Pastor Kevin DeYoung had a great post recently about the biblical concept of forgiveness. He points out that, despite current pop psychology, forgiveness can only happen AFTER repentance. We should not be bitter or hold resentment in our hearts, but, as Christians, we must recognize that real, biblical forgiveness isn’t a one-way street:
Many Christians, influences by Lewis Smedes and a lot of pop psychology, have a therapeutic understanding of forgiveness. They think of forgiveness as a unilateral, internal effort to get our emotions under control. But if we start with a biblical notion of God’s forgiveness, we see that such a view falls short.
The offer of forgiveness is unconditional (for God, and it should be for us), but forgiveness itself is conditioned upon repentance. We must always be open–and even, in God’s grace, become eager–to extend forgiveness, but we (like God) can only forgive the truly penitent. No bitterness either way. No revenge. But forgiveness, and the reconciliation that should follow, is a commitment to those who repent.
You can read the rest of Pastor DeYoung’s excellent post here.