Bible references for the points on forgiveness

Welcome!  If you've followed the link to this section, you're probably either a clergy abuse victim needing biblical answers in spite of the risk of being triggered, or you're a church member wanting to understand more about why I've asserted that forgiveness is NOT unconditional, in spite of what the church teaches.  Either of those options indicates a brave person, prepared to risk upheaval in feelings or beliefs in order to seek the truth.  I applaud you.  But even if you're simply here out of curiosity, you're welcome too, and I hope these references will be enlightening for you.

On the "forgiveness" page you've just come from, I said that forgiveness could mean any one or more of these things:

  1. It can mean "I seek to resolve my feelings of resentment or revenge, and to encourage what emotions would be present if you had never hurt me."
  2. It can mean "The relationship between us has changed because of your wrong action. I chose to put aside that past wrong and base the relationship on other things."
  3. It can mean "I have the right to act in this situation, but I have chosen not to make use of that right."
  4. It can mean "I refuse to pursue legal action against you, hence you do not have to answer to anyone, or be judged for, an action you have performed."
  5. It can mean "You owe me a debt, and I have decided that you don’t have to repay it."

I said, on the previous page, that both options 3 and 4 would allow the abuser to continue his (or her) abusive actions with nothing to stop them (see the issues of forgiveness and trust, and forgiveness and punishment, below). Let me make it clear at this point that I never urge a victim to pursue action if they feel unable to do so.  However, I do encourage victims to believe in their own strength and courage sufficiently to make their own choice to pursue action. 

But many such actions are averted by the church as a result of the victim being forced into false or insufficiently informed "forgiveness".  Such forgiveness is often urged by church members or officials, hence the need to grasp what the bible actually says about it.  As I said on the previous page, God does not forgive unconditionally. God's forgiveness is dependent on four things:

1. Recognition of the sin. Without recognition of sin by the sinner, there is no forgiveness.
References: Obviously point no.2 is dependant on recognising the sin in the first place.  This is clearly expressed in Mark 4:12.  Other references are Matthew 18:15-17, 1 John 1:8-9, Psalm 32:5.

2. Repentance of the sin. Without repentance by the sinner, and a firm intention to change, there is no forgiveness.
References: John 3:3, Romans 6:12-13, Matthew 5:24.

3. Recompense for the sin. In other words: payment, or punishment. Whatever word you use, there is clear evidence that God's forgiveness is dependent on someone paying the price for sin before forgiveness is possible.
References: Leviticus 16:15-16,21-22, Romans 4:5,16,20-25 (it is quite clear that Paul is arguing that Jesus paid the price of sin for us to obtain God's forgiveness for us), Hebrews 9:15,22.

4. Restitution for the sin. Sinners in the Bible who recognised their sin tried to restore the situation to a "pre-sin" state (eg. Zacchaeus paying back four times what he stole). This was the action which authenticated their claim of repentance.
References: Luke 19:8-10, Numbers 5:7 (note this is a direct and uncompromising [not to mention very specific] command.  Exodus 3:5,6 &12 give more specific instances).


So then, it is clear that since God's forgiveness of us is not unconditional, therefore neither should ours of others be.  Any true follower of biblical principles ought to be requiring the above before proposing forgiveness of offenders.  Even then, forgiveness must be a free choice on the part of the victim or it has little or no healing benefit.

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