Once the process of forgiveness is undertaken, there are degrees of forgiveness that can be achieved. Let me reiterate what I wrote earlier from Lewis Smedes.
“For the follower of Christ, the ultimate purpose of forgiveness is to create an environment for reconciliation hence; forgiveness is not an end unto itself. Without reconciliation, forgiveness, although beneficial to the one who forgives, is unfulfilled. Without the goal of eventual reconciliation, forgiveness can become another medium of self-help in an already narcissistic world.
If we are to imitate God, then the goal of forgiveness is reconciliation while the benefit of forgiveness is release of vengeance. However, since reconciliation is bilateral from a human perspective, even if there is no cooperation from the “other party”, forgiveness still has virtue and merit by itself.”
Therefore, there can be degrees of forgiveness. Beverly Flanigan, in her book, Exploring Forgiveness, puts forth three degrees of forgiveness.
First, there can be detached forgiveness where there is a reduction in negative feelings toward the offender, but no reconciliation has taken place. This often happens when there is geographical distance or death separating the parties.
Second, there is limited forgiveness where there is a reduction in negative feelings toward the offender, and partial relationship is restored with the offender and a decrease in the emotional investment in the relationship. This is a step in the right direction and often times it depends on the offending party.
Finally, there is full forgiveness where there is a total cessation of negative feelings toward the offender, and the relationship is restored and grows. This is the degree of forgiveness that we should hope and pray for as we pursue God’s desire for us.
Our example for all this is the forgiveness found in Jesus Christ. In 1 John 1:3, John wrote that the reader of his letter can fellowship with him based on the fellowship he has with the Father and His Son Jesus. In verse 9, John then revealed how this fellowship can occur. He wrote, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Upon confession of sin, we can receive full forgiveness from God and total cessation of negative feelings toward us and a relationship that is restored and grows. Have you experienced this kind of full forgiveness from God?
Something to think about…