Tag Archives: relationships

Unconditional Forgiveness: Is it Biblical?

unconditional forgivenessI was surprised to be asked by Moody Radio to debate another pastor on the topic of Unconditional Forgiveness. Is it biblical or not? The debate was last Saturday. You can listen to the podcast by clicking this link. 

What is Unconditional Forgiveness?

Unconditional forgiveness is the belief that God calls us to forgive people whether they change their behavior or not. There are plenty of scriptures to support this. I’ve listed a few of them below. But there are some people who believe we should only forgive people if they repent, that is, ask for forgiveness and change their behavior. They say that God requires repentance, and so we should too.

The strongest case for this view is from something Jesus said:

“If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” Luke 17:3,4

Forgiveness 101

If you read Luke 17 in its most literal sense, you might conclude that Jesus is saying the opposite as well, “If they don’t repent then don’t forgive them.” But it doesn’t say that. In fact, in context, Jesus is teaching on Forgiveness 101, entry level forgiveness. His disciples can’t believe you should forgive people for an offense, even if they repent. Their reply to Jesus was, “Increase our faith!” In other words, “You’ve got to be kidding!”

Little did they know that Jesus would call them to even deeper forgiveness. He would call them to forgive, not only people who repented, but people who did not.

…Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:28-31

Forgiveness 201

Forgiveness 201 is when you choose to not retaliate. You give up the right to get even. The Bible calls this “mercy.” There are two Greek words that speak to this: aphiemi and apoluo. Look them up. They mean to release, pardon, separate or divorce. The idea being that you let go of what you were previously attached to, that is, retaliation. No conditions are implied here.

Forgiveness 301

Forgiveness 301 is when you give to people what they don’t deserve. This is called, “blessing.” This idea is rooted in the word charizomai. It’s the word for “grace” that Christians like to use so much. It means to give freely. To give without reserve. That sounds pretty unconditional to me. This is the word used in Ephesians 4:30:

Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving each other just as God in Christ has forgiven you.

How has Christ forgiven us? Paul stated this throughout his letter to the Ephesians. But he states it explicitly here:

…in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace,… Ephesians 3:13-15

What drew us to God? Jesus’ sacrifice and his setting aside the law (or conditions) of God that condemned us. His love was shown first. In the same way, we are called to forgive others without condition.

Forgiveness is NOT:

Just to be clear, forgiveness is NOT:

  • Forgetting. You forgive what you CAN’T forget.
  • Excusing. You only forgive what you have accused someone of doing.
  • Trusting. You can forgive immediately. Trust takes time.
  • Reunion. This can only happen when trust is restored.
  • An Emotion. It’s the refusal to retaliate and/or the willingness to bless.

What’s Wrong with Conditional Forgiveness?

A big downside to thinking that forgiveness is conditional (beyond the fact that I don’t see the Bible supporting it) is that, knowing humanity, we will always find a reason to NOT forgive, right? We will always think that someone hasn’t repented enough, thereby justifying our not forgiving. How convenient. How human. We are called to something higher.

Plus, conditional forgiveness encourages us to carry lists against all the people that have offended us over the years. Rather than being seen as a gracious child of God, people avoid us for being a rigid legalist who carries grudges.

It’s worth studying on your own. Here are a few scripture to look up:

  • Matthew 5:43-47
  • Luke 6:32-36
  • Romans 12:17-20

My book STUCK deals with the power of unconditional forgiveness and how it empowers you to live a new life, as well as the person you forgive.

Welsh poet and priest, George Herbert, said: Forgiveness is the fragrance of the violet, which still clings fast to the heel that crushed it.

This is a beautiful image of unconditional forgiveness. The fragrance stays with the person no matter what they do, and it’s a constant reminder of God’s love for them.

Please share this with someone who is struggling with an offense.


Four Guidelines to Set Healthy Boundaries

set healthy BoundariesAt Cedarbrook I’ve been speaking about Relation-SLIPS…those stupid things  we do that undermine our relationships. One of the most common relationslips is to not set boundaries. I want to offer you four guidelines to help you set healthy boundaries.

People who fail to set boundaries allow anyone into their life. They lose control of their life and often simmer in anger for it.

Now, before I give you some tips on how to set boundaries, I want to answer the question that some people have: where does it talk about boundaries in the Bible? Or, did Jesus have boundaries? Those are fair questions.

People who fail to set boundaries allow anyone into their life. They lose control of their life and often simmer in anger for it.

Jesus Had Boundaries

Jesus definitely had boundaries. Here are a few quick examples:

  • Luke 4:1-13: Jesus used boundaries when he was being tempted by the devil, defining what he was willing and not willing to do.
  • Luke 4:28-30: The people wanted to kill Jesus but he walked away. He wouldn’t play by their rules.
  • Luke 5:14-16: People came to Jesus for healing but he withdrew to pray and rest.
  • Matthew 12:46-50: Jesus’ mom and brothers called him out of a meeting but he refused to listen to them, saying that people who chose to do God’s will were his true family.

