I am very moved by the testimony coming from some of the Charleston church victims’ families. My heart is bound with them because they wear the name of my Savior, Jesus Christ, and they are suffering. However, I think it’s very important for Christians to uphold a biblical – not a conventional view of forgiveness at a time like this. Offering forgiveness to the unrepentant is not biblical. Contrary to popular thinking (and a lot of mainline Evangelical thinking) the Bible does not teach unconditional forgiveness. The Bible teaches repentance. Ephesians 4:32 says that we are to forgive one another “as God in Christ forgave you.” In other words, only those who repent and have saving faith in Jesus Christ are forgiven. When we offer forgiveness to the unrepentant, as I see some hurting and well-meaning Christians doing right now, we are in danger of cheapening the grace of God.
Of course, this topic cannot be sufficiently addressed in a tiny post. If you truly want to learn more about what the Bible has to say on this, I recommend “Unpacking Forgiveness” by Chris Brauns. Chris has written one of the most important books on this topic. As he explains, “Unpacking Forgiveness” presents “the beauty of God’s grace and the necessity of forgiveness. But it will also teach the reader that forgiveness must take place in a way that is consistent with justice. We must move beyond a ‘feel-good doctrine of automatic forgiveness.’ Christians must always have a willingness to forgive or an attitude of forgiveness. But this does not mean that forgiveness always takes place.“
On a personal note, I will tell you that getting hold of the biblical truths laid out in this book, marked a spiritual turning point for me. I cringe whenever I read anything I’ve written a long time ago but in 2009, I wrote a review of “Unpacking Forgiveness” on my blog. Click here to read.