Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mary, Mary, Forgiveness & Restoration

Essence Online presented a statement regarding forgiveness from the Sunday Best judges, none other than the dynamic gospel music duo Mary Mary (Erica & Tina Campbell). Here is what they said:

"Forgiven Me" is my theme song. It really is! I’m harder on myself than I could ever be on others and I need a lot of forgiveness – so I’ve got to constantly remember that when I confess, God forgives. If I’ve hurt someone, broken someone’s heart, made a bad decision, failed to keep a promise -- I’m always sick about it. I can beat myself up for a long time over a mistake I’ve made, so I have to keep preaching to myself, “Tina, God forgave that one. Let it go.”
Of course, whatever I can “naturally” remedy, I do; apologizing, confessing to the person I’ve wounded, but there’s a part of the forgiveness equation that only God can do. And I’m so thankful that He’s faithful to forgive me, when I come up short. God says we’re to forgive others “seventy times seven” in the same generous, not-keeping-score kind of way. But too many times we say we believe God forgave us, and then we refuse to forgive ourselves! Do you see how wrong that is? Listen, if God can forgive me, then I must forgive myself. I can’t keep dragging up the past. If I truly believe the Word of God, which says, “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus," then you are cool.

You know what eventually happens when we hold and rehearse past sins and mistakes? We convince ourselves that we deserve to live a miserable life -- that no one’s going to love us, that nothing’s going to go our way, and that God will never bless us again. You see what’s wrong with that kind of attitude, don’t you? It completely counts out God’s grace! Sure, it’s good to claim your mistake. Own it. Say, “Yes, I did that. I committed the crime. I told the lie. I hurt innocent people. I hurt myself.” Then, do what Jesus told the woman caught in adultery to do -- the one caught in broad daylight and dragged out onto the street to be stoned for her sin. Go and sin no more. And then agree with God and forgive yourself.


You don’t live in a time machine. You can't go back and undo what is done. You can impact your future, but not your past. So stop blaming yourself. Stop hanging your head in shame. Instead, celebrate what God has done for you, and decide to live each day in a “forgiven” way that will honor Him. Leave your old, forgiven mistakes with Him and move on. He will cause all things to work for your good and His glory and you’ll be able to “I’ve forgiven me.”

From our hearts to yours,
Mary Mary
Tina & Erica Campbell           
Now I don't mean to be critical of the statement made by these women as they encourage individuals to forgive themselves, which is generally a good thing when there has been repentance of sins. However, in light of the circumstance of several high profile scandals within and outside of the church, I wanted to take a look at a certain aspect of their commentary regarding the issue of forgiveness as it pertains to obligation.

First of all, God is a gracious God. We certainly haven't been punished nor dealt with according to the sins that we've committed and that's only by HIS mercy and grace:

Ps. 103:10 ~"He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities."   

We are indeed thankful that God is merciful and has been so. However, Mary Mary introduce a concept that has a certain amount of strength among this new generation of believers. It is the concept of forgiveness without condition. Specifically, this is when persons have sinned (not simply made mistakes), they are to offer repentance and continue to walk on or to fulfill their mission, or in the case of the church, continue to do the work of Christ.

Is There A Condition To Being Forgiven?

Although their statement is not directly geared toward this concept, it does however include it and makes a truth claim while providing instructions to them that have sinned, encouraging individuals to simply "Own it. Say, “Yes, I did that. I committed the crime. I told the lie. I hurt innocent people. I hurt myself."" and do with yourself what Jesus did with the woman caught in adultery...simply go and don't do it again.

However, is that the way a person repenting from sin was to view things from a biblical standpoint? I mean look at it. We know that certain sins can't be "paid" for in the sense that a person can compensate someone for egregious behavior and acts. Sometimes there is no opportunity to do anything about the sin that we have committed. However, it seems that we have a greater obligation, than to simply, tell God about it, hold our head up and walk on as if nothing has transpired.

The scripture records: 

Ezek. 33:14 -16 ~ "14-Again, when I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; if he turn from his sin, and do that which is lawful and right; 15-If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die. 16-None of his sins that he hath committed shall be mentioned unto him: he hath done that which is lawful and right; he shall surely live."

In Ezekiel God was dealing with warning the righteous what would happen to them if they didn't warn the wicked to repent. It also dealt with warning the wicked to repent from their sins and the punishment that those who refused to repentant would face. He also outlined the blessing that would be experienced by those who did repent. Notice that v.15 gives a prescription to the one forgiven, that they were to not simply walk on or move forward because they had been forgiven...they were to "restore the pledge", "give again" what had been robbed and "walk in the statutes of life without committing iniquity"

Restoration Is In Order

From what we can gather from scripture, repentance simply wasn't about being forgiven, nor was it about simply forgiving one's own self. True repentance was also about restoring that which had been taken or damaged. The scope of repentance was much more broad that it has traditionally been taught within many Christian circles and churches.  

