All posts tagged Forgiveness

Jesus Forgives Sins Committed Against Me

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“Yet this is what Jesus did. He told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitantly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offenses. This makes sense only if He really is the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin (p. 51-52).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

I don’t think I was properly offended by Jesus’ words, “Your sins are forgiven (Luke 5:20),” until I read this quote. As with so many things in Scripture, I do not think we have fully grasped a truth until we are offended by it (or felt our life disrupted in some way).

If I hear “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23)” as an abstract reflection on the general moral condition of people, it doesn’t change me. When I am offended by it, then it has the power to transform me and take me through the rest of the book of Romans.

I used to read Luke 5:17-26 as a philosophical discussion of the deity of Christ. Since I am for the deity of Christ and Jesus won the debate, I liked the passage. I was against (on the other team) those guys who were arguing with Jesus. I was on the bench calling out “get ‘em” to Jesus.

Then C.S. Lewis had to go and ruin the passage for me. Lewis showed me that Jesus was forgiving every person who has sinned against me without my permission (or even seeking my consent). Frankly, I would like to be consulted on the matter. After all, I have been personally harmed and violated by the subjects at hand.

Now I am having to wrestle with the deity of Christ in a way that I didn’t think I needed to. If Jesus is God and life centers on God, then in the “economy of forgiveness” I am (at best) second. I liked holding the power over those who sinned against me. I found satisfaction in knowing they had to come to me in order to have their account cleared.

Jesus’ deity took that from me. In my sense of injustice I overlooked that in making no man my slave, Jesus also freed me from being a moral slave to any man because of my sins. But I’d rather not talk about that (it’s too “negative”).

To clarify, this does not mean that interpersonal repentance is unnecessary. Scripture still calls us to go to those we have offended and seek their forgiveness. What it does mean is that I cannot hold anyone hostage by refusing to forgive their sin against me. Jesus’ deity means that his forgiveness trumps my bitterness.

This takes me to one big point: God’s view of life is the true view of life. I may still view the person I refused to forgive (this assumes their repentance) as a vile sinner with an unchanged heart (after all, I “really know them”), but Jesus view of them as forgiven is true. In that case, “my reality” is not reality at all.

This helps me greatly. There are many things that God says which I struggle to see (accept, believe, rest in), but God’s view of life is the true reality. Through my struggle to forgive, God graciously helps me to see the way out of many of my cognitive-emotional bondages. I accept His deity and live as if what He says is true (because it is truer than “my reality”).

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Forgiveness” post which address other facets of this subject.

Crisis Forgiveness vs. Post-Crisis Forgiveness

  • A spouse has been unfaithful
  • A spouse hides a major amount of debt
  • A teenager “borrows” the car and wrecks it
  • A friend shares your damaging secret

There are many times when we are called to forgive. Usually the moment when the offense is revealed is a powerful moment. It often feels overwhelming. Frequently, in these times, we can muster up the courage and love to say, “I forgive you and I am willing to do whatever it takes to restore this relationship.”

The time after a statement like that can be trying. We battle with fear, anger, mistrust, shame, and intrusive thoughts. We feel the full battle of redemption. We catch a glimpse of why Jesus had to die on a cross to pay for our sin. Forgiveness is excruciating.

By God’s grace, often the battle lightens. Things become a bit “normal” again. At first that is a relief; a welcomed respite. But then, as our mind and soul recovers, we begin to realize that we are “living as if nothing ever happened.”

When we offend (in lesser ways) the person whom we forgave, we are now the one to repent. Everyday irritants call for patience and grace but we still feel like we have been gracious and patient enough. Our spouse, child, or friend offends us again (in lesser and different ways) and we are called to relate to them independent of the original offense. This is post-crisis forgiveness.

Crisis forgiveness was, in many ways, easier. It was heroic. It was focused. It forced us to our knees in reliance upon God’s strength. Post-crisis forgiveness comes when we are grace-weary. It is mundane. It must cover a multitude of (little) sins, not just one big one. It can easily be distracted by so many things we are trying to catch up on (which we neglected during crisis forgiveness).

Post-crisis forgiveness calls us to appreciate the incarnation as much as the crucifixion. Christ came and lived among us for over three decades. Christ lived in our sin (a fallen broken world with selfish, manipulative, backstabbing friends) in addition to becoming sin for us. Post-crisis forgiveness calls us to emulate this aspect of Christ-likeness as well.

