Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Preemptive Forgiveness?

Jimmy Akin writes, "We aren’t obligated to forgive people who do not want us to. This is one of the biggest stumbling blocks that people have regarding the topic. People have seen "unconditional" forgiveness and love hammered so often that they feel obligated to forgive someone even before that person has repented. Sometimes they even tell the unrepentant that they have preemptively forgiven him (much to the impenitent’s annoyance). This is not what is required of us.

Consider Luke 17:3–4, where Jesus tells us, "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him; and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him."

Notice that Jesus says to forgive him if he repents, not regardless of whether he does so. Jesus also envisions the person coming back to you and admitting his wrong.

The upshot? If someone isn’t repentant, you don’t have to forgive him.

If you do forgive him anyway, that can be meritorious, provided it doesn’t otherwise have bad effects (e.g., encouraging future bad behavior). But it isn’t required of us that we forgive the person.

This may strike some people as odd. They may have heard unconditional love and forgiveness preached so often that the idea of not indiscriminately forgiving everybody sounds unspiritual to them. They might even ask, "But wouldn’t it be more spiritual to forgive everyone?"

I sympathize with this argument, but there is a two-word rejoinder to it: God doesn’t.

Not everybody is forgiven. Otherwise, we’d all be walking around in a state of grace all the time and have no need of repentance to attain salvation. God doesn’t like people being unforgiven, and he is willing to grant forgiveness to all, but he isn’t willing to force it on people who don’t want it. If people are unrepentant of what they know to be sinful, they are not forgiven.

Jesus died once and for all to pay a price sufficient to cover all the sins of our lives, but God doesn’t apply his forgiveness to us in a once-and-for-all manner. He forgives us as we repent. That’s why we continue to pray "Forgive us our trespasses," because we regularly have new sins that we have repented of—some venial and some mortal, but all needing forgiveness. ---Excerpt from an article by Jimmy Akin, Catholic Insight, The Limits of Forgiveness, catholic.com/

--->The Parable of the Prodigal Son...

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