Forgiveness is Not a One-Way Street

Pastor Kevin DeYoung had a great post recently about the biblical concept of forgiveness. He points out that, despite current pop psychology, forgiveness can only happen AFTER repentance. We should not be bitter or hold resentment in our hearts, but, as Christians, we must recognize that real, biblical forgiveness isn’t a one-way street:

Many Christians, influences by Lewis Smedes and a lot of pop psychology, have a therapeutic understanding of forgiveness. They think of forgiveness as a unilateral, internal effort to get our emotions under control. But if we start with a biblical notion of God’s forgiveness, we see that such a view falls short.

The offer of forgiveness is unconditional (for God, and it should be for us), but forgiveness itself is conditioned upon repentance. We must always be open–and even, in God’s grace, become eager–to extend forgiveness, but we (like God) can only forgive the truly penitent. No bitterness either way. No revenge. But forgiveness, and the reconciliation that should follow, is a commitment to those who repent.

You can read the rest of Pastor DeYoung’s excellent post here.

2 thoughts on “Forgiveness is Not a One-Way Street

  1. kwlowery says:

    Thanks for this post. The conditional forgiveness caught my eye and I wasn’t sure if I agreed with it, or if “pop psychology” has influenced me. I think I fall into the latter. Thought provoking! There is also an interesting discussion down in the original DeYoung’s article comment section.


    • Rachel Miller says:

      Hi Kip~ thanks for your comment. I know how challenging the concept of conditional forgiveness is given the influence of pop psychology in our culture. My dad did his doctorate work (D.Min) on forgiveness, so I’ve become well-versed in the ideas of Jay Adams and other nouthetic counselors.

      I think it’s important to remember that, as believers, we should pursue reconciliation, and on the occasions when the offending party does not repent, we should not hold on to anger or resentment towards them. This is not easy, by any means. I certainly struggle over this.

      But, I think what DeYoung is addressing is very important. Without repentance, there can be no forgiveness and no reconciliation. If some one is not the least bit repentant for what they did, if they basically say they’d do it all over again the same way, then how can you reconcile?


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