Forgiving and excusing

By Dave Henning / March 13, 2023

“But there is all the difference in the world between forgiving and excusing.  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 what it was before.’  But excusing says, ‘I see that you couldn’t help or didn’t mean it; you weren’t really to blame.’ “- C. S. Lewis, On Forgiveness

“Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven — as her great love has shown.  But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”- Luke 7:47 (NIV)

Timothy Keller concludes Chapter 4 of Forgive as he talks about forgiveness in the Gospels.  In the New Testament gospels, Pastor Keller states, we discover an even greater emphasis and a clearer focus on forgiveness.  Furthermore, the New Testament Greek uses two main words to convey the idea of forgiveness:

    1. charizomai – this word contains the term charis (grace).  Therefore, it means to deal with someone in a gifting, gracious manner.  Rather than in a strictly calculating way.  So, as with all gifts, you give out of grace and love – at your expense.  In addition, the apostle Paul prefers this word.
    2. aphesis – means ‘remission’.  Used in the New Testament approximately forty times, this concept of remission hints that forgiveness always brings a cost.

Above all, Pastor Keller notes, when Jesus forgives sins, He (a) bears testimony to His deity and also to (b) the life-transforming experience of forgiveness.  We see this two-dimensional framework in Luke 7:47. There Jesus forgives the woman who poured expensive perfume on His feet.  So, you bear witness to being forgiven with a heightened capacity for love, gift-giving, and forgiving others.

In conclusion, C. S. Lewis explains:

“Real forgiveness means looking steadily at the sin, the sin that is . . .  without any excuse . . . and seeing it in all its horror, dirt, meanness, and malice, and nevertheless being reconciled to the man who has done it. . . .  But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life . . . how can we do it?  Only I think by remembering where we stand . . . To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

Today’s question: Do you find yourself forgiving or excusing?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Condemnation in proximity to love”

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Dave Henning

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