You see, Jesus could only lay down his life once. Before that, he had to decide how vulnerable he was willing to make himself in each encounter. He used boundaries to help people understand his limits.

Four Guidelines to Set Healthy Boundaries

Now, let me give you a few ideas for setting boundaries (see other related posts below):

  1. Set boundaries to protect yourself, not punish others. Too often we wait until people have used and abused us before we set a boundary. But by then, we are often so mad that our “boundary” is actually a form of punishment. We come across harshly and offend people.
  2. Set boundaries before things get awkward. The answer to my first point is to set boundaries early on. Don’t assume people will respect your space. I mean, how can they if they don’t know what your space is? It’s not rude or selfish to communicate your boundaries. It’s helpful.
  3. Set boundaries with respect and without apology. Let people know that your boundaries are to help YOU, not because you don’t like them. And don’t feel like you need to apologize or explain yourself.
  4. Set boundaries with appropriate consequences. Where there are no consequences, there are no boundaries. In sports, you pay a price when you step out of bounds.
    • Consequences should equal the trespass. Small transgression, small consequence and vice versa.
    • Enforcement should be without drama. When consequences are communicated in advance you can naturally enforce them without overreacting.
    • Increase consequences until your boundaries are respected. In another post I talk about the four degrees of boundaries. You start small and keep increasing the pain until you get the results you want.


When you set boundaries, you define the “rules of the game.” Games with rules are much more rewarding.


Buy STUCK and get Three Free Books

We did it. We got my new book, STUCK…how to mend and move on from broken relationships, out before Christmas!

Stuck broken relationships

Click Image

I’m pretty excited about this book. The early reviews are great! As I was writing the book I felt like people were going to get some very practical help by reading it. The first reviews seem to prove that’s true. There’s nothing more rewarding than to hear that back from people. It makes all those late nights of writing and rewriting worth it.

One reviewer wrote: STUCK… can be summed up in one word–brilliant…I have read books on anger and forgiveness written by famous theologians and pastors of mega churches, and though they have been helpful in their own right, this particular one hit home for me like no other has. read full review 

No One Likes Getting STUCK

I think we all know what it’s like to be stuck in a broken relationship. It can be with anyone: your spouse, your child, a co-worker, a friend, or your parents. It’s frustrating. You feel boxed in with no way out.  Nothing changes. No matter what you do things just seem to get worse. Ugh. You either walk away or resign yourself to a terminally bad relationship. Neither option is good.

If you are STUCK in a relationship or if you know someone who is, I hope you will consider getting this book. It’s not a magic pill. Any broken relationship takes work. But STUCK is a guidebook to show you the way through the chaos.

SPECIAL OFFER: This week only

If you purchase STUCK by Christmas EVE, Cross Point Publishing will send you downloads to these three books:

  1. Kindle or epub version of STUCK ($5.99 value).
  2. Kindle or epub version of Healing the Hurts of Your Past ($5.99 value)
  3. Links to the four-hour audio book (Mp3) version of my seminar, How to Release Your Anger…for Good! ($25 value). This seminar is only available through this offer.  I personally narrated this seminar. It serves as the basis for the book, STUCK.

Total Value: $36.98. To get these three free books simply forward the email confirmation of your purchase to jason@crosspointpublishing.com. Valid with either the Kindle or Paperback version of STUCK. Expires: 12/24/12.

Join My Marketing Team

The truth is, I have no marketing team. I’m it. And I’m a little busy pastoring a church. So I’m shamelessly asking you to help me out. If you would do ANY of the following I would really appreciate it:

  1. Share this post on Facebook, Twitter, etc. by clicking links below.
  2. LIKE the STUCK page on Amazon. Click the LIKE button at the top of the page.
  3. LIKE my Facebook Page and any Facebook post you see of mine.
  4. Recommend my books to your church bookstore. For bulk sales click here.
  5. Buy the book for yourself and friends.
  6. Post a review on Amazon.
  7. Post your review on Facebook and/or your blog.
  8. Ask your church to post a link to my books on a resource  web page.
  9. Invite me to speak at your church, business, or community event.
  10. Go door to door selling books!  (Okay, so that might be a little much.)

That’s it. I hope you get the book and enjoy reading it!


How Do I Forgive My Ex?

How Do I Forgive My Ex?

Last week I posted pieces of a message I spoke called “Defining Forgiveness: What it Is. What It’s Not”.  The message is a part of a larger series on Restoring Broken Relationships that I’m giving at my church.  Both at church and online the messages are having an impact.

