Forgiving the Unforgivable: Is it Foolishness?

Forgiving the Unforgivable

Forgiving the Unforgivable

I’ve been talking about forgiving the unforgivable. I’m not saying it’s easy but it’s the goal if you want to follow the Way of Jesus. If you don’t then it might be too much of a risk, even foolish.

To forgive the unforgivable assumes that God exists and will empower you to do something beyond yourself. Forgiving the unforgivable goes beyond self-preservation to loving your enemy and blessing your offender.

Forgiveness Precedes Repentance

Recently I’ve been reading Free of Charge by Miroslav Volf. It’s a study in giving and forgiving. Volf makes a case for not only forgiving the unforgivable but forgiving BEFORE your offender shows any signs of contrition or repentance. He says that repentance is the consequence of forgiveness not the condition for it. That is, when someone experiences forgiveness they may in turn change for the good.

The forgiver, following God’s example, offers forgiveness as an act of grace. Not every offender will receive it. That is their loss. But the forgiver makes the offer. If the offender receives forgiveness it gives them a chance to reclaim their life. It frees them from the fear of accusation and judgment and allows them to start over. Forgiveness makes rehabilitation possible. Without it there is no reason for them to change. They continue in their wrongdoing.

The Bible affirms this when it says that it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. God’s forgiveness provokes our transformation. (See Romans 2:4)

Volf does offer a disclaimer. He said offenders may not repent even when forgiven. Then he says…

Forgiveness does not cause repentance but it does help make repentance possible. page 186

Is Forgiving the Unforgivable Foolish?

I’d imagine that this kind of talk is mere religious theory to some and pure foolishness. Surely no one would say these things if they had suffered abuse or the effects of genocide. This is what theologians talk about but no one actually does.

I totally agree with that sentiment. Being a skeptic at heart I’d be the first to say that very thing. But I’m convinced that Jesus knew what he was talking about so I’m leading this discussion to help us conform to what he said is true and not what feels is true. I think there is a life in God that few have encountered because we can’t believe it exists. But we haven’t experienced it because we haven’t dared to try.  I’ll speak more on that in my next post.

Note: One of my readers suggested that I encourage people struggling with issues of forgiveness, abuse, guilt, etc. to get counseling.  I agree. Sometimes the answer is straight forward. But rarely.  You may need someone to help you sort it out.

Question: Do believe that forgiving the unforgivable is possible? Please take a second to leave your comment below.


7 thoughts on “Forgiving the Unforgivable: Is it Foolishness?

  1. Grandby

    Wonderful post Remy, and I will go one step further and say that it is totally possible to forgive someone of grave wrongdoing. However the grace of God, is what gives a person the ability to
    Go that one step further. Know that I am only speaking for myself. My offender has died and I never confronted him. In some cases that kind of confrontation is simply dangerous to the person harmed.
    Thank you Remy, I am taking the time to repress this series, maybe some one else might see it and be gifted by your gentle kindness.

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  3. DMarie

    I’ve been a Christian for many years. I’ve had my share of hurts and learned to forgive by God’s grace. However, right now, I’m not sure how to get there. My son, 12 with autism, was molested. How does one ever come to the point of forgiveness for such a despicable crime? I know I need to forgive, and eventually I will come to that place. But it seems way far off, and very hard to navigate.

    1. F. Remy Diederich

      Wow. This hard. The person I referred to above was in a similar situation (the one that thought the couldn’t forgive). This is too big of a topic to give a brief answer. I’ll comment in detail in my Monday post. Thanks so much for your honesty. The short answer is that the bigger the offense the longer the journey to forgiveness. A cross country road trip takes days…one town at a time. So too with forgiving something like abuse. More on Monday…

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  5. Mykey Robinson

    I’ve done alot of thinking about this subject in my new book. I think forgiveness and reconciliation are different things. Forgiveness is possible, but without repentance it is unwise to expose yourself to being hurt again. The question then is, what is true repentance? What do others think?

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