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PostPosted: Wed Jan 12, 2011 4:46 am 
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Which brings us to my first reason.

Careless use of the word forgiveness can lead us to misunderstand God's forgiveness of us.

Going back to the Jean Dye Johnson/ Leonard Bloomfield definition of meaning, it cannot be otherwise. If we consistently, unconsciously use forgiveness to mean "letting things go because we can't do anything about them" or some other variant of "coming to terms with awful/ distasteful/ evil events," we will of necessity develop a new set of reactions to the word.

What we need to do is get our understanding of forgiveness from the Bible, not import our own ideas into it. What situations in the Bible do we find the word used? What were the circumstances? Did God forgive us because there was nothing else he could do? Did he simply overlook sin so that we can fellowship with him? Was his only alternative bitterness?

If you doubt the validity of this point, just experiment with other words. Make a list of words that you know have changed meanings in the general population over the years and try to use them in their former sense. Negro would be a good place to start. . . and stop. Yet, Dr. Martin Luther King used the word almost exclusively.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 13, 2011 11:23 pm 
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I don't know if it's technically correct or not to say that God forgives unrepentent people, but he sure has made a lot of effort in that direction. He loved us while we were still sinners (I take that to mean unrepentant sinners), enough to demonstrate his love in a way that was costly and dramatic.

Maybe that one-sided effort did not technically accomplish the forgiveness transaction, but it definitely reflects God's heart for restored relationships with us. It definitely reflects his desire to not punish us according to what we deserve. It definitely reflects a yearning for good things for us.

It seems to me that when we really, really understand and appreciate the fact that we are on the receiving end of all this undeserved love and care, compassion naturally flows out of us to others, even those who don't deserve it. When that happens it is a truly miraculous evidence of God's footprint in our hearts - and that is a good thing!

I am not advocating for no consequences for abusers, but rather that our heart motive toward them reflects God's heart toward us, even as we pursue appropriate consequences.

Gene, do I have any common ground with you here?


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 14, 2011 8:03 am 
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Kathy wrote:


Gene, do I have any common ground with you here?


Indeed you do, Kathy!

I would word it only slightly differently:

It's not technically correct to say that God forgives unrepentent people, but he sure has made a lot of effort in that direction. He loved us while we were still sinners (I take that to mean unrepentant sinners), enough to demonstrate his love in a way that was costly and dramatic. He reconciled us when we were enemies.

That one-sided effort did not complete the forgiveness transaction, but it definitely reflects God's heart for restored relationships with us. It definitely reflects his desire to not punish us according to what we deserve. It definitely reflects a yearning for good things for us.

The Bible makes it clear that when we really, really understand and appreciate the fact that we are on the receiving end of all this undeserved love and care, compassion naturally flows out of us to others, even those who don't deserve it. When that happens it is a truly miraculous evidence of God's footprint in our hearts - and that is a good thing!

I am not advocating for no consequences for abusers, but rather that our heart motive toward them reflects God's heart toward us, even as we pursue appropriate consequences.

I regret that my earlier postings did not make this clear.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 14, 2011 6:43 pm 
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A recent case in the Bangkok Criminal Court involved a foreigner who had violated Thai law. Upon changing his plea from "not guilty" to "guilty," he was sentenced to time served and ordered deported. This was as favorable an outcome as he could have hoped for, and he profusely thanked the judge. Much to his dismay, the judge barely nodded an acknowledgement as he left the courtroom. Why?

The judge had not done the man a personal favor. He did not forgive the man his offense; he sentenced him upon his guilty plea. And, the sentence was in line with what the law stipulates. In a word, the judge's personal feelings towards the man formed no part of his decision. The judge was motivated and guided by law, by precedent, by justice, not by compassion. Therefore, accepting the prisoner's thanks, regardless of how heartfelt and sincere, would have been inappropriate, a tacit admission that he had shown partiality.

Impartiality is an ancient and honored tradition, one that is emphasized repeatedly in the Old Testament, and followed in all civilized countries today. A court of law's primary relationship to the accused is that of judge. Any other relationship is coincidental. In fact, if too closely related to the accused, by blood or sympathy, a judge would not be deemed fit to preside at a trial.

The New Testament draws heavily on the imagery of earthly tribunals when it describes our relationship with the Lord, the Judge of all the earth. The parallels are numerous, but there are also some very instructive differences. The most an earthly judge can do is declare a defendant not guilty. The law exists to condemn or exonerate, not to praise, men. Our heavenly Judge, in vivid contrast, declares us more than "not guilty." He declares us righteous - a statement affirming our positive standing based on the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ and His death for us.