Too often we assume that the restoration process will go directly from forgiveness to peace. However, especially when the offense being forgiven has traumatic qualities, there is a middle stage. If we forget this, we may wrongly assume that we have failed to forgive when we meet these new challenges. Rather, it means that we have moved to a new stage of restoration; from cancelling the debt to restoring trust.

Saying that there is sometimes a middle stage to restoration does not change the necessity or requirements of forgiveness. Nor does it allow the one being forgiven to rush or demand quicker restoration.  It does remind us that the Bible is more than a collection of commands. It is a portrait of our complete life experience captured in the person of Christ and with every struggle we face it is a call to marvel and emulate more of His character.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Forgiveness” post which address other facets of this subject.

C.S. Lewis Meets His Murderer

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“I have often thought to myself how it would have been if, when I served in the first World War, I and some young German had killed each other simultaneously and found ourselves together a moment after death. I cannot imagine that either of us would have felt any resentment or even any embarrassment. I think we might have laughed over it (p. 119).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

It must be noted that this quote is based upon Lewis’ personal speculations and his own retrospective assessment of what his response would be in a purely hypothetical circumstance. So whatever we do with this quote, we should not treat it as doctrine.

But the quote does challenge us to consider the question, “How much difference will Heaven make for the greatest atrocities and offenses we face now?”  This is a question that runs a great risk of being misused.

Many would use a question like this to minimize the pain or significance of current suffering. There is no indication (nor would I suggest as a good idea) that Lewis used this type of question to belittle the dangers he faced in WWI. Neither would it have been of any benefit to manipulate himself into thinking, “the young German doesn’t really mean to take my life with the bullets he’s firing over my head.”

“Perspective” should never be used to craft an alternative reality. Perspective does not make danger less dangerous, evil less evil, or pain less painful.

So what good does perspective bring to suffering?

In a word – hope.

This perspective gained from the kind of reflection Lewis is engaging in reminds us that evil never gets the final or definitive word. God’s redemption is so complete that the darkest evil becomes like the awkward moment before the punch line in a really good joke.

In that moment of awkwardness, you legitimately do not know how to respond. It feels like the story is painfully incomplete or about to become offensive. Then with the punch line the size of the awkwardness only serves to accentuate the humor.

Again, it should be said, any use of “perspective” that seeks to minimize the painfully awkward moments in which we live on this side of God’s redemption, is a poor (possibly abusive or traumatic) use of perspective.

The point of perspective is to remind us that while evil may be “winning,” it cannot “win.” With this thought secured, then core aspects of personhood – hope, courage, meaning – are able to withstand the barrage of suffering.

The main lie of suffering – this is all we will ever know – is broken. It is as if an evil enchantment of mental and emotional slavery (we are dealing with C.S. Lewis, the author of Narnia) has been lifted from our soul. We remain a person who have been given personhood by the King’s authority which cannot be usurped by any invading tyrants (or German soldiers) or intrusions into our lives.

We are free children of the King, who must be reminded of who we are. When we remember, and even more when we enter His kingdom, the threats of this world will be like silly jokes. But again, that should give us hope, not cause us to minimize the threats of this world.

Forgiveness Made Easier: Part II

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“And secondly, we might try to understand exactly what loving your neighbor as yourself means. I have to love him as I love myself. Well, how exactly do I love myself (p. 116)?… [Lewis was using a war illustration] Even while we kill  and punish we must try to feel about the enemy as we feel about ourselves – to wish that he were not bad, to hope that he may, in this world or another, be cured: in fact, to wish his good. That is what is meant in the Bible by loving him: wishing his good, not feeling fond of him nor saying he is nice when he is not (p. 120).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

In a politically correct world where we must say that every one is “nice” or “good” even “when he is not,” it makes it harder to love our neighbor as ourselves and, thereby, harder to forgive. I’ll try to follow Lewis’ logic from each point.

First, Lewis connects a forced attribution of niceness as an impediment to loving our neighbors as ourselves. When we cannot declare bad to be bad or foolish to be foolish, then we are prematurely forced to extend grace by the abolition of negative words.

When this happens, a basic form of loving others is taken away. We are no longer able to want “good” for them, because we have been forced to declare what they are doing “good.” Because of this we are forced to a higher level of relational involvement – from wanting their good to appreciating what they are doing.

This brings us to Lewis’s second connection. Now their offense against us not only has to be forgiven, it must be enjoyed. Forgiveness must mean more because love means more. If I cannot merely love them by wanting their good (because all things are good), then I must agree with their offense as being acceptable.

