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Forgiving where there's abuse


Beth wrote, "I have a question about your message on love and forgiveness. How do we apply Godly forgiveness and forgetting when we are around abusive people (emotionally, verbally, or physically) who do not change? I want to be safe, but I want to forgive. How can we appropriately apply the two?"


I replied,

In your note you miss out (purposely I guess) any information telling who the person is that is committing the abuse. By saying this, I'm not wanting the name of the person but what is needed is the person's relationship to the one being abused.


You see, if the abuse is from a work colleague then you look for other employment or take your case to the colleague's line manager. If it is coming from a friend you break off the friendship. If it is coming from a relative such as a mother-in-law you stop seeing her until she promises a change. However, if it is a spouse then the problem is less easy to tackle and specific counsel for the situation is needed from someone close at hand who is an experienced counsellor.


One thing, though, is the same whoever the person is, namely, you are not to go on tolerating it. You go all out to ensure the person's behaviour changes or the relationship changes. In summary then, you forgive the sinner but you do not tolerate the sin. This is one circumstance where letting it drop does not go hand in hand with forgiving.


The Bible's counsel on forgiveness is not to be taken as advice recommending you sweep wrongful behaviour under the carpet. Wrongful behaviour must be confronted. See Mat.18:15-17 for the Lord's counsel on this.

"Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.' And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector."

Matthew 18:15-17 - NKJV

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