Forgiveness Is Not Saying It Is Okay

One Sabbath afternoon I received a phone call from the mother of a child I had corrected earlier at church, who had smarted off to me, when I told her to stay out of a room that was off-limits. The mother told me, “My daughter wants to tell you she is sorry, but before she gets on the phone, I wanted to ask you, when she says she is sorry, don’t tell her it is okay. Just tell her she is forgiven.”

Carrying the Cross

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“Wow!” I thought. This mother gets it! Forgiveness is not saying it is okay. So many are slow to forgive, because what happened to them was so wrong they can’t just sweep it under the rug. The deed deserves to be punished. What they don’t understand is that forgiveness is not sweeping it under the rug and saying it is okay. Then what is it saying?

When I share the gospel presentation, I always share this passage from the Desire of Ages. It is so clear and simple, and to me, sums up the whole plan of salvation.

“Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. “With His stripes we are healed.”  -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 25 

Now I would like to take this passage to the next level – beyond the plan of my personal salvation. I understand that Jesus took the punishment for my sins so that I can now be treated the way He deserves to be treated. Now I need to understand, that the sins my enemy committed have not been swept under the rug. Jesus was also treated the way my enemy deserves to be treated, so that I may now treat my enemy the way Jesus deserves to be treated.

Jesus did not only suffer for my sins, He suffered also for sins committed against me. Why do I need to take it out on my enemy when it has already been taken out on Jesus?

They made fun of me and humiliated me!
Jesus was mocked and humiliated on the cross in their place.

They killed my son! They deserve to die!
Jesus died because they killed your son.

They sexually abused me! They deserve to be sexually abused!
Jesus hung naked on a cross in front of the whole universe, including His own angels!

Earlier this year I was reading through the Old Testament, and when I came to Isaiah 53 something jumped out at me, when I read:

 “With his stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

Suddenly I realized something I had never seen before. I realized that retaliation against my enemy will never bring me healing. I am healed by the stripes of Jesus, and not the stripes of my enemy. Jesus suffering for my sins can only bring partial healing and partial reconciliation. I am made whole, and totally reconciled, not just to Jesus but to my brothers, when I realize Jesus suffered for their sins too.

In the story in Matthew 18:21-35 a man is forgiven who did not ask to be forgiven. He only asked for more time to pay the debt. However the master forgave the debt anyway. This is important for us to note, because the master represents God who forgave us without us even asking. In the Lord’s prayer we find we are to forgive as we have been forgiven, meaning that we are to forgive in the same manner. God expects us to forgive without being asked to forgive, just as the man was forgiven while only asking for more time to pay the debt.

After the man was forgiven, he goes out and sees a brother who owes him a much smaller debt. Even after being forgiven he refuses to forgive. In the parable the unforgiving man ends up in prison until his full debt is paid.

Wait a minute! Wasn’t his debt forgiven? Separated as far as the east is from the west and into the depths of the sea? How did it come back? I believe it’s this way: When I refuse to forgive my brother, what I am saying is, “I don’t think Jesus’ death on the cross was enough to pay for what was done to me.” Well guess what? If Jesus’ death is not enough to pay for my enemy’s sin, then it is not enough to pay for my sin either! By not allowing Jesus to pay for my enemy’s sin on the cross, I have just disqualified the cross as a payment for sin and therefore I must still pay for my sins – and the only way I can do that is to die an eternal death.

Forgiveness and reconciliation is not saying “It’s okay.” It is saying, “I realize Jesus suffered for your sins on the cross.” It is realizing I am healed by the stripes Jesus received and not by the stripes my enemy receives. We have to be pretty sick ourselves to think that in order for us to be healed, someone else has to be hurt. Jesus does not have to hurt my enemy in order to heal me.

“Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves.”  Christ was also treated as my enemy deserves, that I may now treat my enemy the way Christ deserves to be treated.

With His stripes we are all healed.

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Forgiveness Is Not Saying It Is Okay — 38 Comments

  1. [Moderator's Note: Please use first and last names when commenting. Thank you.]

    This is incredible, and pragmatic. God bless you for sharing!

