Defining forgiveness for Christians
General definition for human forgiveness: A commitment by the offended to pardon graciously the repentant from moral liability and to be reconciled to that person, although not all consequences are necessarily eliminated. This definition retains the central elements of how God forgives.
"Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32)
". . . bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive."(Colossians 3:13)
Christian forgiveness is a commitment to the repentant. It is not automatic. Christians are to forgive others as God forgave them. God's forgiveness is conditional. To be sure, God offers grace to all people, but he forgives only those who repent and believe. Likewise, Jesus said that Christians should forgive if the other party repents.
"Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' you must forgive him." (Luke 17:3-4)
Biblically, to repent means to change behavior as a result of a complete change of thinking and attitude. People in our culture sometimes limit repentance to an emotion, and certainly emotions should be included. But at its center to repent means to turn around in actions and attitude. Christians must always forgive the repentant.
Forgiveness does not mean the elimination of all consequences. When Christians forgive, they promise that the matter will no longer stand between them and the repentant party. This, however, does not mean there are no consequences.
Consequences are important for the sake of justice. A willingness to accept consequences for sinful behavior is actually good evidence that the offender truly is repentant.
Christian forgiveness is not simply about the removal of guilt. It is about the restoration of relationships.
~ Chris Brauns
(from pages 55, 57, & 58)