us.

      Phil

      • Hi Minna,

        Yes, I can understand why you are concerned for your daughter’s family and yes, a regenerated heart will respond because it’s an appeal to the spirit within.

        I’m glad I could be of help with the answers. I know we’ve studied this topic extensively together and it’s a tough nut to crack.

        Sorry again for the delay yesterday. It was all me. I usually take time a lunch to handle these things, but got sidetracked yesterday with another issue.

        Phil, thanks for you comments here this morning as well. Yes, sometimes the offenses need “time”. Not only is time a great revealer, it can also be a great healer and it often takes time to restore trust.

  4. I’m trying to figure out how to apply (if at all) the split between Paul & Barnabas in Acts 15:36-41:

    Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.” 37 Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. 39 Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

    Did Paul hold a grudge? Did he “forgive” John Mark of whatever he did? Did Paul “reconcile” with Barnabas? My point is, do Christian forgiveness/reconciliation always need to result in a hug-fest?

    I know Minna’s situation may be a bit more difficult since it is her daughter. But I would ask her (not to answer me, but herself), if anyone is still in sin? Does forgiveness/reconciliation need to be manifested as her daughter interacting with her again?

    • Dear Roderick,

      Are you suggesting that our whole family, Mike, Sarah, Michelle, Laura, aunts, uncles, cousins, and I are all being chastised because one or more of us is still in sin?

      And what else does reconciliation mean besides interacting with someone again?

      I don’t understand what you are getting at here, Roderick.

      Love,
      Minna

      • Hello Minna,

        No I’m not suggesting all of those people are being chastised for the sin of one, though it is biblical…since humanity was “made guilty by the sin of one”. However, yes all of those people probably are experiencing the consequences of one in sin.

        We see in 1 Cor 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.

        This is the opposite effect. This is NOT one person being saved by another’s belief but rather it another person(s) reaping benefits of being associated with a believer.

        Now, I don’t know enough about the situation about your daughter (only you do) but from what you described she has done to your family, I find it difficult she is a believer or to give more benefit of the doubt, maybe she is seriously back-slidden. My prayers for her & your family are in that direction. As painful as I’m sure all these other things are, her salvation is of utmost importance.

        Dorothy in responding to my post on Acts 15:36-41 conveyed better than I could what I was trying to get across about reconciliation. It does NOT mean everything will be the same as it was before. Often it is better (even if we at first don’t see it that way) because the elements that caused the initial trouble are not allowed to resurface.

        I don’t want to get involved any further in your personal business than I ought to Minna but just know I am praying.

    • Hi Roderick,

      You know, in the example I gave above, the friend who made me so filled with rage is again a person I call a friend, but I realized that there were limits I needed to maintain in order for an offense not to repeat and I implemented them to protect us all from another event like the last one because I do love her and I want to remain at peace with her.

      I guess you could say I changed the role she plays in our friendship. We are still friends but we now coexist differently than before. No longer do I grant access to information in certain areas where she feels compelled to insert herself. While I can value her contributions in other areas, one area is off the table so that friendship can be maintained.

      I guess you could say it would be like the pastor I used in my example. He was removed from office but it didn’t restrict him from playing other vital roles within the body once he was restored.

      Now comparing my example to Mark & Paul, we only know that Mark did not participate in an area that Paul apparently thought was important. I can only surmise Paul was concerned it could repeat and Barnabas thought differently. What I see occuring in these texts is a warning.

      So going back to my example, if a immediate family member allows my friend access to areas I have restricted then I would issue a warning. Not to hurt my friend, but in an effort to inform that family member that a repeat performance could bring about another breach that may not result in restoration. So I see my situtation much the way I read Paul’s. It just appears to me that Paul had placed Mark in a different role and was discouraging Barnabas from elevating Mark to a position he might not handle properly so there was quite an argument about it. In my situation, I might have a strong argument with an immediate family member over the role they place my friend and it might cause some contention also. I can only imagine that Paul felt a repeat would fall on Barnabas’s decision and may reflect on his ministry. No different than I would tell my family member that I would hold them accountable if another breach occurred and it could damage our relationship. I hope that makes some sense. Anyway, that’s my take on it.

  5. Dear Phil,

    You said:

    Just because someone doesn’t want to interact with you doesn’t mean they haven’t forgiven you Minna. As far as restoration goes that doesn’t always go hand in hand with forgiveness. Sometimes the offense is so deep that restoration is difficult.

    Our offense to her was that we told her we could no longer help her out financially. She and her husband had just divorced, and we were paying her house payment, utilities, food, etc., lawyer fees, and child support (as she had lost custody of her two children.) She would not get a job, and she was 25 years old at the time. Is that an offense that is so deep that it has left her with such a deep hurt that it has made restoration so difficult, or impossible, as they have sent word to us? See what I mean?

    Many of the books I have read on Biblical Forgiveness (and I have read every one I could get my hands on) teach that one can forgive another in their hearts but that they don’t have to have anything else to do with that person ever again. But when we look at the Biblical principles of Forgiveness and Reconciliation we see that there is a correlation between God forgiving us and reconciling us to Himself with our forgiving others and reconciling them to ourselves.

    What you are saying, Phil, does not agree with what Dorothy told me in a comment in this blog. She said:

    “Also, if you daughter says she has “forgiven you in her heart” and ignores restoration, then she is outside the framework of forgiveness imho.”

    Then Dorothy said today:

    “Yes, I can understand why you are concerned for your daughter’s family and yes, a regenerated heart will respond because it’s an appeal to the spirit within.”

    The verse you referred to is hard to be understood. Christ did ask the Father to forgive them, but we know that not all of them were reconciled with the Father. As Dorothy said, a regenerated heart will respond, and many did then, as they do now. Could it be that when Jesus asked the Father to forgive them, the Father forgave those who responded (whose hearts He regenerated first, as contrite repentance can only come from a regenerated heart) but not those who were unregenerated?

    So now I am confused all over again. This is a difficult subject. I had intended to stop asking questions, but now I need help again. Any thoughts on this, please?

    Blessings,
    Minna

    • Hi,

      The point I was trying to make here was that we aren’t supposed to forgive someone conditionally, it must be IMHO unconditionally. IOW we aren’t to forgive someone if we are looking for something in return. If you have forgiven someone with conditions behind your forgiveness, and they don’t do what you want, then you really haven’t forgiven this person have you?

      Forgiving someone has nothing to do with whether the other person is saved nor does it have anything to do with the other person. Forgiveness starts and ends with you and if you have truly forgiven this person Minna then there is nothing else you can do except to leave it in God’s hands.

      I could go further but I have a very pressing personal matter that needs my utmost attention.

      Phil

  6. Dear Phil,

    I agree and understand that we are to forgive unconditionally. I do not agree, however, that forgiveness starts and ends with you and has nothing to do with the other person. As Dorothy rightly stated above:

    “I have also witnessed forgiveness extended before repentance and we must be very careful that we don’t rob the offender of the profit of a clear conscience that can only be brought about through repentance and restoration.”

    Blessings,
    Minna

    • Hi,

      You are free to disagree with me if you’d like to Minna. If you seem to know so much about this topic that you can tell me what is wrong with my position then perhaps you should find somewhere and someone else to ask for advice.

      As far as I’m concerned I’m finished with this Minna.

      Phil

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