Does forgiveness mean there are no consequences?

First of all, I think we need to have a definition of forgiveness.  Forgiveness is when you give up your right to punish someone for what they have done to you.  You cancel the debt that they have with you. Forgiveness does not mean that what the person did to you is okay, nor does it mean you excuse them for their actions.  You are simply filing a quit claim on the law suit and turning them over to God.  Our motivation to forgive comes from a God who has forgiven us again and again for the wrongs we have done toward him.   His Son, Jesus, paid our debt on the cross.

However, just because you forgive somebody, or somebody forgives you, does not mean that there won’t be any consequences.  Back when the world was first created by God, and our first parents disobeyed God by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, there were consequences for their actions. For all of us, one of those consequences was death.  We would no longer live forever on this earth.  In addition, the ground was cursed.  That meant that weeds, thorns, and thistles would infest the ground, and that there would be natural disasters such as hurricanes and tornadoes.  Even though God gave a promise that His Son would one day come and die on the cross and provide us with forgiveness of our sins, those hurtful consequences would remain.

So today, if you were abused as a child by your father, you will strive to forgive him for what he has done to you.  However, you probably will never be able to live with your father or care to live with him again.  Family members may spurn him.  Another example may take place in marriage where one partner is unfaithful to another.  The wronged spouse will strive to forgive the adulterer.  But there will be lingering consequences, such as a lack of trust and respect for the unfaithful spouse.  In addition, a divorce may be part of the equation.

For every sin we commit, there is a consequence.  Fortunately, we have a gracious God who does not set a number on the times he will forgive us. Instead he offers us free and full forgiveness for every wrong we commit.  May we have that same spirit toward those who hurt us again and again. St. Paul sums up this truth succinctly when he says, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

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