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Hey there, I'm Sunny Shell, a wretch saved by God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ the Lord. I'm married to the most incredible man on earth, who loves Jesus more than he loves me, and we have two precious adult sons.

The compassionately endures me through my metabolic disease (since 2004) that enables me to be more prayerful and careful about commitments I make and helps me to make the best use of my short time here on earth.

If you want to know more about me, click HERE.

When and How to Forgive


There are many who are of the opinion that forgiveness should only be given to those who have either asked for forgiveness or have some how demonstrated true repentance. They say it is because the Bible says that without repentance, there is no forgiveness of sins, therefore no salvation (Luke 13:1-5).

It's true that if a person does not repent of their sins, ask God for forgiveness, and trust their lives to Jesus Christ, they will suffer the full penalty of their sins. But we're not talking about God's forgiveness that is necessary for salvation, we're only discussing the gift of forgiveness from one sinner to another.

As Christians, we understand that before anyone sins against us, they first sin against God. Therefore, it would be proper that they ask God for forgiveness BEFORE they seek our forgiveness.

"Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no "root of bitterness" springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;"
~ Hebrews 12:14

There are those who say, "I will forgive him/her when they ask for forgiveness for every specific sin they have committed against me, take responsibility for it and completely repent, or I will not forgive them."

To those who are in this camp, let me share with you what God says about that:

"For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth. When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls."
~ 1 Peter 2:21-25

"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;"
~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 

"For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
~ Matthew 6:14-15

When Jesus told someone He forgave them, even He didn't require they list every sin before He forgave them. Therefore, if Jesus, who is God, did not require for a person to recount every possible sin they've committed (because in reality, who can do that?), then why does it seem reasonable that we require such a thing? When we begin to "add" to God's law (rather than rightly judge in accordance with His Word and precepts), we are no longer loving and serving God, but we are arrogantly taking the seat of judge.

"Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, He who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?"
~ James 4:11-12

So then, when and how should children of the Most High God forgive?

"But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you....But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful."
~ Luke 6:27-28, 35-36
According to God's Word, we are not held in bondage to offer the gift of forgiveness by another person's unwillingness to repent, but we have been set free by Christ Jesus to freely offer forgiveness to anyone and everyone who sins against us...at any time. What wonderful freedom and joy we have in Christ!

Jim refused to do that. He had read a popular Christian book on forgiveness, and the book taught that forgiveness can never be granted until the other party repents and seeks forgiveness. Jim now believes he is justified in withholding forgiveness from his brother as long as the other man refuses to admit he was wrong. Jim is determined to see that he gets justice, and he has already spent several years seeking someone who will take up his cause. But almost everyone has given him the same advice: "The issue is petty. It's your word against the other fellow's. This might not be resolved until Christ Himself sorts it out and you lay your differences aside in heaven. Give it up and move on. It is beginning to dominate your life and rob you of opportunities to bear the fruit of the Spirit."

I don't know whether Jim or the other fellow was at fault in the original dispute. It may well be that both of them were partly wrong. But even if the other fellow was totally at fault, I believe Jim is clearly wrong to hang on to his bitterness and justify his refusal to forgive on the ground that the offender has not repented. This is precisely the kind of situation in which we are supposed to turn the other cheek (Matt. 5:39). Those who keep account of such wrongs, constantly demanding redress of personal affronts, are violating the very spirit of Christ.

I am convinced that many, if not most, of the personal problems Christians see counselors for have to do with forgiveness. And there are some difficult questions surrounding this subject of forgiveness.

In this booklet I want to address some of those issues. These are some of the hardest questions about forgiveness that have come my way in thirty years of ministry.

excerpt from, Answering the Hard Questions About Forgiveness
by John MacArthur

WHEN to forgive:
We should forgive as soon as we can, so no seed of bitterness can take root in our hearts, deceiving us to believe that some how we are "better" than the offending party.

HOW to forgive:
Just as Christ our God has forgiven us, with great love, compassion and mercy.

"Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs."
~ 2 Corinthians 2:5-11
Please do not be deceived into believing there is a twelve-step program or some other ordinance that must be performed prior to forgiving anyone. The only "process" necessary to forgive someone is the process of you dying to yourself and whatever it is you're holding onto that is keeping you in the bondage of unforgiveness.

I know that forgiving others for horrendous sins committed against you are hard. I've been there.

When I forgave loved ones for years of brutality, it was in an instant....the instant God revealed to me my bitterness, self-righteousness and false piety. I broke down in tears and asked them for forgiveness as I had become bitter and unkind (I didn't do anything "mean", but I also wasn't very loving either). I had convinced myself that doing "nice" things (that really I could pay someone else to do) was a "good" thing. I was only fulfilling my duties.

God's love is tender, it is gentle, it looks the offender in the eye and says, "I love you. I forgive you. Let us never bring this subject up again as I can see the pain it causes you. But let us instead move forward from here and never look back again." This is what I did, only through Christ's strength and holy love.

If you can't look your offender in the eye, tell them you love them, forgive them, then touch them gently, hold their hand, kiss them with a holy kiss and embrace them...then you have not forgiven them and you are still bound by the sin of unforgiveness.

I pray that you too will be set free from the bondage of unforgiveness, so that others who see your life, will see Christ and His majesty, and not the self-righteousness that is of this world.

With every breath we take, we come closer to seeing our Maker face-to-face. In light of that truth, let us strive to decrease so that the fullness of Christ's life may increasingly be manifested in us, for the glory of God alone.

May the Lamb who was slain, alone, receive the full glory (Revelation 5:12).