Think about one of the most common modern sayings given in resistance to forgiveness – “I’m not going to say that what they did was okay.” At first it may sound like a leap, but in light of Lewis’ assessment, it makes more sense.

Now let’s work Lewis’ logic backwards. If I am allowed to say that an offense or even an offender is bad (which Scripture holds to be universally true; Romans 3:23), then forgiveness would be made easier. I can now desire their good – being delivered from the moral condition that resulted in their offending me.

This is actually the same sense of regret I feel for myself every time I become convicted of my own sin. I desire my good – that I would be delivered from the moral condition that makes sin so deceptively tempting and illogically appealing. I now want for them what I would want for myself in the same situation.

When I can love them by wanting their good, I can see how forgiving them does not mean condoning or approving of their offense. Forgiveness, by definition, must declare something wrong before it can be enacted. Declaring everything good, neutral, or a matter of personal preference makes forgiveness an illogical exercise.

To summarize: wanting someone’s good is the foundation of love and allows us to see that loving them is not a contradiction to the moral infringement we feel when they offend us.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Forgiveness” post which address other facets of this subject.

Forgiveness Made Easier: Part I

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“It is going to be hard enough, anyway, but I think there are two things we can do to make it easier. When you start mathematics you do not begin with the calculus; you begin with simple addition. In the same way, if we really want (but all depends on really wanting) to learn how to forgive, perhaps we had better start with something easier than the Gestapo (p.116).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis graciously starts the difficult lesson of forgiveness with two important and sequential questions. First, do I really want to forgive? Second, only if the answer to the first question is yes, where do I begin with this arduous task?

Wanting to forgive is almost an oxy-moron. The experience of being hurt, slighted, or offended is predicated upon a sense of justice. Without a sense of justice, there would be no standard of fairness to be violated. But forgiveness is anti-fairness. So forgiveness is not just emotionally challenging, it fights against the very experience that calls for it.

Wanting to forgive comes from valuing something more than the offense. In many cases the “something” is the relationship with the offender. But when (a) there is no substantive relationship with the offender, (b) the offense is greater than the relationship, or (c) the accumulation of offenses is greater than the relationship, then the “want to” gets challenged in this mathematical/investment approach to forgiveness.

The difficult is wanting to forgive when forgiveness is (or at least is perceived to be) a bad relational investment. This is what we mean most often when we say, “You don’t deserve to be forgiven.” No one deserves to be forgiven; “deserve” and “forgive” are mutually exclusive. What we mean is, “Forgiving you would be a bad relational investment for me.” There are times when this is a completely true and unselfish statement.

This leads us to C.S. Lewis’ second question. If we start with trying to resolve the “worst deals” we will likely be overwhelmed and give up. Even Jesus’ teaching radically redefining the investment mentality towards forgiveness (Matt. 18:21-35) may serve to discourage us.

When we engage in genuine forgiveness for “lesser offenses” we learn something about forgiveness; it is a blessing to us. There is more than one prisoner set free. The offender is set free from the moral (but not legal, if applicable) obligation of his/her offense. But we are also set free. As Nancy Leigh DeMoss says  in Choosing Forgiveness, “You see, God never intended our bodies to hold up under the weight of unresolved conflict and bitterness (p. 67).”

It is in the practice of forgiveness that we realize how the investment truly works. We are playing a game with grace-rigged scales. The investment we make in forgiveness is not directly or exclusively in the other person. The investment is primarily a faith investment in God and His kingdom. God extends the influence of the gospel in our lives as we extend the influence of the gospel in our world through forgiveness.

As we practice forgiveness in these “lesser offenses” we begin to realize that the primary “return on investment” is not from the offender to us, but from God to us and God through us. As we grow  to trust in this pattern and more wise in the practice of forgiveness, then our willingness and ability to forgive in the “greater offenses” increases.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Forgiveness” post which address other facets of this subject.

Forgiveness: If Received, Then Required

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“’Forgive us our sins as we forgive those that sin against us.’ There is no slightest suggestion that we are offered forgiveness on any other terms. It is made perfectly clear that if we do not forgive we shall not be forgiven. There are no two ways about it. What are we to do (p.116)?” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

I once heard a pastor say that if he preached every sermon on forgiveness, he still would address the subject enough. Well, if he preached with this kind of punch, he also might not have a job. It’s not that I disagree with C.S. Lewis (or have the audacity to disagree with Jesus), but it just hurts to have this truth articulated in such a straight-forward manner.

