Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt the son born to you will die.
2 Samuel 12:13-14
In our ongoing discussion of forgiveness perhaps the truth concerning the issue of forgiveness that many find the most surprising is that forgiveness in not accepting a person’s bad behavior, or even tolerating something unpleasant for that matter.
As Christians, we are taught to turn the other cheek (as seen in Matthew 5:39) and to overlook a wrong done to us (as seen in Proverbs 19:11). Because of this, many times these topics get mixed up with the issue of forgiveness. However, if we take the time to really study God’s Word concerning the issue of forgiving a person who hurt us, we will learn that forgiveness is not a pardon for that person’s wrong behavior.
Although God forgave David for both the sin of adultery and the sin of murder the moment David admitted and repented of his sins (see the full story in 2 Samuel chapters 11 & 12), there were still consequences that David had to endure as a result of his sin. Other nations were watching. God being a just God could not allow the King of Israel’s sin to go unpunished.
With this in mind, let’s look a little deeper. Forgiveness is not accepting bad behavior. You see, sometimes forgiveness is confused with accepting a person’s wrongful actions. However, there is a difference between accepting a person and accepting that person’s behavior. Forgiveness is not an acceptance of destructive, bad behavior. We learn this example from God, who accepts us and loves us but He does not accept our sinful behavior.
Also forgiveness is not tolerating something unpleasant. To “tolerate” means “to put up with something or somebody unpleasant.” We do not have to tolerate or put up with something wrong or unpleasant when we forgive a person for the hurt he or she has caused. In fact, we do not even have to put up with the person who is doing things which are unpleasant. Look what 2 Timothy 3:1-5 says:
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers or money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them (NIV).
And so you see, although God’s Word does teach us to turn the other cheek and to overlook a wrong done to us, it also warns us that if a person’s behavior is any of the above we are to “have nothing to do with them.”
I believe God warns us of this because He knows that a person’s sinful life not only harms that person, but it can harm us! Either we get sucked into that person’s wrong behavior or the hurt and pain that that person causes can turn into anger and bitterness within our own hearts, which can eventually destroy us.
That’s why forgiveness is not accepting a person’s bad behavior or even tolerating something or someone unpleasant. Nor is forgiveness a pardon for a wrong done to us. There are consequences to sin and many times we are to hold the person accountable for the wrong they have done. Listen to what one of the criminals who hung on a cross next to Jesus said:
We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve (Luke 23:41a).
The criminal realized that he deserved the punishment for his crime. It is good that there were people around who did not accept or tolerate his bad or sinful behavior and they held him accountable for the wrong that he had done.
Sometimes there are boundaries that need to be set in certain situations—boundaries to protect another from harm and even boundaries to keep unhealthy relationships from destroying your own family or yourself for that matter. Yet in the midst of this, we are still called to forgive. Forgiveness is for us (part 1 of this series) and forgiveness is a heart issue (part 2 of this series).
If you have done the deep heart work concerning forgiving the person who has hurt you then don’t allow the enemy to twist you up and cause you to think that you haven’t truly forgiven just because you are holding that person accountable or choosing not to tolerate bad or sinful behavior. Remember, forgiveness is not a pardon.
Sometimes the greatest blessing we can give another is to hold them accountable for the wrong they have done so that they can grow and mature into the person God calls them to be.
I’m looking forward to your comments. Is there a person you have forgiven, yet still had to set boundaries because of sinful behavior in that person’s life? Please share your story so that others can grow and learn.
(c) 2011 by Cherie Fresonke
Adapted from two of my books. Go in Peace for Teens and my new book Go in Peace the updated and expanded edition that will be released October 15, 2011. Order your signed copy today at the special introductory price of $12.50 which includes sales tax and shipping (a savings of over 30%). This price is only available for a limited time so don’t wait. Send a check to Sunflower Press, P.O. Box 813, Seal Beach, CA 90740. Or you can purchase Go in Peace for Teens on our webpage http://www.sunflowerpress.net/resources.html or through http://amzn.to/ohMC2U