Always Ready to Forgive

“But you can have a heart full of forgiveness, full to the brim, ready to overflow the moment repentance appears. Until that happens, there is no forgiveness. We need to distinguish forgiveness in principle and forgiveness accomplished” (For a Glory and a Covering, p. 95).

Theology That Bites Back



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  • a sincere inquiry

    So, we hold back “actual” forgiveness… until the person “earns” it by asking for it… what if judge his “asking” as insincere or redundant as he or she has asked already 70 times… if forgiveness truly and only possible if repentance or request are the precondition? Honestly, I mean this, because I used to believe that… but it doesn’t work… not in the real world… or at least not for long… its not the way of Christ or his martyric disciples… Besides, wouldn’t that make forgiveness “earnable” in some sense and less scandalous than it really is? Does that make sense? I hope so, because I do recognize I am a poor communicator. Perhaps you can read through my typos and wrong words to the heart of what I am trying to say. Thanks Doug!

  • a sincere inquiry

    if our forgiveness is dependent on our capacity to forgive others… and it is… then in theory, an unrepentant person could hold our “forgiveness” captive by not asking for forgiveness in a spirit of repentance.
    i do realize God is not that petty… but i can’t help but wonder why our theology of forgiveness often is so self rewarding in what it demands as preconditions from others.

  • a sincere inquiry

    before I say any more, let me say that the book he is quoting from is AWESOME… of the best out there on the practical aspects of living day to day in married life – I truly love that book… that said, it does fall short here and there : ) as do the rest of us…

  • Chris Brauns

    In response to a “sincere inquiry,” the way I said this in Unpacking Forgiveness is that we “wrap the package.” It is up to the other party to receive the gift.

    As I have posted, a therapeutic / unconditional approach to forgiveness is problematic, see

  • Elise

    The very first word that Jesus preached was, “Repent” (Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:14). Why don’t people who claim to love Jesus know this?

  • a sincere inquiry

    Elise, with SO many other ways to emulate Christ, why would we chose to camp out and withhold such a grace and “imitate” God in *that* regard?!?!?! With that as your focus – assuming your sense of right and wrong, perfectly align, perhaps one ought to look to your divorcements for clearly you have the clarity of Christ and the righteous there in to call sinners to repentance (especially those that sin against you?).

    Why not imitate Christ at the END of his life, being murdered mind you, crying to the Father to forgive them – even though his murders weren’t asking for forgiveness.

    How is your “imitation”, going elsewhere? Does such a self oriented (and that is what it is!) really lend itself to a lifestyle prone to keeping short accounts, does it really help the heart want to genuinely forgive (is the heart really that systematic? will the question for really trigger it in one’s heart?)

    What if we worked on our own forgiveness, saw ourselves as the chief of sinners (just like Paul) and stood facing others as our brothers loving and living our lives for them… What if while we loved and helped others walk closer to God, we focused more on the ministry of reconciliation than that of the pound of flesh?!

    What is the repentance that we cared MORE about was that of our own?

    “Repentance has no end on earth, because the end
    of repentance would mean that we had become like
    Christ in everything. The least difference between
    Christ and ourselves requires of us deep repentance.”

    Sophrony Sakharov

  • a sincere inquiry


    I was underwhelmed with your book… seemed very American… very hmmm how shall I say this… something that would slave the consciences of those of us who want to withhold even just a little something.

    The minute we can find a reason NOT to forgive, is the minute we have found a loop hole in the gospel.

    So many other resources that I have found closer to radical nature of the Gospel I read about in the gospels…

    But you’d probably bracket them out as liberal or charasmatic or (eastern) orthodox, or silly… must be nice to experience the comfort of being right and having so many fans in the comfort of your home with all your books, and all the other comforts that our Lord didn’t experience – while he scandalized the WORLD with his message of forgiveness.

  • a sincere inquiry

    salve not slave

  • a sincere inquiry

    Bless My Enemies O Lord by Nikolai Velimirovich

    Nikolai Velimirovich was a Serbian bishop in the last century who spoke out courageously against Nazism until he was arrested and taken to Dachau.

    Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

    Enemies have driven me into your embrace more than friends have.

    Friends have bound me to earth, enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.

    Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world. Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an unhunted animal does, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconced myself beneath your tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.

    Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

    They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world.

    They have punished me, whenever I have hesitated to punish myself.

    They have tormented me, whenever I have tried to flee torments.

    They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself.

    They have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with arrogance.

    Bless my enemies, O Lord, Even I bless them and do not curse them.

    Whenever I have made myself wise, they have called me foolish.

    Whenever I have made myself mighty, they have mocked me as though I were a dwarf.

    Whenever I have wanted to lead people, they have shoved me into the background.

    Whenever I have rushed to enrich myself, they have prevented me with an iron hand.

    Whenever I thought that I would sleep peacefully, they have wakened me from sleep.