  2. Thank you for this very enlightening comment, its sometimes surprising how so many who profess to be Christian don't understand this basic truth, come to think of it, this is one of those 'things' that will hold a lot of Christians back. I believe for one to truly forgive, the assistance of the Holy spirit is the epicenter (he will unveil the extent of Christs forgiveness n impress upon our minds His unceasing love, to which our reaction will reciprocate love n forgiveness to His sons and daughters), otherwise our fallen nature compels us to retaliate. May the love of Christ prevail in our lives, in His name, Amen.

  3. The reason for Jesus' death and the connection of forgiveness could not be made any clearer. Like us the person we forgive does not have to accept our forgiveness but the penalty is theirs just as it is ours if we don't accept what Jesus did for us.

    Thank you for allowing Jesus to use you to help me understand just how deep His love is.

    Blessings and Joy

  4. You have brought forgiveness to a whole new level for me. Every aspect of reformation and revival becomes clear and powerful when looked at through the lens of the cross. Thank you.

  5. For me, the truest signs of the nearness of the final events we have long expected is that within the church there is a widening division. For many the world is becoming more accepted and loved, while on the other hand the truth contained in God's word is becoming brighter with each passing day. Better understandings are being realized and convictions are deepening as the world grows strangely dim in comparison.

    This post, along with these lessons, is another sign that God is preparing any willing to be sealed. He created forgiveness before the world began and has here dispensed a deeper understanding of it, which His servants will demonstrate perfectly, standing out like brilliant stars on a very dark night. (Isaiah 60:1-3; Daniel 12:3)

  6. The problem or rather a struggle for many of us is to forgive before we are even being asked for it. This is the kind of forgiveness Heaven extended to us. Holy Spirit, through Paul, says, in Romans 5:8, "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." This is taking forgiveness to a whole another level.
    It's like forgiving while others are in the process of doing you wrong or injustice. Jesus and later on Stephen demonstrated this when they prayed while suffering, "forgive them for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34 & Acts 7:60.) In other words, forgiveness shouldn't wait to be extended until the attack, conflict, argument, wrong done to us is over. This is hard, humanly hard. But, as with other impossible things for us, they are possible with Christ (Phil 4:13.) May God help you and me to show mercy before mercy is solicited; to forgive while we’re still hurting --and to do so with a cheerful heart!

    • I would add this...forgiveness is not an act we perform, but a way of living in a sinful world. God forgives because He is a forgiver. (the word means "forget". See Isa 43:25) We are to be "peacemakers", showing ourselves to be the children of God, being forgivers as He is.

      When first becoming king, Saul heard the words of those who spoke against his anointing, but was "as one who heard not". This was his one moment of showing true Godliness in his life, as it must be seen in ours.

      The Scape goat typifies the ultimate forgetting of our sins by God. He removes the accuser of the brethren, the last trace of our sin.

      • Our Father in Heaven is all knowledge, knowing the end from the beginning.
        There was never a time that God did not feel the hurt and pain of human sin and damnation. So long before the foundation of the earth was laid, Jesus Christ felt the pain of suffering and sacrifice. He created Adam and Eve, with joy and with pain. But He "saw the travail of His soul, and was satisfied." God's assumed "forgetfulness" is tied up in the fact that the "Son of God"/"Son of man" will always forever bear in a glorified body the nail prints in His hands.

        God's forgiveness is not God's forgetfulness. The reality of my sinful condition, past, present and future, gives me a daily gratitude and humility for His suffering for this sinner. Son, Rescued/Redeemed. In Heaven, I will cast my crown at His feet; for He alone is worthy to open the Book. The lesson book of the universe. Sin will not rise a second time.

  7. Indeed,because Christ says that we should forgive others that we also may be forgiven our sins.When Christ forgives the woman caught in adultery He doesn't say it is ok but that she is forgiven & that she must not sin again.

  8. I always enjoy your thought provoking articles and lessons, Brother William, but this one truly touched my heart! It was such a simple, yet eye-opening lesson on forgiveness. I will never look at my "enemy" the same way again. Thank you thank you thank you!

