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How do you forgive without letting ‘em off the hook?

July 12, 2012

When someone hurts you it’s difficult to forgive them because you don’t want to let them get away with it. You sure don’t want to let ’em off the hook! Right?

If our forgiveness means a person doesn’t have to pay for their offense then most of us would withhold forgiveness.

This became personal for Ginger and I when someone robbed our home last Fall. Such a violating experience! We had to make the difficult decision to completely forgive the face-less and name-less criminals. Several weeks later the police found and arrested our criminals. We were immediately ready to prosecute.

Does that mean we hadn’t really forgiven them? Did we have to “un-forgive” them?

Can you forgive someone you want punished? Does forgiving equal letting them off the hook?

Are you struggling on rather to pursue forgiveness or justice?

I’m learning the important distinction between forgiveness and a pardon.

A pardon releases the criminal from the penalty of their crime.

Forgiveness releases the victim from the hurt of the criminal’s crime.

A pardon releases them. Forgiveness releases me.

Paul teaches that we’re responsible to forgive while God focuses on the pardon. (Rom. 12:17-21)

However, forgiveness and a pardon can be done simultaneously. We see that when Jesus taught on forgiveness in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matt 18:21-35). In this parable, the king offered forgiveness and a pardon by immediately releasing the prisoner (servant). The king released the criminal from the penalty of his crime.

After the criminal (servant) went to the king and personally begged for mercy, the king choose to forgive and pardon. You can choose to morally or legally (depending on the crime) pardon but that’s in addition to forgiveness. Spiritually, you are unable to pardon anyone of anything. Only God can offer spiritual pardons.

In our robbery, we chose to forgive but not to pardon.

Forgiving someone doesn’t let them off the hook.

Forgiveness doesn’t make the other person right; it makes you free. – Stormie Omartian

Forgiveness doesn’t guarantee the relationship is restored but that you are released.

So feel the freedom to forgive completely and consistently.

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