Weblog of a Christian philosophy student

Weblog of a Christian philosophy student. Please feel free to comment. All of my posts are public domain. Subscribe to posts [Atom]. Email me at countaltair [at] yahoo.com.au. I also run a Chinese to English translation business at www.willfanyi.com.

Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Two kinds of forgiveness

The Bible describes two kinds of forgiveness, one of which is a lot more 'powerful' than the other.

The first kind of forgiveness works like this: imagine a thief who keeps stealing someone's stuff - let's say John's stuff. John is so nice that whenever the thief steals from him, he forgives the thief. But the thief never changes his behaviour. John can forgive the thief all he wants, but it doesn't deal with the thief's wrongdoing. Forgiving the thief doesn't make the thief a better person.

John's kind of forgiveness doesn't do much. John's forgiveness won't make the thief stop stealing, it will only prevent John from taking revenge or seeking justice.

If God's forgiveness is like John's forgiveness then God's forgiveness won't accomplish that much. It will do something, but it won't really deal with humanity's issues.

The second kind of forgiveness is more powerful because it changes the person who gets forgiven.

The second kind would work like this: imagine that John accepted the thief's apology and somehow took away from the thief whatever it was that made the thief ignore the badness of stealing. So the thief didn't steal again (unless there was some exception that made it OK).

The Christian view is that to solve humanity's problems, God needed the second kind of forgiveness. Otherwise people would keep doing the wrong thing and apologising for it in a never-ending cycle of wrongdoing and forgiveness.

Col 2:13: "You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins."

The Bible says that for God to use the second kind of forgiveness Jesus had to die on the cross for us (Matt 26:39). God made it so that "our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ" (Rom 6:6), and "It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me" (Gal 2:20). Some kind of 'goodness transfer' happened.

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