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Friday, January 8, 2016

What Difference Does It Make Anyway?

What difference does forgiveness make (other than divine forgiveness) if all consequences for bad behavior must be paid anyway?  A major theme of Christianity is forgiveness; and this theme is frequently qualified with the statement that the consequences of bad behavior often cannot be avoided.  As a worst case, say someone is murdered.  God forgives the murder, even the family of the victim forgives the murderer...but the murderer must pay the legal consequences anyway since he unalterably broke the laws of the state (the People). 

So what difference does Christian forgiveness make in “the real world?” Christian forgiveness makes a difference because one’s current attitude has future implications.  That is, if I continue to hold a grudge against you, this will influence my future behavior in its relation to you–the future is thus polluted by the past.  Forgiveness serves to intervene in this otherwise fated relational juggernaut of animosity.  The effect of Christian forgiveness, then, is to redeem the future and provide the emotional fuel to “get over it” and “move on.”  Since tit-for-tat grudge fests have a behavioral tendency to escalate, forgiveness--which lies at the base of goodwill--is essential for relational healing and positive change.

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