The force of Jesus’ words reminds of us a central truth to our Christian walk – when we were forgiven we were purchased and therefore no longer belong to Satan or even ourselves (I Cor. 6:19-20). Jesus does not speak as a contractor making a recommendation about repairs to the owner of the house (our lives). Jesus speaks as the Builder and Twice-Owner (by creation and redemption) of the house (our lives).

We are like the renter who has been in a house for so long that we naturally call it our own and increasingly treat as our own, even though we know we pay the “rent” and not the “mortgage.” We are so comfortable in “our life” that when the Owner speaks we get offended and try to find a way to escort Him off His property.

In effect, the command to forgive is God saying, “I let you live morally rent free (paid daily by the blood of Christ), so I expect you not to charge anyone else moral rent. If you must, charge their moral rent to the same account that pays your own.” In that sense, it is actually a very, very kind command.

Think about it. What if someone offered to pay for your housing and their requirement of you was that if someone else ever owed you money to tell them to pay that debt too? Would you take the deal? The only reason that you would hesitate is to verify that it was a legitimate offer.

So when we are offended by the command to forgive others, it is us who have to answer the hard questions, not God. We have to explain how we feel justified in accepting free moral rent while trying to retain the “right” to charge others moral rent. Our indignation is actually our shame.

But that shame is covered with the same offer as our prior debt if we will humble ourselves and receive it. God is not a Landlord who delights in evicting his tenants (don’t stretch the metaphor to encompass the assurance of salvation). But rather God will forgive the debts of unforgiven-debts if we will surrender our perceived right to collect them.

The question becomes, “Who do we think we are?” If we are the same person who prayed “the sinner’s prayer,” then we are welcome to live in God’s provision all our life (temporal and eternal). However, if we believe we have become a different caliber of person, then we will live with all the moral, emotional, and relational “luxury” that our merit can provide. That is the equivalent of being homeless.

Forgiveness, A Lovely Idea

A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“Every one says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive (p.115).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Did no one ever tell C.S. Lewis that these are the kind of quotes that make people not like you as an author? You can’t take one of the most romantic themes of Christianity (it’s even adopted in most every secular romance movies) and ruin it by displaying it’s rawness in a simple fourteen word sentence.

“Lovely forgiveness” becomes a phrase akin to “minor surgery.” Everyone knows what you mean and is agreeable to using the phrase until they are the one going to the doctor.

Forgiveness is a beautiful picture of the Gospel. The problem is that the Gospel as a very raw beauty. “Jesus in my place” purchasing forgiveness for my sin was gruesome. The power of the cross was so enormous that it could not only pay the penalty of our sin, but simultaneously change a scene that previously made us wince in horror to one that causes us to stare in awe.

The Gospel is so lovely that it transformed beauty itself. We find the echo of this transformation in the way we simultaneously marvel and resist forgiveness. Forgiveness is both the most compelling theme a well-told story can have, and the theme we most fear having to live out in our own story.

We might say that forgiveness is a God-sized beauty. It is a beauty that is too large to be contained in our finite and fallen lives. You can paint a sunset across a man’s back, but no matter how exquisite the art it does not compare to the sky set ablaze. Similarly, forgiveness is a God-sized action that when written into our life pushes at the edges of our humanity to such a degree that it is sometimes deathly painful.

This reflection pushes us to consider another miracle of the Christian faith – God came to live in us, and this is the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). The God in whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28) resides in us after our conversion. God brings His capacity into our finitude.

The grandeur of the story (forgiveness) that would otherwise explode our hearts is now possible because the God who (comparatively) draws the grandest sunsets on miniature post-it notes took up residence in our hearts.

Our resistance to forgiveness is a testimony or an echo of who we were before God slipped us on like a Halloween costume and began to parade His presence in our body as a way to appeal to others in whom He wants to reside.

When others see us execute forgiveness as a radically free gift, absorbing its cost in ourselves, they ask “How-why do you do that?” We can answer, “I couldn’t. The task is beyond my capacity. When I embraced the Gospel, God came into me and I gained His capacity to forgive. It still hurts, but it now hurts like the pain of childbirth, because I know it is a testimony to the new life in me.”

