Forgive or not to Forgive
Based on my response to the book: Preventing Ministry Failure: A ShepherdCare Guide by Todd Wilson and Brad Hoffman
The author states, “When we have offended another, we should not solicit their forgiveness. What others do or refuse to do considering our confession isn’t the point. Our part on the road to reconciliation is simply to confess and repent.” (Wilson, 2007, p22.) This statement by the author is compelling. Scripture tells us, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.” James 5:16 (NASB) Confession is not the same as forgiveness. Confession is admitting guilt of a crime or offence. Forgiveness is the response of the offended toward the offender. “While the Bible does call the offender to confess, extending grace and mercy is the task of the offended.” (Wilson 2007, p22.) To take a hard position on this is difficult. This student agrees with the authors position with exceptions.
Personally, this student has asked for forgiveness in the past (before Christ) to take advantage of someone’s or manipulate a future situation. This is not true forgiveness. Scripture does imply the principle of asking for forgiveness. “Say this to Joseph: Please forgive your brothers’ transgression and their sin—the suffering they caused you.’ Therefore, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Genesis 50:17A (NASB) The appeal of Joseph father to forgive his siblings is clear. Joseph was in the position to extend mercy to his brothers based on being offended. Joseph also responds to the message from his father’s request for forgiveness. “Joseph wept when their message came to him. Then his brothers also came to him, bowed down before him, and said, “We are your slaves!” Gen 50:17b-18(NASB) Most church members practice asking for forgiveness and the reverse. If the person’s heart is contrite, then real repentance can take place. This student would recommend this principle of asking forgiveness on a case by case basis.
In Matthew 5:23-24 the offender takes on the role as a seeker in reconciling or re-establishing a relationship with the offended. “So, if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24 (NASB) Reconciliation should be pursued with a spirit of seeking forgiveness through agreement and restoring an environment that is conducive to restoration between the offender and the offended. This is how this student would instruct this difficult principle of asking for forgiveness.
Wilson, Michael Todd and Hoffman, Brad. Preventing Ministry Failure: A ShepherdCare Guide
for Pastors, Ministers and Other Caregivers. Carol Stream: Intervarsity Press, 2007.