  9. always remeber how you forgave. dont forgive and forget because when you do, you may forgot how you forgave yesterday when you are offenede today.

  10. Thank you for sharing your experienced from the book of Isaiah 53:5. I recently had a family issue that I want revenge. This remind me that Jesus suffered for the other person too. My life should show forgiveness, reconciliation and reformation. I do see now that I haven't daily do it and that is why Satan captured me at times. May God continue to guide you as you guide others from His Words.

    God Bless!

  11. Is not that easy to forgive, i was once there, but thank God for Jesus...that helped me to beable to laugh at situations that before now would have been a forum for retaliations and malice. Thanks brother Williams for putting this down. God bless us all.

  12. Oh yah! When we come to forgiveness, we must first forgive ourselves, and ask Jesus to help us, as we keep issues by not forgiving and they end up giving us depression, we must learn to forgive such that we will be forgiven.

    • Lisel,

      That's a good point of forgiving ourselves. For decades I couldn't forgive myself and it did wear me down. Thanks!

  13. 'Jesus died for my enemies sins' - not rocket science; but how come I've never really looked at it that way! Thanks for the bolt of lightening!!!

    • I know what you mean Carol. Its not rocket science, but I too had to have a blot of lightning a while back as I was sharing the gospel presentation, how Jesus was treated the way we deserve so we can be treated as Christ deserves, and then it jumped out at me finally after a thousand times, that Jesus was also treated the way my enemy deserves. Works both ways.

    • John 3:16 Our Savior bore the sin of the world. All.
      That "whosoever believes in Him will not perish".
      Blood is for everyone. Blood only saves the "whosoever."
      We cannot forgive the sin of the unjust, for God cannot forgive it.
      We release the person of guilt to ourselves, so that the justice of Jesus Christ is only what counts. As Jesus Christ forgives the person, no matter the offense, I have determined to accept it. And when Christ cannot forgive my son or mother, because he or she did not repent, I also accept the determination of Jesus Christ. I release the "enemy" as well as the "loved one" to the love and justice of Jesus Christ.

      God bless you William, and bless all those of us who receive His Word and grace. In His love and name.

  14. Thank you William. Praise God for your insights. Since Jesus made the payment for our sins (and those who sin against us), we don't go to hell (i.e., second death) because we sin, we experience eternal death because we reject the payment.

  15. I'm 46 years old. Been an Adventist all my life. But could never, truly get my head (or heart) around what forgiveness was really all about. It didn't seem logical so I didn't fully accept it. Consequently I've never actually experienced joy, or peace, or happiness. I've always had this nagging pain of a debt that I can't pay. Sins from many, many years ago are still on my heart. And consequently I don't forgive easily. Especially those close to me who have really hurt me. Thank you William. Thank you Jesus. I get it. I finally get forgiveness. I receive forgiveness as I give it. If Jesus died for me then he died for 'them' too. Amen.

  16. Forgiveness is forgetting what your brother did wrong to you and taking care of him despite of what he did. If you said you forgave him but you hate him secretly in your thoughts, you did not forgave him. God said Love one another for if you have LOVE then you can easily forget.

  17. What a powerful illustration?! What more shall we say? Brother you said it all...! Point well taken!

    Dear Father in heaven,

    May I never forget what brother Jesus did for me on Calvary. By His stripes I am healed! As I freely received, I long to freely give.
    Help me to seek to forgive more than to be forgiven. In the Mighty Name of Jesus I pray. Amen!

  18. I am thankful for this blog because it tells us, in so many words, what forgiveness is NOT. It is not accepting that what the offender did was okay. It is also not the same as reconciliation, for that involves two parties: the offender and us. It is, however, our decision to let go of the pain/anger and of any desire to hurt this person back. I don't think forgiveness means we'll forget what happened. I have studied the Bible with many women who were sexually abused by a parent or spouse. They have scars from these attacks. But they were able, with God's help, to have victory over bitterness and resentment in spite of their scars and painful memories. They were able to move on, even though the relationship with the offender will never be ideal. In dealing with other types of conflicts, especially where we have endured any kind of pain, it is good to remember what forgiveness is and what it is not. It is good to keep in mind that Jesus will heal us. He will care for our wounds as we will forgive the one who made them. Put the offender in Christ's hands--let Him deal with their sin. And pray for them, that they will respond to God's Spirit so they can be healed too.