This is why (not my best estimation) we can almost all unanimously agree that forgiveness is a lovely idea, and then defiantly resist it when our opportunities come to put it on display. We reveal the miracle and beauty of forgiveness even when we resist it and even when it is painful to give.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Forgiveness” post which address other facets of this subject.

The Forgiveness Trap

Forgiveness is never simple or straight-forward because it always involves both sin and sinners. Worse yet, it always involves a sinner who has sinned against another sinner.

Usually in the post-sin, pre-forgiveness stage of the process there is some clear role definition that occurs. One person is the offender. The other person is the offended. I acknowledge that we are all sinners, but for repentance and forgiveness to occur, these roles must be defined even if they are alternated.

During this middle phase there is usually some delay of time when the offending party(s) is trying to decide if they are going to repent. They replay the events looking for a way to justify their actions. Maybe they weigh out whether their actions were “wrong enough” to warrant an apology. But in order to enter “the forgiveness trap” the offending party must come to the person they offended in repentance.

Eventually they come to the person they offended and say, “I was wrong for doing what I did. Will you forgive me?” The trap has been set.

But wait a minute. You’re thinking, “What is wrong with that?” Nothing. That is exactly what should happen. I am not saying that the trap is manipulative or intentional.

So what is the trap? An immediate role reversal in which if the offended person does not promptly reply with absolute forgiveness, the sinner vs. saint roles are reversed. The white hat and the black hat switch heads. Often times a hesitancy in forgiveness becomes a greater sin than the original offense and the offended person is not even given the same period of time to forgive that the offending person took to repent.

I am not saying this is what should happen, but it’s often what does happen. Sometimes, it is an innocent misapplication of biblical teaching on forgiveness. Other times, it is manipulative form of repentant-revenge.

I am not saying that forgiveness is optional. Even if the offending person does not repent, forgiveness is commanded as an authentic expression of our appreciation for Christ’s forgiveness of us (Eph. 4:32). To fail to do so angers God greatly (Matt 18:15-35).

But too often, “the trap” assumes this must be done immediately and that full trust must be restored upon forgiveness. We must remember that while God can command forgiveness, the offending person cannot. The offending person requests forgiveness recognizing forgiveness is an act of grace. To demand forgiveness and use Scripture to pressure forgiveness is a sign that the “repenting” person does not understand what he/she is asking.

As a general guide line, I advise a repenting person to wait at least as long as it took them to repent before they mention the offended person’s obligation to forgive. In cases of traumatic offenses or painful betrayals it may be wise to wait longer. If not, it falls into the “now I’m the good guy and you’re the bad guy… God’s on my team” trap.

It should also be noted that the restoration of trust and forgiveness are two distinct but related things. One can “cancel a debt” without being eager to “give more credit.” Attacking someone with their fault is a sign of unforgiveness, but a hesitancy to potentially place one’s self in harms way again is not. If these two things are treated as the same thing, they create another “forgiveness trap.”

10 Pre-Marital Questions on Sex (Part 7)

This series of blogs comes from FAQ’s from the guys in Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry. They represent a conglomeration of questions from many different husbands-to-be during the Engaged Discovery Weekend. If you are interested in serving as a marriage mentor or are engaged, click here to learn more about Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry.

How long is reasonable for my fiancé to get over my sexual past?

This is a good question, but one that is hard to provide a specific, or even a principled, answer. There are so many variables that could play into a given relationship. I will begin by providing a list of influences that could determine the length of time that would be “reasonable” to “get over” a fiancé’s sexual past. Then I will provide some helpful “next steps” for a couple struggling in this area.

  • Was your sexual past during or before your current courtship?
  • What ongoing consequences exist from your sexual past (i.e., child, legal action, STD, etc…)?
  • Was your sexual past confessed or found out?
  • Were you completely honest about your sexual past once the conversation began?
  • Have you been defensive about or justifying of your sexual past?
  • Was your sexual past a onetime event or a pattern/addiction?
  • Have aspects of your sexual past been repeated in this relationship?
  • How have sexual events shaped your fiancé’s family of origin or past relationships?
  • Has your fiancé ever experienced sexual abuse of any kind?
  • How much time has passed since your fiancé learned of your sexual past?
  • What steps have you taken to protect against a repetition of your sexual past?
  • Who else is aware of your sexual past that might create ongoing social awkwardness for your fiancé?

These questions impact what a “normal recovery time” would be in a relationship. It is important to remember that you are asking for more than (but not less) forgiveness. You are asking for trust. More than temporary trust, you are asking for the level of trust necessary to commit to a lifelong covenant and the establishment of a family.