And, declared righteous by our Judge, we find that the Judge is also our Father! Moving far beyond what any court could do, He glorifies us. Unlike the judge in Bangkok, He can love us, judge our sins in Christ on the cross, justify us on that basis, glorify us and accept our worshipful thanks, all with no conflicts of interest, no partiality, no compromise of His own holiness.

"Whom he justified, them he also glorified." Romans 8.30 Our Creator. Our Judge. Our Father. Our Friend.


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 16, 2011 9:12 am 
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Here are some questions that I have been wrestling with -

Type of sin and forgivness:

Forgiveness of sins in ignorance, weakness or bondage, etc. (Either by overlooking the sin or by bringing it to the attention of the offender so that he/she has an opportunity to repent – as many times as necessary, assuming sincere repentance.)

Forgiveness of defiant sins – unrepentant sinner – is this possible? I.e. the offender knows he has committed sin; the offender persists in sinning. (There is a point where it becomes impossible for a person to repent.)

Authority and forgiveness:

Forgiving sins that are illegal (that is, sins that also break the laws of the land):
1. ‘Forgiveness’ by not reporting / not pressing charges…at what point does the church become accomplice?
(Question for the lawyers!) What exactly does the church ‘forgive’ in this case? Examples:
a. Church member who is speeding and cuts you off
b. Jean Valjean (main character in Le Miserable)
c. an NTM pedophile

2. ‘Forgiveness’ of a sin that illegal but committed outside the jurisdiction of the laws of the land? What should the church do then?

What are the bases for forgiveness? What authority do we have to forgive? Do we have the authority to forgive illegal sins (Rom. 13:4)? Do we have the authority to forgive what God has not/not yet? i.e. Jn.20:23 - Is our forgiveness effectual in the removal of the offender’s sin? i.e. Jesus’ cry, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

And here’s, I think, a paradox: God alone can forgive sin (Mk 2:7, Lk 5:21), and we are commanded to forgive (Lk. 11:4, 17:3). So what exactly does our forgiving someone do? :)


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 18, 2011 8:19 pm 
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Gene Long wrote:
The Bible makes it clear


I've been thinking about this change that you made (vs. what I had written, "It seems to me...") I'm thinking that whether we say the Bible makes something clear or not, it still comes down to our own interpretation of what we think the Bible is saying. For example, both Calvinists and non, believe that the Bible clearly suppprts their (opposite) points of view.

And some people tell us the Bible clearly says we must "forgive", and others say there is no indication anywhere in the Bible that we should "forgive" unrepentent people.

The longer I live, the more questions I have (and less clarity) about the Bible. So I am still going to stick with "it seems to me". I am glad that you agree with the core of what I wrote.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 19, 2011 4:26 pm 
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Kathy, it seems to me ... that you are making a lot of sense. ;)

As an impressionable 19-year-old, I sat for endless hours in Bible School lectures while opinionated male teachers told me the exact meaning of every word of every verse in the Authorized King James Bible (Scofield, of course). I took it all in, I wrote it all down.

Four decades later, I don't live in that box anymore.

My God can't be put in a box. He can't be comprehended, analyzed or explained, by my puny human brain.

But my heart ... my heart beats to the rhythm of his love ...

I am forever his.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 19, 2011 9:45 pm 
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Kathy wrote:
Gene Long wrote:
The Bible makes it clear


I've been thinking about this change that you made (vs. what I had written, "It seems to me...") I'm thinking that whether we say the Bible makes something clear or not, it still comes down to our own interpretation of what we think the Bible is saying. For example, both Calvinists and non, believe that the Bible clearly suppprts their (opposite) points of view.

And some people tell us the Bible clearly says we must "forgive", and others say there is no indication anywhere in the Bible that we should "forgive" unrepentent people.

The longer I live, the more questions I have (and less clarity) about the Bible. So I am still going to stick with "it seems to me". I am glad that you agree with the core of what I wrote.


I edited out "it seems to me" because I do not believe there is any question about "when we really, really understand and appreciate the fact that we are on the receiving end of all this undeserved love and care, compassion naturally flows out of us to others, even those who don't deserve it. When that happens it is a truly miraculous evidence of God's footprint in our hearts - and that is a good thing!" In the absence of any dissenting opinions, I felt that the qualification was unnecessary and distracting.

You did not qualify all of your statements. For instance, you said, without qualification, that compassion flowing out of us to others, even the undeserving is (not might be or seems to be) a truly miraculous evidence. . .