The confusion seems to come in when Jesus began to reconcile what was considered the law of  restoration. The law in regards to this provided the following prescription:
Lev. 24:17-22 ~ 17-And he that killeth any man shall surely be put to death. 18-And he that killeth a beast shall make it good; beast for beast. 19-And if a man cause a blemish in his neighbour; as he hath done, so shall it be done to him; 20-Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again. 21-And he that killeth a beast, he shall restore it: and he that killeth a man, he shall be put to death. 22-Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for one of your own country: for I am the LORD your God."
(see Ex. 21:22-25, Deut. 19: 15-21) 

Notice that there was an "eye for an eye". What was this pointing to however? It was actually pointing to vengeance or getting revenge for evil deeds which had been done to an individual. Jesus condemned the practice of obtaining revenge or taking matters into one's own hands or trying to exact justice.  

Matthew 5: 38-39 ~ "38-Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39-But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also"

The scripture was geared toward the one who was hurt or damaged. It was not geared toward one who had done the damage or who had ultimately experienced forgiveness. In fact Jesus statements did not alter the law of restoration in the sense that the one that was forgiven had no obligation to restore what they had taken or minister to or address the loss of the one which had been offended.

Exodus 22 deals with the restitution of the offender to the one offended. In almost every case, where there was an offence, there was to be a restitution made toward the one which had been offended or sinned against.

Bringing It All Together

While it is true that a person must find a way to overcome the psychological effects of sin and mistakes. The best help can only be found within Christ. However, please be clear that a person, after true repentance, and once forgiven, has an obligation to prove that out by seeking to restore what has been damaged.  

Now, to the point...how does any of this relate to the conundrum of sin that the modern church has experienced and continues to experience?  It relates significantly.
The believer cannot simply sin, repent to God, and continue to do what he or she feels is ministry without restoration.
Rev. 2:4-5 ~ "4-Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 5-Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent."

To the church at Ephesus, repentance came with doing the "first works" over again. There was combined with repentance an element of restoration and renewal in both actions and deeds.

Practically speaking:

A father may be forgiven, but is that proven is he doesn't seek to establish child support for his children?

How about this one?

An adulterer may be forgiven even though the marriage may have been dissolved as a result. However, does the offending spouse have an obligation to address the situation in any manner? How does simply walking away from the situation glorify God?

Then there is this one:

The pedophile has molested. What obligation does the pedophile have to address the sin and restore the trust that has been compromised as much as they can and are allowed to under the law? Is it godlike to simply repent, walk away leaving a trail of lifetime damage for the victim to reconcile on their own?

Then there are those standing by such as the church and even other institutions...However, for the church to be insensitive, focusing on the one that has committed the sin, welcoming them back into fellowship, while simultaneously down playing the needs of the victims, is just as great of a sin in and of itself that must also be repented of.  

Repentance was never without obligation to restore, as much as is possible, them that had been sinned against. Thought provoking? Yes, very much so.

Blessed!

2 comments:

  1. AMEN!!! Great article. Oh how many times have I tried to explain this to people, and they look at me as if I have two heads!

    You said:
    "Repentance was never without obligation to restore, as much as is possible, them that had been sinned against"

    You know, this is a concept that our tort system is based upon. When you are found to have wronged someone, you have to pay them restitution. I work for the clerk of court in my county. I am responsible for sealing cases, along with records archiving etc. All criminals have to pay restitution to their victims. Now they do it not out of repentance but because they are ordered to by a judge. It is only AFTER they have completed this obligation to pay restitution and whatever else the court orders that their cases can be "sealed/expunged". In my state that means that you can legally say you were never convicted of a felony. It is wiped out of the system.

    Now if this is how these offenses are handled in the natural, how do we think that God would require any less than His Word says?

    This is a very thought provoking article. Just recently there was a pastor on the front page of our newspaper for molesting his granddaughter, the sad thing is that there was an eye witness, and his church is still standing behind him!!! I am just floored that there was not more of an outcry over this in that church!

    This church has taken the stance of "we forgive him." so he will be in the pulpit preaching on Sunday! THAT CHURCH NEEDS TO REPENT!!!

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  2. Great insights Marcia. You're absolutely correct. It is a problem when the church becomes more engraciating to the offender than the victim. So engraciating that we don't make the offender accountable...we simply want to display our version of "love"...

    Man rapes or molests an underaged girl and the church says, "We'll stand by him because we know him"...while the victim, is given the cold shoulder because she wasn't "saved" anyway. No, what that means is that she didn't give in teh offering or wasn't a tither...

    Sad situation, but GOd's got it under control.

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