    Whenever I have tried to build a home for a long and tranquil life, they have demolished it and driven me out.

    Truly, enemies have cut me loose from the world and have stretched out my hands to the hem of your garment.

    Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

    Bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even more bitterly against me:

    so that my fleeing to You may have no return;

    so that all hope in men may be scattered like cobwebs;

    so that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul;

    so that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins, arrogance and anger;

    so that I might amass all my treasure in heaven;

    ah, so that I may for once be freed from self-deception, which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life.

    Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows, that a person has no enemies in the world except himself.

    One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends.

    It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good and who has done me more evil in the world: friends or enemies.

    Therefore bless, O Lord, both my friends and enemies.

    A slave curses enemies, for he does not understand. But a son blesses them, for he understands.

    For a son knows that his enemies cannot touch his life.

    Therefore he freely steps among them and prays to God for them.

    From Prayers by the Lake by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich

  • Rick Davis

    I think folks are misunderstanding what Doug is saying here. He’s not saying we should withhold anything at all. He’s saying that forgiveness is a particular transaction, a transaction that has, as it’s end, a full restoration of fellowship between the offender and offended. The offended can be full of forgiveness, tell the offender they are forgiven, resolve to never bring up the offense again, and move on in life never thinking about, considering, or harboring the offense in their heart again. But forgiveness still hasn’t taken place. It takes two people for forgiveness to occur, and no matter how forgiving the offended is, until the forgiver repents, the objective transaction of forgiveness has not taken place. That, I believe, is Doug’s point. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    I believe the other option, theologically speaking, is Universalism. Forgiveness for all with or without repentance.

  • Joel

    Rick (and Doug, potentially)

    so then when I think I am forgiving, say, the guy who just cut me off in traffic, what is it, in your view, that has actually taken place? Is it like “pretend forgiveness”? Am I simply being bullied? If it’s not “objective forgiveness”, then what is it?

    I suppose another way to ask the same question would be “when does God forgive my sins?” After I repent of them? Rather, is not my repentance the result of his deciding to apply Jesus’ blood to my account, and thus secondary?

  • Rick Davis

    Forgiveness only needs to occur when there has been an offense. Love covers a multitude of sins. If someone cuts you off in traffic, your response should be, “Eh, no big deal.” They don’t need to seek forgiveness and you don’t need to give it because no offense has occurred for which forgiveness is necessary.

    If your neighbor kills your dog with rat poison though… You can offer him forgiveness all you want, but until he admits he was wrong to do it, it’s going to be really awkward having him over for dinner. There is some break in the relationship that can only be mended when he admits he is wrong and accepts your forgiveness.

  • a sincere inquiry

    Again, Rick, your missing the point… awkward contexts aren’t the test or the standard of forgiveness… We are called to bear that awkwardness… and those little cut offs in traffic… well, some people have died over them…
    I am sad you haven’t, or aren’t willing, to experience the full radical nature of Christ’s forgiveness… believe me my friend, many things you have done that he bears and you have yet to confess… same goes I dare say for many of your loved ones.
    In all, I think you are missing the profundity of Nikolai’s prayer above.
    And again, if we can find one context in which we can withhold forgiveness – we HAVE indeed found the loop hole in the Gospel.
    Could it be that one of the things that people like you and Braun’s type don’t wrestle enough with the “not” forgiving parts of those situations… People like you guys are the ones that make it through the Holocaust or the South African apartheid and die from literal cancer due to your emotional bitterness.
    Why is it that Desmund Tutus know more about forgiveness that the reformed clowns on the internet?
    Read two books:
    Dismissing Jesus by Doug Jones
    Uncondtional by Brian Zahnd.
    Or do they take the words of Jesus too seriously.

  • Rick Davis

    @ a sincere inquiry

    Two questions:

    Is Satan forgiven?
    If not, is it because God is unwilling to forgive him?

  • a sincere inquiry

    Could Satan be forgiven? Will he be?

    Such questions are silly and dumb and expose ignorance and immaturity… Can God make a rock so big and heavy that he can’t lift it? Hmmmmm…. OH MY! You’e got me.

    God is bigger than your tightly wound “logic” and he certainly exceeds your mentally challenged thought experiments.

    At some level, I believe he has been, the fact that he is permitted in the presence of God (in Job) says something… or was/is that just “really awkward”…. but yet must endure the consequences of his actions. Don’t get me wrong. Forgiveness doesn’t act like nothing has happened. But in the end, who am I or you to say… should we not at some level “hope” that all creation will be made new (I think there’s a verse that says it all is somewhere)… but maybe the all doesn’t mean that The Satan will be “saved” from himself and the consequences of Hell. But forgiveness, that is a different question…

    A rape victim can and must forgive her raper, yet would be a fool to go into the woods with him alone.

    Memory matters, personal history matters…but we must remember rightly, in the light of the cross and in light of the radical pardons extended to us.

