Forgiveness ≠ Trust

Forgiveness is one of those areas where we often hear platitudes or clichés filled with inadequate definitions as to what it really means, rendering the process ineffectual.

Much has been written on the subject. I’ve written reviews for three books covering forgiveness that you can find here, here and here. These authors provide a more thorough understanding of forgiveness.

I would heartily encourage the study of forgiveness as it’s pivotal to our faith and practice being it is foundational to the life of Christ, His crucifixion, resurrection and our redemption as the elect.

There is a specific area, however, I’d like to address; the belief that forgiveness equals trust.

These are two separate issues, though they are intertwined, as it often happens in puzzling out the complexities in our relationships.

Clearly, as Gospel believing, Christ centered people, we ought to strive for restoration and reconciliation, first with God and then with others.

However, to burden one another with unbiblical notions has the capacity to leave devastating consequences. In an attempt to be kinder than God, we end up being cruel.

“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.” ~ Psalm 118:8-9

Forgiveness does not automatically mean the offender is a safe person that must be trusted. On the contrary, not only does it defy logic, the Bible is replete with admonitions to be wise and discerning in all matters.

“The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving.” ~ Proverbs 14:18

A woman can genuinely forgive her rapist but that does not conclude the rapist is safe and to be trusted.

A person can genuinely forgive a thief but that does not conclude the thief is safe and to be trusted.

A person can genuinely forgive their molester but that does not conclude the molester is safe and to be trusted.

A wife can genuinely forgive her husband for physically assaulting her but that does not conclude that the husband is safe and to be trusted.

A person can genuinely forgive a murderer but that does not conclude that the murderer is safe and to be trusted.

A person can genuinely forgive a deceptive person but that does not conclude that the deceptive person is safe and to be trusted.

And so it goes. We are not instructed to blindly trust the noticeably untrustworthy.

“The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps.” ~ Proverbs 14:15

Trust has to be rebuilt once it’s destroyed. This takes time. This takes effort. This takes devotion. Fully relying on God, His Word and His Spirit to be achieved His way.

And sometimes, there is no mending broken relationships this side of Heaven. It’s a fact of living in a fallen world.

Thankfully, our Hope isn’t in this world, but in Christ. He is faithful. We can earnestly trust in Him.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.” ~ Proverbs 3:5-6

We are commanded to forgive as illustrated by Scripture. We are also called to navigate this world being as shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves {Matthew 10:16}.

Lest we forget, trustworthiness begins with us, walking in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God {Colossians 1:10}.

“…granting forgiveness does not guarantee instant trust. Keeping no record of wrongs neither induces naivety nor ignores tendencies. If someone has stolen from us, we are likely to keep our eyes peeled. Jesus was not ignorant about what was in people’s hearts, and neither should we be. When we forgive, we are to put on love, Jesus commands us to love even our enemies. That doesn’t mean we are called to generate a rosy, warm feeling toward them or become best buddies. But it does mean we seek our God for a godly attitude and a relationship that honors Him.” ~ Dr. Stanley D. Gale, Finding Forgiveness