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What Does Forgiveness Look Like – Part Two

Hi! Welcome back…last time, if you recall, we were talking about forgiveness. You can see that story here: What Does Forgiveness Look Like? (Part One)  

Where were we? Oh yes – Stanley had made some very poor decisions that resulted in him and his friends owing Jimmy, Bob and George a LOT of money. But instead of owning the responsibility fo what he did, he wanted them to forgive him. And in Stanley’s mind (and therefore the minds of his friends as well) that meant making the situation go away.

Bad enough, right? But let’s mix it up just a little bit. Now, imagine that it was well known that Jimmy, Bob and George were Christians and what if Stanley’s friends used that? What if they barraged the group via social media with a variety of things like:

As a Christian, you’re supposed to forgive people right?
The Bible says love each other.
If you REALLY loved the way you Christians are supposed to, you wouldn’t make him pay for this. 
Forgiveness means not holding someone responsible for their actions.
It was obviously a mistake. Aren’t you Christians all about forgiving mistakes? 

So what should Jimmy, Bob and George do? What does the Bible say they about this?what_would_jesus__wall_decal_header

I’m not a theologian by any stretch, but I think I am able to answer those questions.

As a Christian, I am to forgive. Even when people don’t ask for it. I’ve always thought that was a really cruddy thing. I’ve been wronged after all! It’s my right to get back what I’m owed. And it’s my right to make them pay. But God asks us to give up those rights to Him. And it’s for good reason. Unforgiveness is digging your heels in. It’s all about you – not them. And when you dig in your heels, your heart starts to harden just a little bit around the edges. Either that, or it sits there and festers and feeds itself on your anger and grows. Unforgiveness is a lot more dangerous to your life than just letting it go  and granting forgiveness.

But (going out on that non-theologian limb again) forgiving someone doesn’t mean you wipe away all of the consequences of that wrongdoing. Galatians 6:7 says “…whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” And there are chapters upon chapters in the Old Testament outlining what one must do to pay others back for wrongdoing.

Nowhere does it say “If they’re really sorry – it’s okay. Just shake hands and walk away.”Yeah, that’s generalizing things quite a lot but I still think the point remains.

Here’s a question. If that were to happen in a secular business, not one person would suggest that Jimmy. Bob and George suck up all of those expenses and move on. That’s a horrible business decision and it makes no logical sense in any way. Even as a parent, we know that our kids have to have consequences to learn their lessons. If someone can just say “Sorry” and everything goes away, what lesson have they learned? Not one person would expect a business to suck up hundreds of thousands of dollars because some wet behind the ears kid made a bad decision.  He would have to own that.

So it is my belief that you can forgive someone AND hold them to the consequences of their choices and actions. In fact I believe it’s a stronger form of love if you hold their feet to the fire – so to speak.

I also happen to believe that the moment anyone is looking at someone and demanding they act a certain way because of their faith, they’re in the wrong. No one should use someone else’s faith to force a decision to go the way they want it to.

Oh and do you want to know what happened to everyone? Jimmy, George and Bob decided to forgive Stanley (according to his rules of forgiveness) and still went on to build their storefront in the little quaint hamlet of Townville. And when they got what they wanted, Stanley and all of his friends told Jimmy, Bob and George what wonderful Christians they all were and praised them and their spirituality up and down – and then they disappeared and left Jimmy George Bob’s Sandwich Shop to flounder and eventually fold up shop in Townville.

They still offer franchises, but it’s now nearly impossible for anyone to become their business partner now. So they haven’t expanded into any new markets since the Stanley incident.

Why did they do it? They were afraid  that by not giving in to the threats of Stanley and his friends, they would be giving the wrong impression of Christianity. So they ate the cost of their venture, smiled, shook hands and lost a huge part of their company.

But Stanley and his friends saw the love of Christ in their actions and that’s what’s important…isn’t it?