Complete withdrawal – all about you

By Dave Henning / April 8, 2023

“Vengeance is all about you — not about the honor of God or the good of the victims or the offender.  But, on the other hand, complete withdrawal is about you as well. . . .  when someone wrongs you, if you resent them on the inside but stay courteously mute on the outside, you are the opposite of a disciple of Christ.”- Timothy Keller

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”- Matthew 5:44 (NIV)

Timothy Keller continues Chapter 10 of Forgive with the third part of forgiveness, willing the good of the wrongdoer.  Pastor Keller sees this as a kind of a test.  Because when you identify with the wrongdoer and being the inward process of paying down the debt, that frees you to will the offender’s good.

Most significantly, Pastor Keller counsels, there’s a secret to overcoming evil.  That secret involves seeing the evil as distinct from the wrongdoer.  For our true enemy = the evil in that person.  Consequently, we want that evil defeated in that person and in us.  And only our love makes it possible for the evildoer to be softened and helped.

Therefore, Christ calls you to utterly forgive your offender on the inside.  That, in turn, enables you to speak the truth to them in love on the outside.

Hence, Pastor Keller advises, the best way to accomplish this is to pray for the wrongdoer.  It also means to:

  • refrain internally from rehearsing what they did to you
  • going beyond mere courtesy to genuinely affirm the person’s assets and strengths

Above all, Pastor Keller asserts, Christianity gives us both practices and reasons for forgiveness.  Thus, Christian forgiveness includes the practices of prayer and community.  As a result, forgiveness isn’t primarily and originally an emotion.  Pastor Keller explains:

“Forgiveness is granted (often a good while) before it is felt — not felt before it is granted. . . .  Forgiveness is a promise we make to keep despite our feelings. . . .  If you wait to feel it before you grant it, you’ll never grant it; you’ll be in ‘anger prison’.”

Today’s question: Have you ever found yourself in complete withdrawal over an offense?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Real repentance and forgiveness”

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Dave Henning

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