You also said that God "sure has made a lot of effort in that direction. . . " Not, seems to have made, or seems to me to have made. There is certainty, not qualification, in your statement. And, I certainly agree with it.

And, these lines: ". . .but it definitely reflects God's heart for restored relationships with us. It definitely reflects his desire to not punish us according to what we deserve. It definitely reflects a yearning for good things for us. [emphasis added]" It seems to me that you are pretty definite on some things!

I definitely agree that we need to be careful of what we are certain of. We can always find someone who will disagree with something, who will doubt what we hold to be true, who will sincerely interpret the Bible differently than we do. But, we needn't be shy to speak when God's Word speaks. God speaks to us through his Word.

Each of us has to be responsible for his/ her own decisions in these matters. And, as such, we are each going to draw the lines in different places. But, we all draw them. The alternative is perpetual skepticism, never being certain of anything - and maybe not even being certain that we can't be certain.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 20, 2011 3:24 am 
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Raz wrote:
Kathy, it seems to me ... that you are making a lot of sense. ;)

As an impressionable 19-year-old, I sat for endless hours in Bible School lectures while opinionated male teachers told me the exact meaning of every word of every verse in the Authorized King James Bible (Scofield, of course). I took it all in, I wrote it all down.

Four decades later, I don't live in that box anymore.

My God can't be put in a box. He can't be comprehended, analyzed or explained, by my puny human brain.

But my heart ... my heart beats to the rhythm of his love ...

I am forever his.

Unless my calculator has failed me, Raz, you are nearing your fifth cycle birthday. Wow!

I am a few years behind you, but I still remember when I was 17 (soon to be 18) and had gone off to Bible School to learn the few answers that I didn't already know! Heady times, those.

I believe it was Mark Twain who said that a cat that sits on a hot stove one time will never sit on a hot stove again. But, it learned the wrong lesson, for it will never sit on any stove again. We are often like that cat; we learn the wrong lessons.

I don't doubt that you had all male teachers. This was because of a failure to correctly interpret and apply God's Word. A Bible School, after all, is not a church. But, "principles" were gleaned from "church truth" and applied in a way that suited their preconceived notions.

I don't doubt that they were opinionated. That is part and parcel of how NTM is run. You no doubt noticed, as I did, that the further you went in the organization, the more important the opinions of the leaders became, the less important yours. Because I am a person of - how shall we say this? - a multitude of cherished opinions, I may have noticed it sooner, and more acutely, than you did. Just saying.

NTM could have done better if they had found a few women teachers like Arara Azul! She would have made us think!

Instead, we were subjected to a very idiosyncratic view of the Scriptures, many times based on the shifting sands of a slip shod theology. It is that sort of foundation that gives rise to the Naaman illustration from Larry Brown, to pick only a single recent example. It has been observed that applying Old Testament narratives is a lot like playing the saxophone - easy to do badly. Other illustrations shouldn't be hard to find. . .

So, what lesson do we learn? We have seen that men have mishandled God's Word for their own ends. We have seen that they were careless in their interpretations, opinionated in their presentations, fanciful in their applications. Should we turn from studying God's Word? Or should be seek to avoid these pitfalls, even as we watch for others?

"I am forever his." Amen! A comforting thought, and we know it to be true because we have God's own revelation of himself to tell us so. "Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace." In his presence there is fullness of joy; at his right hand there are pleasures for evermore. "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of thee. My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever."

"The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law."


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 21, 2011 11:43 pm 
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Gene, You got me on that one. :) I did say "definitely' a lot, which could give the impression that I think I've got it all figured out. So I am glad for this chance to clarify my attitude. I do not want to be dogmatic. Whether I specifically say "it seems to me" or not, that is the attitude in which I want to communicate. So when I say "defintely", please read that to mean "it definitely seems to me". I am very passionate about proclaiming God's love, which is why I used the word definitely.

I am glad you brought this up because it leads into an important topic.... We all are on different places in our journey with God. We can help each other by sharing what we are learning in our own journey, listening to what they are learning in their journey and by trusting the Holy Spirit to lead us all into truth in His way and His time.

If we happen to be right in a certain belief or opinion and others agree with us, praise the Lord! We are all on the right track! But it is possible that we may be wrong, even in the things we feel definite about. By remembering that there is always more for us to learn/relearn/unlearn, we stay teachable. But if the Holy Spirit is not confirming that a change in our thinking is in order, I think we have a green light to keep expressing our beliefs graciously while praying for the Spirit to guide us all into truth. I guess the main thing is for us to be humble learner-teachers.

Thank you for clarifying what you heard me saying. It is so easy to be minunderstood in verbal communication much less written communication!


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