If we took all our cues from culture and the wind, we would forgive another’s sin just to be rid of him and his unpleasantness.

“Executive forgiveness” assumes that we should benefit from the transaction—that moving past our bitterness is the chief reason we forgive the one who wounded us. “Get over toxic feelings keeping you imprisoned,” a hundred self-help books inform us. “Discover liberation in forgiving those who injured you.”

And like all harmful substitutes, there’s a gram of truth in what they say. One consequence of offering forgiveness is living forward—and not backward—for we find some joy in dropping all that baggage.

But forgiveness as Jesus loved and lived it doesn’t count how we will feel when we forgive. Forgiveness is redeeming someone broken; freeing them from guilt and shame; offering them the chance to live restored and reconciled. It’s love, not self-esteem or self-protection, that makes us lift the load that’s crushing them. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you” (Eph 4:32).

Forgiveness moves us closer to the wounding ones, as Jesus always moves toward us when we are bitter, broken, acting out. It’s love that calls the prodigal back home, and grace that spreads a banquet of togetherness.

Forgive as you have been forgiven. And stay in grace.

—Bill Knott (Executive Editor, Adventist Review)

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