*Since last fall, I’ve been enjoying the daily devotional composed of selections from the teaching and writing ministry of David Powlison. Here is a today’s reading.
Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him. Luke 17:3-4
Forgiveness comes in two forms. First, and foundationally, you forgive another person before God, whether or not that person admits or even recognizes any wrong. This is attitudinal forgiveness. Listen to how Jesus speaks of this vertical-dimension forgiving of another person:
“Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25)
You stand alone before God your Father dealing with your own attitudes. This vertical aspect of forgiveness deals with our attitudes. Its purpose is to change you, not to deal with the other person. It prepares you, so you will go to the other person already willing to be merciful. You are no longer holding the grudge, building up bitterness, on the defensive, on the offensive.
The second aspect of forgiveness is transacted forgiveness. Again, listen to how Jesus describes it: If your brother sins, bring it up with him directly, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, “I repent,” you must forgive him (Luke 17:3-4, author’s paraphrase).
Notice that here Jesus envisions a conversation with the other person. You bring it up constructively; the other person asks to be forgiven. The interpersonal interaction is able to be both candid and full of mercy (a rare combination!) because the attitudinal forgiveness has already happened.
This combination of attitudinal and transacted forgiveness helps make sense of many common and extremely tangled situations.
*This reading is from Take Heart: Daily Devotions to Deepen Your Faith, which is currently 50% off as part of Westminster Book’s twenty years of bestsellers sale.