In the coming week I will share pieces of a new messages on How to Forgive. But to start I want to share parts of an email sent to me last week from a woman who was able to forgive her ex-husband. I hope it encourages you if you are in a similar situation.

I am so amazed by how prayers are answered.  I have been asking God to bring someone or something into my life to show me signs or give me direction.  I was stuck in the mud; I had only healed to a certain point and leveled off.  It wasn’t enough, so I prayed for more direction.   

I listened to your message last night about forgiveness.  Every word of this hit home with me on such a deep level.  Your definition of what forgiveness is, but more so the definition of what it is NOT, was so meaningful.  In fact, I had such a feeling of peace.  I understand now what forgiveness is and how it relates to God, and that was such a missing link for me.

I realized today that I wasn’t angry anymore.  I thought before that in order to let go of the anger, I had to trust my ex, or excuse what he did.   I can’t trust him, but I can choose not to remember like God wrote in the Old Testament.  I can allow him to build trust.  I can let go of the anger and feel peace.  It’s over. It’s all in the past. I realized that if I want to move forward and excel in life, this anger has got to go.  So I let it go and God has helped me do it.  My shoulders feel relaxed!   

I know it will be a continuous process and through prayer I am achieving the strength I need.  My ex was here tonight to pick up the kids and I told him about this.  I told him that I forgive him.  It was a powerful moment.    

I am eager to move on with my life. I understand it’s a process, but I made a huge leap out of the mud I was stuck in.  I wanted you to know that.  I feel fantastic!  The grace of God has left me at a loss for words.

It was great to read this. I hope to read many more like it! Please share these posts with people who are struggling to forgive.  You can learn more about forgiveness in STUCK.

Question: Do you have a story of forgiveness?  What was the tipping point that enabled you to forgive?

  • Defining Forgiveness – Three Things That Forgiveness Is (readingremy.com)
  • Defining Forgiveness: Five Things Forgiveness is Not (part three) (readingremy.com)

Defining Forgiveness: Five Things Forgiveness is Not (part three)


Defining Forgiveness

This is the fourth of four posts on defining forgiveness. It has been great to see how many people have read and forwarded these posts.

Here’s a brief recap. So far I’ve defined forgiveness as…

  • giving up the right to get even
  • giving up the right to have your offender solve your problems
  • letting go of the past and moving into the future

Then I started to give five words for what forgiveness is not:

  1. Forgetting
  2. Excusing
  3. Trusting
  4. Reunion

Today I’m looking at the fifth word; conditional.

Forgiveness is not conditional.

It is not based on the other person.  Sometimes people tell me that they’d consider forgiving if they could get an apology but “the guy isn’t even sorry for what he did”.  They might point out verses that connect forgiveness with repentance. For example, Jesus said…

If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. Luke 17:3

There are other verses like this too. But we have to look at the entirety of scripture. I know some people teach that you don’t have to forgive unless your apologizes but I think it’s a bad teaching for two reasons.  The first reason is that unconditional forgiveness is God’s model for us.

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

God didn’t wait for us to clean up our act before he sent Jesus into the world. He took the first step and it was unconditional.

The second reason forgiveness shouldn’t be unconditional is pure logic. If forgiveness is conditional that means my offender controls me. As long as my offender doesn’t apologize I am chained to them emotionally and they can always “jerk the chain”. Let’s just take this to the extreme. Let’s say my offender wants to really mess with me and so they say…If I don’t apologize then Remy will stay angry and become resentful and bitter. Remy will think about me the rest of his life. Ha, ha, ha.

Forgiveness sets you free.

But forgiveness changes that. Forgiveness sets me free. It gives me the “trump” card…the last word.  Lewis Smedes tells us that…

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.  

This is especially important to understand if you are a victim of abuse or betrayal. The temptation is to live in the past, obsessing about what was  done to you. But what you need more  than ever is to win back your life. You will do that by forgiving.

I hope this series of posts helps you understand forgiveness a bit better…what it is and what it isn’t. But my real hope is that you’ll do it.  And here’s a secret; when you finally let go of the past that’s when your future opens up. Forgiveness is a word that releases you into your future. But unforgiveness keeps you stuck in your past.

Father we need to confess that even though forgiveness is central to who you are and what it means to follow Jesus, we are often slow to forgive. We have a thousand excuses why we don’t need to forgive. Help us to let go of our anger, let go of the past and move into the future that you have for us.  

Please take a moment to forward this post on Facebook, etc. Thanks.

Question: What kind of questions still trouble you about forgiveness? I’d like to try to answer them in the coming days.

  • Download the full podcast or text of the message “Defining Forgiveness” here.
  • Defining Forgiveness – Three Things That Forgiveness Is (readingremy.com)
  • Defining Forgiveness: Five Things Forgiveness is Not (part one) (readingremy.com)
  • Defining Forgiveness: Forgiveness is Not Trusting or Reunion  (readingremy.com)

Defining Forgiveness: Forgiveness Is Not Trusting or Reunion


Forgiveness is not trusting or reunion

This is part two of noting five things that forgiveness is not.  In part one I noted that forgiving is not forgetting or excusing. Here are two more to chew on.

