Forgiving The Repeat Offender
There was talk at church yesterday of how do you forgive someone who you know is going to commit the same act towards you again and again. Well now it’s a lot easier said than done. But it is definitely something that deserves a closer look.
God forgave us for all time. We should strive to do the same for the human race even though we all know that it’s just about impossible. Notice I said just about impossible. Through God anything is possible. Okay we all know that but the reality is we most likely will never reach that level in our lives here on earth.
So let’s work on the forgiveness of just one person who keeps repeating the same act. How do we do that? First we have to learn to hate the sin and not the sinner. Easier said than done in most cases. To hate sin we first must love God and God hates sin therefore we should too.
In the Old Testament we are instructed to love God:
Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Love the LORD your God and keep His requirements, His decrees, His laws and His commands always.
If we love God we will hate sin because He does and we will forgive because He has forgiven us. And because He forgives we are to forgive others
14) For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
15) But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Jesus tells us the same again in the New Testament. He states that to love God is the greatest commandment:
Mark 12:28 – 30
28) One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29) “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.
30) Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’
Jesus also states loving thy neighbor is the 2nd greatest commandment
The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Jesus also states that by loving our neighbor we will be known as His disciples
John 13:34 – 35
34)”A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
35) By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Jesus also tells us that when we love God and our neighbor that we are not far from the kingdom of God.
Mark 12:32 – 33
32) “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him.
33) To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
34) When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
We are instructed by Paul to hate that which is evil / sin
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
Let’s look at what Paul says about love & evil / sin in general:
Romans 12:9 – 21
9) Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
10) Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
11) Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
12) Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
13) Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14) Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
15) Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
16) Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.Do not be conceited.
17) Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.
18) If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
19) Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord.
*Note: See Leviticus 19:18 – Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.
20) On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21) Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Is there a better way to heap coals of fire on the repeat offender or to overcome evil than to use love, kindness, and forgiveness?
*Note: “Heaping coals upon one’s head” is not an act of vengeance. In Paul’s time heaping coals was an act of kindness from one neighbor to another. If the fire in your home went out you went to your neighbor and got coals from their fire, put them in a pot, and then carried the pot on your head home to re start your fire. So when Paul refers to heaping burning coals on your enemy’s head he does so along side with giving your enemy food & drink because in his time it was an act of kindness, not vengeance as some of us have been taught to believe in the past. Go back and look at Romans 12 verses 9 and 19. Verse 9 tells us that love must be sincere and verse 19 tells us that vengeance is to be left up to God.
A very special thanks to Greg for helping me with the meaning of “heaping burning coals” upon one’s head.
Love God, love your neighbor, this will draw you closer to the Kingdom and the forgiveness for the repeat offender will come.
Be kind to those who are mean to us or in Paul’s words repay evil with good. I believe that in repaying the repeat offender with kindness that one of two things will happen. They will eventually get it and stop whatever it is they are doing or they will be removed from our lives somehow. But only if we continue to forgive and turn the other cheek with them will something good come from it.