Wednesday, January 24, 2007

can forgiveness happen before anything has happened?

I have a hard time with saying that God has forgiven me before I have even sinned.

Forgiveness is a release.

Forgiveness is an expression of love.

Forgiveness is not a token. It is a relational expression.

We can say that God loved us before we sinned. But did he forgive us before we did?

Forgiveness is a releasing. How can you release something before it is even in existence?


Jordan said...

Good thoughts...Hey I am taking a class called Essential Community, our primary text is Exclusion and Embrace. I remember you read (or tried) that a little while back. Any thoughts, I will give you some of my on my way through it.

Brian said...

I wonder if it is true that we have sin before we commit an act of sin. Is it there as "original sin"? Is the proclivity to do things our way and not God's way just there from the beginning? If so we not only need forgiveness after we commit some act, but we need it always.

Perhaps God's forgiveness is indeed a release... a release from what we would be and do if we did it "our way" all the time. A release from that kind of life into the kind of life we were meant to live, created to live, a life free from the things that separate us from God.

If so, then perhaps we are also supposed to live out this kind of forgiveness of those around us, before they ever - and if they do- act against us. Perhaps we are to forgive people by seeing them as they would be if released from those things that separate them from God.

Josh said...

there's the rub. seeing people as they could be if they weren't in their current pattern of behavior may be one of the most difficult things to do in this life.

forgiveness as a way of life.

replying to jordan...Volf does a great job of exploring this.

forgiveness is a release for both sides. it is a release for the forgiver and for the one recieving forgiveness. it frees the forgiver from being ripped and torn by bitterness. it frees the reciever from past patterns of behavior.

when I usually think about God, I don't often explore the idea of him having freedom, but he has (or perhaps we could say "he is") the ultimate freedom, the greatest sense of peace. this is not a freedom that is the result of apathy or lack of care for others. because in some sense God's heart is tied to the welfare of all humanity.

i think the difficulty for humans is that when we don't forgive it becomes part of our identity. we are tied to the idea that the offender is an offender. we may even get a sense of holiness from that. so when we attempt forgive, it's not just about letting something abstract go, it's about a change in our own identity.

Scott said...

To pose my response in the form of a question to a (now) fellow parent: Haven't you already forgiven Cadence for the things she hasn't done yet? Maybe we could parse that forgivness into actual acts and potential acts, but doesn't love "cover over a multitude of sins" in this case? Can love and forgiveness be separate things?

PS I'd love your thoughts on a class I'm teaching in a couple months for a "secular" Life Long institute here in Chesterfield. I have 90 minutes to describe Christianity. How would you do it? The post on my blog has my opening thoughts.

brad said...

forgiveness happens in so many ways. i look throughout the gospels and find that some people were proclaimed forgiven by Jesus by asking questions, some forgiven when they gave a speech, some forgiven for having a good spouse, and some forgiven after simply kissing Jesus' feet. so on and so forth.

but why would i be forgiven before i repent? because God wants to forgive, does that necessitate that he already has? maybe. i just don't believe this right now. i don't predicate my forgiveness upon me doing something to deserve forgiveness. but if i don't accept it, or want it, or value it... then i don't think i am forgiven. it would be a nice sermon line... "you're already forgiven, you just don't know it!" still, i wrestle with this much like you do josh.

the reality is, i do repent. i am forgiven. i'm wondering if anyone has some principals from the scriptures which point to forgiveness before repentance. i'd be interested in digging into those references.

Josh said...


yeah, i'm trying to think of it right now. at this point cadence will be forgiven if there is anything that she does. but right now she is mostly impulses and is just now figuring out how to move her hands to her mouth intentionally. i'm seriously leaning to Locke's Tabula Rasa right now, but i'm sure that'll change.

continuing with scott's question: can love and forgiveness be the same thing? maybe. i'd say that forgiveness springs from love, but it's a way of talking about a specific action of love just like compassion and mercy are.

brad, you're bringing it where i was originally thinking. it's a great line to say, "you're forgiven even before you were born!" maybe i'm wrestling with something that's never been said, but i've made up. or maybe i'm wrestling with an attitude that i've sensed.

summing it up with brad: God has invited us into a life of freedom, to depart from a life of sin, ridiculously attached to it...

Josh said...

...and to be becoming attached to God through the life of the Messiah and the breath of the Spirit. that is freedom. in him we experience the peace that he is and has. in that peace we can live a way that makes way for people to be themselves and invite them to become more like Jesus.

i've been thinking about the idea of a church community practicing forgiveness. what does it look like for a group of Christ followers to show forgiveness in our world?

Sam said...

I would say that forgiveness (at least for me) is always a choice. It's rarely the thing I want to do when someone has hurt me. Hence, I would say forgiveness can exist prior to something happening, but doesn't truly exist until the action is taken. My $0.02.

Jordan: exclusion and embrace is great. I read a chapter of it that josh gave me and then have picked at it some more with my bro's copy.

Josh. Word, once again on forgiveness as lifestyle. It's easy to see the difference between people who practice forgiveness, gratitude and peace v. those who practice .....bitterness is really the only word I can think of.

as far as what does it look like for followers of the Way to show forgiveness in the world: Myriad responses, but the first thing that came to mind was Yoder (Body Politics) and the prisoner-victim reconciliation program he was a part of.

Josh said...

Sam, thanks for piping in. I think it was more like $0.12.

The picture of you holding your nephew (i think it's your nephew) brings up some scripture in my mind, about how Jesus invites us to become like children to participate in the life of the kingdom of God. I wonder how much childlikeness affects forgiveness. Is it possible for a community to be childlike?