Forgiveness is not trusting.

This might be one of the biggest misunderstandings about forgiveness. I can forgive you immediately but trust takes time. You’ve probably heard it said that forgiveness is free but trust is earned. Trust and forgiveness are mutually exclusive. That means that don’t go hand-in-hand. They can and often do exist apart from each other.

I see this all the time with alcoholics. Let’s say parents forgive their daughter for her drunkenness and destructive lifestyle. But when the daughter comes home to visit they lock the liquor cabinet.  The daughter sees this and gets mad. She says…you said you forgave me but you locked the liquor cabinet. What hypocrites! 

No. They aren’t hypocrites. The parents understand the difference between forgiveness and trust but the daughter doesn’t. The girl broke trust with the parents. Trust needs to be rebuilt over time. But they can forgive immediately because, as we learned earlier this week, to forgive is simply giving up the right to get even.

Forgiveness is not reunion.

Just because I forgive you doesn’t mean that we must automatically get back together as friends. I might forgive you but decide that you have betrayed my trust so much that I can’t be with you. For me to reunite with you would be self-destructive.

I’ve seen this when one person has an affair outside of marriage. Let’s say it’s the wife who had the affair and the husband is gracious enough to forgive her. The wife might assume they can just pick up where they left off but the husband says…

I love you and I do forgive you…but I can’t live with you right now. It’s not just the affair, it’s the five years of lying and deception that surrounded the affair. I need some time apart from you to reestablish my trust in you.

Sometimes you can forgive someone and be immediately restored to them. But sometimes forgiving enables you to separate,  or even move on, from an unhealthy person.  One author summed up reunion like this…

It takes one person to forgive…It takes two to be united. Forgiving happens inside the wounded person…Reunion happens in a relationship between two people. We can forgive a person who never says he is sorry…We cannot be truly reunited unless he is honestly sorry. We can forgive even if we do not trust the person who wronged us once not to wrong us again…Reunion can happen only if we can trust the person who wronged us once not to wrong us again. Forgiving has no strings attached…Reunion has several strings attached.  Lewis Smedes, p. 47, Art of Forgiving

I have one more thing to share in regard to what Forgiveness is Not.  Follow my blog so you don’t miss out! Learn more in my book STUCK.

Question: Do you agree or disagree with this post? Share an example from your experience. Thanks.

If you found it helpful please share it on Facebook, etc.

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Defining Forgiveness – Three Things That Forgiveness Is

Forgiveness is central to a life of faith but it’s often embarrassingly absent.

One of the biggest reasons people don’t forgive is because they misunderstand what forgiveness involves. We have too many layers of false information that scares us away from the idea. So today I want to help define forgiveness for us. Let’s start with something Jesus said about prayer…

…when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.  Mark 11:25

Forgiveness is the opposite of holding something against someone. It means to let go of the event that separates you from another person. It’s like something stands in between you and this person with their offense written all over it. Your relationship is now defined by what you hold against them. You continually point to it and remind your offender of what they’ve done. To forgive is to remove what stands between you and this other person.

Jesus tells us that if we insist on holding something between us and another person that there will also be something blocking our relationship with God as well. A sobering thought.

What Forgiveness Is

Let me give you three definitions for what it means to forgive:

  1. The first is giving up the right to get even. When someone offends us there is a natural need for justice. We want to balance the scales. We look for payback. We don’t want our offender to get away with something. But forgiveness says, No, I’m not going to get even. I’m not going to retaliate or teach them a lesson. I’m just going to trust that God will somehow make up for my loss.
  2. Second forgiveness is giving up the right to have your offender solve your problems. What I mean is some people will spend their entire life insisting that their mom or dad or ex-wife fully apologizes for what they did and makes everything right. That’s just not realistic. That probably won’t happen. And the problem with that is you’ll spend your life waiting for someone else to make you happy. Jesus taught us to pray…forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. That tells us that forgiveness cancels a debt. It eliminates it…takes it off the books.
  3. And that’s why thirdly forgiveness is letting go of the past and moving into the future. Forgiveness gives you your life back. It keeps you from walking backwards into the future focused on the hurt of your past. Isn’t that what we do? Instead of facing the future we sacrifice our future by looking backwards into our past, obsessing on an offense from long ago.  It’s like driving a car and fixating on the rear view mirror. You can only do that so long until you wreck the car.

Check back tomorrow when I’ll start to look at the five things that forgiveness is not. Learn more about forgiveness in STUCK.

Question: How has a past offense kept you from embracing your future? Leave your comment below and please consider “sharing the knowledge”.