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TRUTH

An Operational Definition of Forgiveness

By Dr. Don Dunlap
Pastoral Counseling
True forgiveness is defined in the Word of God.


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The Forgiveness Series – Article 4 of 71

“Forgiveness” must be carefully defined according to the Word of God, because many dangerous deceptions masquerade as biblical forgiveness. The primary objective of the Enemy of Our Faith is to convince us that certain things are true when they are not. We must expose these deceptions and establish biblical truths in order to set people free from the hurts and offenses they encounter in life.

Teachers often give their students a pretest before they introduce a new concept to them. The scores, not surprisingly, are generally low. Then after the teacher teaches the concept, he or she administers the test again in order to get an indication of how much the students learned from the presentation. If the teacher is blessed with attentive students, and if the teacher has done the job well, he or she is usually rewarded with significantly higher scores on the second test. Likewise, readers may not fully understand the definition of forgiveness at the beginning of our investigation. However, I urge them to keep this definition before them, and it should become increasingly clear to them as our study progresses.


The Definition of Biblical Forgiveness


Forgiveness is a word that must be carefully defined according to God’s Word. Biblical forgiveness involves our correct responses to God when people offend us. Offenses are the wrongs that other people inflict upon us—the hurts, the frustrations, the irritations. Offenses are those things that cause us hardship and grief. I will restate this definition throughout the course of our study, and we will seek to apply the definition to specific situations that may be occurring in our lives.


Most Christians have a shallow understanding of forgiveness.


It is important to begin by pointing out the many deceptions that masquerade as biblical forgiveness. The primary objective of the Enemy of Our Faith is to convince us that certain things are true when they are not. If the Father of Lies can succeed in blinding a Christian to the truth of biblical forgiveness, he can thereby render the Christian incapable of truly forgiving offenders. A superficial understanding of forgiveness abounds in the evangelical church today. Many Christians settle for a shallow grasp of this issue. They never go on to master the truths that are necessary in order to derive the full benefit from their problems. Therefore, we must expose these deceptions and establish biblical truths in order to set people free from the hurts and offenses that they have sustained throughout the course of their lives.


Many people in Christian vocations do not understand forgiveness.


There is another reason why I believe that Christians should be made aware of the forgiveness deceptions that pose as truth. Approximately one-third of my counseling clientele over the last decade have been pastors, church staff members, missionaries and para-church personnel. Almost without exception, when I mention their need to forgive someone they announce rather indignantly, “Well, I already understand all about forgiveness.” Perhaps they have preached a sermon on forgiveness or maybe they have helped someone else work through the need to forgive an offender. They believe that they are experts on this subject.

With this in mind, I designed the first section of this study to help people who work in Christian ministry come to the realization that there may be some aspects of the forgiveness process they do not yet fully understand. I have found that after I question one of these individuals for two or three minutes, it becomes evident to me that most of them have failed to apply many important aspects of the forgiveness process. When I expose the various deceptions that obstruct the path of true biblical forgiveness, however, I usually get very little resistance from pastors and other Christian workers regarding their need to take another look at the forgiveness issue.

 






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