  19. The comments to this post have been a big blessing for me.

    Tying forgiveness with the cross in the way that Sandy did, "... the person we forgive does not have to accept our forgiveness but the penalty is theirs just as it is ours if we don't accept what Jesus did for us" opened my eyes.

    Thanks William for the post and everyone who commented.

    • Akim, I believe that means to totally release the person of wrong-doing, as Jesus Christ releases the person of sin, when they accept His death and life, through HIS blood. But we cannot forgive sin like He does, for only His blood can do that. We release the person to His love and justice; and set ourselves free in the process. Check Sandy and Jane above.

  20. A profound insight by that mother: forgive the child, as the child sincerely repents, but we are not to communicate to the child/person that the wrong is OK. Ellen White made a profound statement that Jesus took the sin of the whole world, everyone's sin, in our place; so that WHEN WE ACCEPT HIS SACRIFICE AND RESURRECTION TO LIFE in true repentance, we are treated as He deserves. Jesus Christ instructs that we love our enemies, treating them with His love, so that He in us can communicate His saving gift of grace to them -- which point is well made by the writer. Jesus Christ also instructs to leave "repay" or vengeance to Him.

    I have one problem with the writer's broad conclusion that we treat the enemy as Jesus deserves. I do not believe Jesus meant that we cannot press charges against, arrest and convict a single murderer/serial killer, repeating sex offender/child rapist, because I must treat them like the sinless Jesus Christ deserves. Love and Justice kisses each other in God's book. Repentance is accepted by God under the blood of Jesus Christ, so we can be treated as the sinless Christ deserves. But a rejection of Christ does not lead to treat them as the perfect Christ deserves. The "enemy" who rejects the love of Jesus Christ will receive death in the justice of God, as they deserve; just as Jesus Christ "deserved" death when He "became sin" for us. The perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ is ours only when we vicariously accept His substitution death and resurrection life.
    We say "I forgive you", but never say "it's OK".
    May I remind that no one can forgive sin but God/Jesus Christ Himself, through blood. We cannot forgive a person's sin. The child of God "forgive" the "debt"; thus releasing the responsibility to Jesus Christ to make the determination of true repentance vs rejection, and complete pardon with new life vs damnation.
    So we love our enemies; and shake the dust off our feet when we leave a home that turns its back on the love of Jesus Christ, through us.

    • As a marital and family therapist (graduate of Loma Linda's graduate program) I am so glad to see your comment. I see this happen often in my office between clients. When we violate another's space we need to know what we did, that it's not ok. Even though we have asked forgiveness, there is another step. Repentance is much more than saying you're sorry. It means change and not doing it again. It means no reviolation with the same offense. We cannot say, "Well, that's just the way I am, I can't help it".

      More familial relationships would be healed, more relationships within the church and the ultimate: our relationship with our Creator and Redeemer would see such deepening, if we could only understand and experience this concept. His grace gives us abundant opportunities to work at change.......sanctification. We often shrink from that word..... I wish we wouldn't. Oh, to become more like Jesus.

  21. i have never seen forgiveness in this light. this was an inspiring message. by Jesus's stripes, we are all healed!

  22. [When commenting on this site, please use your full name as explained in the SSNET Comment Guideliness. Thank you.]

    Wow! this is a beautiful revelation especially about our attitude toward the brother who wrongs us.I now have a better view point of how to treat my enemy better and more so i have been exposed for the reason why.Thank you so much brother this is healing of itself!If we loose to go to heaven it is because of unbelief,and not because did not have the gospel truth.We thank God for rePvealing to us the truth with each unfolding day.

  23. William--I have been enjoying this article for some days now. Thank you for posting it. I find it a very clear and meaningful explanation of the topic of forgiveness. I can see that I can look to Jesus as the One who has paid the price for the hurt and pain that comes at the hand of anyone in this world! I am awed and humbled as I think about how it is "by His stripes" that healing comes.


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