Thursday, October 14, 2010

Conditional Forgiveness---Unconditional Love

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony" (Colossians 3:12-14).

On my job today, the subject of forgiveness came up. A couple of my co-workers were discussing whether forgiveness is conditional upon a change of heart or whether it is completely unconditional. They were talking about the concept of being like God in forgiving people. Then one of them asked about my thoughts on the subject.

As I understand it, I explained, God loves unconditionally, but he forgives conditionally. God wants what is best for us, but he wants a change of heart before he forgives us.

One of my friends objected. He pointed out that Christ prayed as he was being crucified, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). He argued that Jesus was demonstrating unconditional forgiveness on the cross.

However, Christ was actually demonstrating unconditional love rather than unconditional forgiveness in his prayer. Out of love for his killers, Jesus was seeking their forgiveness. He did not want them to suffer hell for their sins, but he was not granting forgiveness to them yet.

A few weeks later, however, many of the people directly responsible for the Lord's crucifixion received God's forgiveness.

When the apostle Peter preached his first sermon after Jesus' resurrection, he addressed people who had crucified Jesus (Acts 2:36). When the people discovered what they had done, "they were cut to the heart" (Acts 2:37). At that point, Peter offered them God's forgiveness: "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). On that day, three thousand of them received the forgiveness for which Christ had prayed a few weeks earlier (Acts 2:41).

They were unconditionally loved by Christ; but they were forgiven only after a change of heart. God is "not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).


reborn1995 said...

Amen! This is the answer i come up with everytime i reconsider the subject. But i must say, it's very difficult to practice--to feel like i have a strong handle on the distinction when actually getting my hands dirty in practical situations.


Terry said...

Thanks, Guy. I feel the same.

Warren Baldwin said...

Very important message.

Thanks for the comment on FF. No, I haven't read that book yet, but it is now on my list!

Terry said...

Warren, I was trying to find my copy of "Do Hard Things" but I forgot that I had given it away. However, I remembered that I posted about it last year at

Aaron said...

I enjoy this passage (Acts 2) so much, because it is such a simple thing and many people simply attempt (often poorly) to separate this passage, or make it mean something other than what it says. God made it easy for us to understand ALL of His words. (2 Cor 1:13) Also, we are not to interpret the Scripture in our own minds to mean what we want it to mean. (Pro 3:5) Many will attempt to corrupt our minds and hearts, but if we remain strong in the faith, we cannot be moved to the devil. I appreciate your input. Thank you.

Terry said...

Thank you, Aaron.