Lutherans/forgiveness

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QUESTION: I am at a complete loss of understanding as to what forgiveness is. Allow me to explain: When God forgives sin, according to the bible it is in the following way:
1)" In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." Hebrews 9:22. So we see the in when God forgives it is with the shedding of blood
2) 1)" God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God". 2 corinthians 5:21. So God took our sins and Jesus turned into them according to this verse and many others.
3) Then Jesus (who now was our sin) died on the cross and our sins - which Jesus was, died along with him.
4) So God didnt just pardon our sins and say "I'll let them slide if you say im sorry and repent". What he did was to exact punishment (the punishment of Jesus and his death on the cross). He punished our sins, demanded bloodshed and killed them and THAT is how we are forgiven.
    My inability to understand forgiveness comes in here - When God wants me to forgive someone for a sin such as stealing from me, he certainly doesnt want me to shed blood and exact punishment on a cross by to before I forgive that perons sins.
     So I guess my question is - If I am forgiving sins, but Im not doing it the way God did it.....Then by what way am I forgiving them.
    I really need to understand this, I am totally baffled and have no idea what forgiveness really is.

ANSWER: Hello, Peter,

That is a very interesting question, and I have thought a lot about it and here's my personal take on it.

Jesus paid the blood price for ALL sin, including the sin that we commit against each other. In the end, after this life, God will mete out perfect justice. Those of us who have accepted Jesus' blood as payment in full for our sins are forgiven, because we are covered with His righteousness, and God can no longer see our sin. But whosoever is unwilling to accept Jesus' sacrifice will pay the penalty for all their sins.

We are told to forgive others, as we have been forgiven. This is in the Lord's Prayer. When we forgive those who have sinned against us personally, we are agreeing to take the consequences of what they did to us, without striking back, and without holding it against them. I think that this also includes being willing to be reconciled unless there is some compelling reason not to be. But it needs to be compelling. Our personal grudges aren't sufficient. But the price WE pay for forgiving others is accepting the harm without retaliation. This does not mean that if someone committed a crime, we have no right to see to it that he is subjected to the law. It is entirely proper to seek justice. However, in doing so, we must keep revenge out of it, and seek instead to forgive them on a personal level, even minister to them, whatever the outcome of the criminal prosecution. I take some clues from Chuck Colson, who pointed the way toward loving the prisoner.

God didn't command that we be willing to shed our blood personally for the sake of those who have sinned against us. He DID command that we love them and not seek retaliation or revenge, and not hold a grudge. As the Bible says, do not let the sun set on your anger. Seek to be reconciled the very same day the offense occurs.

I do not hold that we are required to forgive other people for the wrong they have done to someone else. If that person sincerely repents, and seeks forgiveness with God, as members of the universal priesthood, we have the right to tell them that God has forgiven their sin. We do not personally forgive them. We only tell them that God has. This is the basis for the part of Lutheran worship in which we confess sins and the pastor announces forgiveness to us. He does it by the authority of what Lutherans call the Office of the Keys. This is the authority Jesus granted the apostles when He said He gives them the keys to heaven: whosoever's sins we forgive on earth will be forgiven in heaven, and whosoever's sins we "retain" (do not forgive) shall not be forgiven. The sins of the unrepentant are not forgiven, and the way in which the Absolution is pronounced, it clearly includes forgiveness only for the repentant.

There may be times when we need to assure someone of God's forgiveness, because the circumstances do not permit them to hear this from someone who is ordained. Then we should do so. But there is a distinction between assuring someone of God's forgiveness, and our personal act of forgiveness toward a person who has wronged us and not someone else. Above all, it is critical to remember forgiveness is not a feeling. It is a decision.

I hope this helps. Feel free to ask any more questions that will help clarify what I have said. May the Lord bless you, and also grant you wisdom in full measure, and help you understand what He has told us.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thankyou very much for that answer - now I have another question. I love my mother very much, but was abused as a child. I believe my drug addiction is fueled by my desire to hurt myself so that in turn i will hurt my mom. I dont think this I know it. I want to forgive her so bad so that I dont die from drugs. But I cant seem to make the anger go away and I am getting worse and worse with the drugs - Im afraid Im going to die. please help me!!!!!!! How  do you forgive when you desperately want to but just cant seem to make it happen. I spend at least $200 a day on crack and I am going to die soon.

Answer
Oh, Peter, I am so sorry! Your situation is a really good example of why forgiving someone is critically important for one's own well being. The person doing the forgiving benefits the most!

I recommend you have a talk with God. Tell Him you are incapable of making the decision to forgive your mother, and He will have to help you do so. Keep imploring Him until you are able to do it. Then just say to yourself and to God, "I forgive my mother." As I said, forgiveness is a decision. Make the decision to forgive her. You won't FEEL like it, even though you WANT to. There are evil beings who want to keep you enslaved to your anger.

Drugs are addicting, as you well know, and this makes it really difficult to get off them. If there is any way you can go to a rehab facility, by all means do so. Quitting drugs can cause some very unpleasant symptoms, and they can help minimize this.

Just so you know, I grew up in circumstances where I was severely emotionally abused. To make a long story short, by the grace of God, I was able to put a stop to the abuse, and to achieve full reconciliation with my abuser. I think God knew exactly what He was doing when He allowed this, because I doubt seriously if I would ever have learned compassion any other way. In the long run, it is what you make of the situation, by God's grace, that matters most.

I will keep you in my prayers. Please keep in touch and let me know how you are doing. If you want to take the conversation private, feel free. May the Lord bless you with a spirit of forgiveness, and rescue you from this place you are in.

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Pat G

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I am a lifelong Lutheran, a member of the Missouri Synod. My theology is conservative, orthodox, Lutheran. I can answer questions about other sects, cults, and religions from a Lutheran perspective. Fine points of Lutheran doctrine are not my specialty, but I may sometimes be able to explain things in a different and perhaps more understandable way. I can also discuss the scientific problems with the theory of evolution and tie that in with the account of the Bible. I have ministered to women online as well, when they face difficult life situations. I read enough Hebrew and Greek to make use of interlinear translations. I can help people who are interested in turning to a more natural lifestyle for healing and health, from a Christian perspective. I can answer questions about homeschooling and natural childbirth from a Lutheran perspective. As a woman, the ministry is not open to me, so I will be unable to answer questions from a minister's perspective.

Experience

I have studied many different religions for many years, and have taught courses in my local church on cults. I have also spent time witnessing to cult members. In addition, I have developed an on-line ministry through my web site, that explains the Gospel message in multiple languages. I have also spent significant time studying alternative medicine, to determine which modalities are compatible with the Christian faith, and grounded in God's design of the human body and the medicines He provided in nature.

Education/Credentials
I have a bachelor's degree in another field, but in the area of religion, I am largely self taught. I have done extensive reading in apologetics, including non-Lutheran writers. I have also done extensive reading in the area of origins, including scientific creationism, intelligent design, and evolution. My study and experience span decades.

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