    There is one unpardonable sin. One.
    That is denying the work of the Spirit of God, in the Person of Christ.
    Israel committed it, as nation, and got their asses whooped in AD70.

    Even then though that as whoopen came in the context of a gracious covenant established back when God rescued them from Egypt.

  • Rick Davis

    Let me answer the questions I posed and explain.

    Q. Is Satan forgiven?
    A. No (Rev. 20:10) No need to speculate on that. It’s pretty clear.

    Q. Is it because God is unwilling to forgive him?
    A. Admittedly this is a lot more speculative, but I think the answer is, “no.” If Satan were willing to repent, even he could be forgiven. However, he will never repent, and so never receive forgiveness.

    Repentance is necessary for forgiveness (Acts 2:38, Acts 3:19). Romans 4:6-12 says that this forgiveness comes as a result of faith, so repentance for sins is part of Biblical faith.

    Also, yes the Bible says that all creation will be made new. We are in fact told how this will happen. It will happen when mankind resumes his proper headship over all creation. We don’t see this promise realized yet, but we see the new mankind, the new Adam, ruling as the firstfruits of the new creation with the promise that we too shall be part of His ruling and remaking of creation (Hebrews 2:5-9). Creation eagerly awaits the time in which it will be delivered into the hands of the new mankind, but we are specifically told that this new mankind is made up of the children of God (Romans 8:19-21). Who are these adopted children of God? Those who are forgiven (Eph. 1:4-7).

    So let’s put it all together.

    All children of God are forgiven people. (Eph. 1:4-7)
    All forgiven people are repentant people. (Acts 3:19)
    Therefore, all children of God are repentant people.

    By necessary implication then, No unrepentant people are children of God. Nor are they forgiven. Likewise, only repentant people/forgiven people/people with faith in Christ/children of God will be involved in the redemption of all creation.

    How’s that for some tightly wound logic?

  • a sincere inquiry

    I stand in awe of you… Your showing off really impressed me.

    I will now stop freely forgiving… instead I will withhold forgiveness UNTIL anyone and everyone repent.

    I will start living a life more petty and exacting justice at every turn. I now no longer hope that when Christ says he makes all things new – that is renews EVERYTHING – that that really doesn’t mean ALL. Silly me.

    And this is the first place I will start emulating God… in exacting justice… not in walking the way of the Cross, not in dying to self or the wants of self and certainly NOT in turning my cheeks or walking any extra miles or giving up what I don’t have or not in counting all things as a loss (even offenses) after all, who wants to absorb a loss… THAT would be unGodly.

    No, I will become like God in exacting justice like you have spelled out.

    Thanks again for your amazing show that you put on. And all those Bible verses. You are really well versed. You must have at least at one point read the Bible all the way through… AND UNDERSTOOD IT… AMAZING!!!

    As for “how was that for tightly wound logic?”, I will answer you…

    It pleased me so much, I could only imagine God in heaven felt a warm spot in his heart as his countless angels looked on and cheered at the heart that prompted such brilliance to ooze from your fingertips.

    Heaven rejoices because you are petty, so I too rejoice in your pettiness.

    Hail to Rick the exemplar of Godliness in forgiveness. Honor is due him for his ability to know when to withhold mercy and grace. In this the promise of the Serpent in the Garden is fulfilled and he has become like God. All hail Rick – celebrate him – for heaven indeed must rejoice at his pettiness.

  • Rick Davis

    I didn’t realize that reasoning from the Scriptures was such a supercilious activity. In that case, I take heart that at least I didn’t sink to the depths of a Calvin, Aquinas or Anselm.

    For my next trick I think I might explain the use of Red Herrings, including the ever popular Ad Hominem, Imputing Motives to Others, and Straw Man Arguments.

    Or perhaps I’ll simply tip my hat to you, sincere inquirer, and suggest that you grab a nice cold beer and put on some Miles Davis. You’ll feel your blood pressure dropping, your indignation dissipating, and a growing sense of charity forming for a presumptuous fellow like myself. :)

  • a sincere inquiry

    Again, you stand on the shoulders of Giants, I am silenced by your greatness. I will bow out now. You win. Another notch in your belt.
    Good job. Especially since no logical facilities were committed in your comments. You should add Gordon Clark to your list… Again though, from down hear, I can’t see to clearly.
    I’ll go lick my wounds of all the faults I have committed in my reasoning and against you. Should I, or do I need to ask for your forgiveness though? I don’t want my passive aggressive satire to be a reason that “by necessary implication” I stand judged by you (and God?) as not being one of his own.

  • Rick Davis

    P’shaw. From where I stand, a bit of banter between chaps shouldn’t be something that needs forgiven on either side. Hope you have a good evening.

    Did you ever get that beer by the way? If you’re ever in Lynchburg and want to theologize over an ale, look me up.