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14 comments:

  1. Dear Sunny,
    Your writing reflects Christ’s love. I have struggled with understanding why someone who had been severely hurt by another would have to forgive before God would forgive them.
    I personally have not experienced this, but one of my siblings has, and that past pain has crept in, causing my beautiful sister, who has always been affectionate and kind, to shut herself away from everyone who loves her.
    I am not writing to burden you with this; I just wanted to tell you that your edification has helped me see why God requires this forgiveness.
    I know that it will be only through God’s grace that she will be able to overcome her pain and forgive; that is my prayer for her.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh precious Sister, I can attest to the validity of this message. As a childhood victim of several kinds of abuses, I can say that it was only forgiveness that brought about healing in my life. And for each moment, situation, conflict and confrontation after that, my goal has always been about seeking and keeping peace. It's so difficult when the other person doesn't want it, but it is where true supernatural peace inside comes from. Not everyone will be quick to forgive and not everyone will be quick to have peace, but it is best to pursue it, and to avoid all slander in the process.

    Beautiful message that all of us need to hear.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hello precious sisters Ernestine and LauraLee!

    Ernestine,

    You are NEVER a burden to me sweet sister. You're certainly a blessing and your love & devotion to pursue Christ blesses my heart! I will be in prayer for your sister. I understand how difficult this is and that's why I was inspired to finally write about it. It's a bit of a touchy subject, but I felt in order to honor God and exalt His name for all that He's done for me, to me and through me....I felt I needed to "touch" it. :-)

    LauraLee,

    You said, "It's so difficult when the other person doesn't want it, but it is where true supernatural peace inside comes from."

    AMEN sister! It is VERY difficult when the offending party is so opposed to God that they will not desire nor accept forgiveness, but as children of the Most High God, we ought to be passionate about offering it and as you said, pursuing peace...not false peace, but God's true peace.

    You're always a blessing to me sister!

    I love you both!
    Sunny

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow, what a word from God! Thank you for speaking the truth (even hard truths) in love. God is using you in wonderful ways!

    ReplyDelete
  5. My pastor preached several sermons right along these same lines and it really soften/humbled me when he share-Forgiveness isn't a bank account-it's not about getting anything-it's about release-it's about walking as our Father did who forgives us, all of us, without conditions attached of if you do this, I'll do this...He just does.

    So should we if we want to experience true freedom and true love from our Father too and as His ambassadors, show the others same, otherwise we will all be just forever bound in chains and harden hearts and never truly free.

    Amazing that He calls us to come to Him to freely give without strings His love and forgiveness, but we can't do the same with each other.

    Excellent post! Is there a chance that you can have this in pdf version? Would love to keep a copy in my bible to remember and reflect during readings.

    God bless you dear Sister!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Twinkle Mom...ooohhhh I LOVE what your pastor said about forgiveness..."it's not a bank account, it's not about getting anything back". What a wonderful reminder! That's such a great and simple and very convicting way of looking at it! Thank you for sharing that! ♥

    And yes, I will put it in a PDF format for you. I can't do it today, but I will have it up for you tomorrow. :-)

    I'm blessed to know that something God has put in my heart was used to encourage others...particularly other sisters in our awesome Jesus!♥

    Love you dear sister,
    Sunny

    ReplyDelete
  7. I so needed this post!! I have been struggling with bitterness and unforgiveness with former church members who left our church. Church splits can be ugly, as you can imagine....I need to let it go...

    I love the quote by the man who asks Jesus to help him with his unbelief. I need to be asking Jesus to help me with my bitterness.

    I'm going to pass this one on...

    Thanks, Sunny!

    ReplyDelete
  8. The Sunshine ExpressAugust 2, 2010 at 6:18 AM

    Wow, I can really see God reflected in your writing. Keep writing and letting God work in you. I hope to someday become such a strong and wise woman in Christ.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you for the encouragement "Sunshine Express"! :)

    I'm very grateful to know how God is using my writing for His glory.

    Bless you dear sister,
    Sunny

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thank you for the encouragement "Sunshine Express"! :)

    I'm very grateful to know how God is using my writing for His glory.

    Bless you dear sister,
    Sunny

    ReplyDelete
  11. My pastor preached several sermons right along these same lines and it really soften/humbled me when he share-Forgiveness isn't a bank account-it's not about getting anything-it's about release-it's about walking as our Father did who forgives us, all of us, without conditions attached of if you do this, I'll do this...He just does.

    So should we if we want to experience true freedom and true love from our Father too and as His ambassadors, show the others same, otherwise we will all be just forever bound in chains and harden hearts and never truly free.

    Amazing that He calls us to come to Him to freely give without strings His love and forgiveness, but we can't do the same with each other.

    Excellent post! Is there a chance that you can have this in pdf version? Would love to keep a copy in my bible to remember and reflect during readings.

    God bless you dear Sister!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Wow, what a word from God! Thank you for speaking the truth (even hard truths) in love. God is using you in wonderful ways!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hello precious sisters Ernestine and LauraLee!

    Ernestine,

    You are NEVER a burden to me sweet sister. You're certainly a blessing and your love & devotion to pursue Christ blesses my heart! I will be in prayer for your sister. I understand how difficult this is and that's why I was inspired to finally write about it. It's a bit of a touchy subject, but I felt in order to honor God and exalt His name for all that He's done for me, to me and through me....I felt I needed to "touch" it. :-)

    LauraLee,

    You said, "It's so difficult when the other person doesn't want it, but it is where true supernatural peace inside comes from."

    AMEN sister! It is VERY difficult when the offending party is so opposed to God that they will not desire nor accept forgiveness, but as children of the Most High God, we ought to be passionate about offering it and as you said, pursuing peace...not false peace, but God's true peace.

    You're always a blessing to me sister!

    I love you both!
    Sunny

    ReplyDelete

"If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him." ~ C.T. Studd
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