What do I mean by cheap forgiveness? I’m glad you asked…
Cheap forgiveness is the belief that people/Christians are obligated to give forgiveness to those who trespass against them, even when the offender (the one who needs to be forgiven) has not repented of their sin/crime/offense.
I believe THAT kind of forgiveness is not really forgiveness at all. Furthermore, I don’t think that concept or practice is found anywhere in the Bible – not even in Jesus’ teaching or actions.
Why is this important?
The wrong, cheap forgiveness view on a human level leads directly to a wrong view of forgiveness on a divine level… and that’s not something we can afford to get wrong. Eternity is at stake.
Here’s one way the “cheap forgiveness” cycle works:
- If we think that we are to “just forgive,” no matter the presence or absence of repentance, then we begin to assume that if it’s what we should do, then it’s what God does.
- In fact, we eventually turn the whole thing around and assume that we should “forgive” like that BECAUSE God does.
- The natural implication is that our sin really isn’t that big of a deal… which leads us to subtly or unconsciously downplay the need for redemption through Christ.
The problem with that chain of events is that God does NOT forgive along those lines.
God forgives on the basis of Jesus’ atoning death in our place. Said another way, our sin was such a big deal that it required the death of the holy Son of God to atone for it. You see, if we don’t understand the severity of our sin, we won’t understand that a holy God is bound by His character to mete out justice toward our sin… which means we don’t understand the need for the cross, and therefore are unable to have faith in it.
This really IS a huge issue.
This past week I came across a brother (on the internet) who has written on the issue of cheap forgiveness with a similar slant to mine. It was quite refreshing. I was glad to see someone else affirming what I’ve come to believe from my study of the scriptures… mainly because it helps me to stand my ground a bit more firmly.
The brother I mentioned is Chris Brauns, and he’s written a book on the subject called, “Unpacking Forgiveness.” (affiliate link). The conversation on this issue, over at his blog is quite interesting & helpful. I’d suggest you hop over there and do some reading. He’s doing a good job of stating the position according to what scripture really teaches about forgiveness.
One thing is pretty clear… forgiveness is anything BUT cheap.
Why do you think this subject pushes so many buttons?