If your answers to these questions reveal that you have compounded the impact of your sexual past with how you have responded to your fiancé, then you need to take those responses as seriously as your sexual past. You are establishing now how the two of you will respond to difficult circumstances. It is your obligation as her protector to ensure that such conversations are had without defensiveness, anger, deceit, denial, minimizing, blame-shifting, or other unhealthy patterns.

When this is a struggle within an engagement it is wise to seek counseling in addition to standard pre-marital counseling. Just because you realize some of the variables that would cause it to “take longer” for her to “get over” your past, does not mean the two of you are equipped to navigate that alone. An important way you can show your fiancé your commitment to a healthy marriage is to seek advice on how to proceed.

If you or your fiancé are unwilling to seek counseling because you do not want to be embarrassed or for other people to “know your business,” this is major red flag. It reveals a tendency to deal with powerfully disruptive matters on your own out of fear or pride. It means that the struggles that the two of you do face will have a strong propensity to compound and fester rather than being resolved effectively.

Hopefully as you go through the process, the goal becomes larger than you fiancé “getting over” your sexual past. The larger goal should be to establish a relationship based upon integrity and trust while establishing a pattern of dealing with sin through honesty, repentance, and forgiveness. If this is accomplished then God will use these painful events (your sexual past and the restoration process) to bless the marriage and prepare it to succeed.

One final note, do not feel like you should rush through this process. In the end there are no “bonus points” for how quickly you navigate this journey. Guilt, shame, and embarrassment often accelerate the pace at which we try to put things behind us. Your patience with your fiancé will be richly rewarded as you lovingly walk with her in this process even at the sacrifice of your own awkwardness and pain. As with every challenge of life in marriage (or preparation for marriage), this is an opportunity to love her as Christ loves the church. Begin now training yourself not to lose sight of that.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Sex and Sexuality” post which address other facets of this subject.

Why We Must Call Evil, Evil

It is easier to acknowledge something as evil from a distance. But when it’s up close and personal things can be confusing. Imagine being a child in a home where you were consistently unprotected. Perhaps it’s “only” neglect or it could be some form of abuse.

You are faced with a choice. (A) Acknowledge the fact that those given to care for you are too consumed with their own interest to care for you. (B) Believe that your parent(s) really are good people and make up an excuse for the neglect or abuse.

“A” is too frightful for most children to accept. “B” is a lie, but it provides a sense of safety when the mirage is all you can depend on. “B” fits with the imaginative world of child. “A” seems to contradict all the messages that life works best when you obey your parents.

“B” calls evil good.

“A” calls evil evil.

I counsel many people who are very hesitant to make statement “A.” The reason is not because there is uncertainty about the actions of their parents (or other significant figure in their life). The reason is because it feels un-Christian to make such a declaration.

Why is it important to make this declaration? I will state two reasons (others could be listed). These examples bridge more situations than the neglected/abused child scenario.

First, until we call evil by its true name we will have a distorted category for “good.” Good is a meaningless word unless real people, events, and actions are contained in the category for “evil.”

For the person who ignores or mislabels being abused/neglected by a parent growing up, what does it mean to have a “good” marriage? What does it mean to rely on someone as “trustworthy” if no one can be called a “liar”? What basis is there for “hope” if no one can be declared “manipulative.”

The question is quickly (and most often sincerely) raised, “But wouldn’t this cause me to be judgmental?” That takes us to the second point.

Second, the first step in forgiveness is to declare that an evil has occurred. Forgiveness is not turning a blind eye. Forgiveness is not “being nice” in the presence of wrong. Before I can forgive I must declare that what was done was wrong.

Unless I declare a wrong action evil, I can only explain it away. Forgiveness doesn’t touch accidents. Accidents receive, “That’s okay.” Forgiveness doesn’t cleanse oversights. Oversights get, “I’m sure you had a lot on your mind. I probably would have done the same thing.”

Forgiveness is for moral evils (sin). When I say, “I forgive you,” I am saying, “That is the kind of action that required Jesus’ death and I am giving you what I received from Him.”

It is only calling evil by its right name that allows us to find any refuge in the word “good” and allows us to deal with evil in the way that God prescribed. As with any deception, calling evil by the wrong name carries a domino of effects that pushes us away from the Gospel and genuine peace.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Theology and Counseling” post which address other facets of this subject.