Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Counterfeit Forgiveness

We talked about anger and forgiveness this past week at Grace. I didn't have time to get into some material that I would love to have dealt with.  One of the topics I left out was the temptation of counterfeit forgiveness. That is, the stuff that feels like forgiveness but is only a cheap imitation.  My thanks to Dr. Ralph Wilson for this excellent material. 

Counterfeit 1: Excusing

Forgiveness is the opposite of excusing. It reaches beyond excusing. As CS Lewis says, Forgiveness says, “Yes, you have done this thing, but I accept your apology; I will never hold it against you and everything between us two will be exactly as it was before.” But excusing says, “I see that you couldn’t help it or didn’t mean it; you weren’t really to blame.” If one was not really to blame then there is nothing to forgive. In that sense forgiveness and excusing are almost opposites. Of course there may be a mixture of the two. Part of what at first seemed to be the sins turns out to be really nobody’s fault and is excused; the bit that is left over is forgiven. If you had a perfect excuse, you would not need forgiveness; if the whole of your actions needs forgiveness, then there was no excuse for it.

Counterfeit 2: Minimizing the Hurt

If our primary reaction when we're harmed by another is to tell ourselves feebly, It really didn't hurt that much, there are times it just doesn't wash. Unless we see the difference between acting as if the injury is minor, and pardoning one who has hurt us deeply, we will eventually find ourselves unwilling to "forgive."

Counterfeit 3: Blind Trust

Forgiving isn't the same as trusting.  Forgiveness is given, but trust is earned. To someone faced with a person who perpetually breaks his promise, C.S. Lewis prescribes forgiveness: "This doesn't mean you must necessarily believe his next promise. It does mean that you must make every effort to kill every trace of resentment in your own heart--every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out."  But to trust again, well now that may take some time.

What are some other counterfeit forms of forgiveness?


Bryan Boleratz said...

Another form of counterfeit forgiveness, I believe, would be forgiving simply because it looks good. If you find yourself thinking about who will see this, or how it'll make you look, your motives are wrong. Forgiveness is a selfless act, and should never be based on your own benefits.

Danny Lucas said...

Frederick Buechner (pronounced "Beek-ner") is easily among my top 5 authors.

One of his books is titled "Brendan"; it is a novel, but based on St. Brendan, who preceded St. Patrick in Ireland.

The salient message is within this part of the novel:

"How beautiful on the mountain are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings", Brendan said. It was his jesting way of saying all Gildas' tidings was bad.
Gildas stopped his quill in mid air. "You'd best not look to me for feet", he said.

Pushing down hard with his fists on the table-top he heaved himself up to where he was standing. For the first time we saw he wanted one leg. It was gone from the knee joint down. He was hopping sideways to reach for his stick in the corner when he lost his balance. He would have fallen in a heap if Brendan hadn't leapt and caught him.
"I'm as crippled as the dark world", he said.

"If it comes to that, which one of us isn't, my dear?", Brendan said.

Gildas with but one leg. Brendan sure he'd misspent his whole life entirely. Me that had left my wife to follow him and buried our only boy. The truth of what Brendan said stopped all our mouths.
We was cripples all of us. For a moment or two, there was no sound but the bees.

"To lend each other a hand when we are falling", Brendan said. "Perhaps that's the only work that matters in the end"

We was cripples all of us.
Then Christ reached out his hands so we would not fall. His blood shed became our forgiveness.

Counterfeit forgiveness is any forgiveness ever given in any way, that fails to recognize we have been forgiven by Jesus Christ, and like the person we are about to forgive, we is cripples..... all of us.