All posts by Allison Stevens

Should I Offer Forgiveness Without Repentance?

Unconditional forgiveness is canceling a debt to all those who intentionally offend us, whether or not they own up to what they have done. Offering forgiveness without repentance, however, does not follow the biblical model of forgiveness (Luke 17:3,4).

The Bible says that we are to forgive as God forgave us (Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13). God forgives us when we repent (Mark 1:15, Luke 13:3,5, Acts 3:19). He does not grant forgiveness to those of us who are stiff-necked and refuse to repent. We must recognize our sin and repent to receive and enjoy God’s merciful forgiveness. God requires repentance and so must we.

Repentance is important because it’s a person’s only hope for real change (Matthew 18:3; Acts 26:20). If we don’t admit our sin, it’s impossible to be transformed. If we aren’t keenly aware of the sinful direction our lives are going, we will not see a need to adjust the direction. Repentance demonstrates that we need God to help us change our thinking, attitudes, and behavior.

An unrepentant person maintains a sense of control over his life through pride, which can lead to destruction, violence, and animosity (Proverbs 8:13; 16:18; 29:23). Turning toward God (repentance) is necessary to break the cycle of destructive behaviors and patterns of relating to others. If as believers we don’t require repentance on the part of the offender, we stand in the way of that person’s coming to see his need for God and experiencing His forgiveness. To put it simply, forgiveness is a two-way process: repentance on the part of the offender and pardon on the part of the offended.

When only one part of the forgiveness process takes place, the hurt felt by the offended one can lead to hatred, bitterness, and desire for revenge. Because we desperately want relief from the gnawing desire to get even, we can be tempted to let an issue go, or “forgive” without ever confronting the person or waiting for him to show remorse.

It’s wrong, however, to assume that if we don’t forgive someone, we’ll be weighed down with hatred, bitterness, and revengeful desires. That’s not necessarily true because the Bible says we are to love a person regardless of whether or not he or she shows any remorse. We can love our enemies1, but continue to have an unsettled issue with them. In many cases, it is more loving to withhold forgiveness until a change of heart is demonstrated than it is to offer forgiveness without the offender’s acknowledgment of deliberate wrongdoing.

Instead of giving in to revenge, we can soften our hearts toward those who have hurt us when we humbly admit that we, too, have hurt others. It is only by God’s grace that we can enjoy His goodness toward us at all. Just as important, we can have faith that God will avenge if it is necessary (Leviticus 19:18, Romans 12:19-21) and that He will hold each of us accountable (Romans 14:12; Hebrews 4:13 ). We don’t need to worry because our pain doesn’t go unnoticed by our Lord (Psalm 147:3). With that frame of mind, we can demonstrate a deeper trust in God and be led to pray for those who’ve hurt us.

Yes, an unconditional pardon can be granted without the offender ever knowing they’ve hurt us. But this one-sided “forgiveness” is not in our best interest, nor in the best interest of the person who hurt us. It devalues the significance of repentance and robs both the offender and us of the opportunity to grow in Christ.

The ultimate purpose of forgiveness is the healing of a relationship. This healing occurs only when the offender repents and demonstrates remorse and the offended one grants a pardon and demonstrates loving acceptance.

  1. An enemy can be defined as one who intentionally hurts us, is destructive, and can’t be trusted because of his or her lack of remorse. Unconditional forgiveness implies that our response to our enemies should be to offer a pardon with no response on the part of the offender. The Bible teaches, however, that we should respond to our enemies in love (Matthew 5:44). Scripture does not teach that we need to forgive our enemies. Instead, we should love them and pray for them. Love and forgiveness are not synonymous. Back To Article
Did this answer your question?
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (414 votes, average: 4.09 out of 5)
Loading...

People Tell Me I Can’t Follow Christ and Be a Loner: Do I Really Need Friends? 

Emotionally healthy people are comfortable spending time alone. They don’t need constant companionship. Bottom line, they enjoy their own company. Granted, some need more time alone than others, but folks that are in good psychological shape regularly escape from the crowds and noise to be alone (Matthew 14:23).

Solitude is valuable, but so is connection with others. After all that God had created and called good, there was one thing He said was not good: that man was alone. Animal and plant life simply weren’t enough to sustain Adam’s need for relationship. So He created Eve for Adam (Genesis 2:18).

We also know that the apostle Paul had many friends (Romans 16:5, 9, 12; Colossians 4:14; Philemon 1:1). He loved them deeply and felt rejuvenated by his friendships (1 Corinthians 10:14; 2 Corinthians 7:1; 12:19; Philippians 2:12; 4:1). It’s clear that friendship can be good for the soul (Proverbs 27:9; Ecclesiastes 4:10).

The number of friends we have or the amount of time we spend alone are unique for each of us. We weren’t all created with the same cravings. Like Paul, some prefer lots of friends while others are content with very few, if any, close relationships. Instead of forcing everyone to fit into a specific “community” of believers, we can embrace this diversity as a part of God’s perfect plan for His body (1 Corinthians 12:13-27). We each bring necessary and significant gifts to the body of Christ.

The key is finding the balance between friendship and solitude. Either without the other may mean that a person is running from problems, personal growth, and insight.

Did this answer your question?
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (18 votes, average: 3.89 out of 5)
Loading...

How Can I Serve Others Without Feeling Like a Doormat?

No one wants to be a doormat. But if we haven’t put healthy limits in place, we can easily end up feeling used up and stepped on.

Biblical service is not mindless, robot-like obedience to the demands of others. It is intentional and life-giving. The giver and receiver are better people because of the act of compassion. It cultivates unity, closeness, and goodness in others that moves relationships in a positive direction.

It doesn’t always work that way, though. Occasionally, other people won’t appreciate us or they’ll take advantage of our kindness. We can ignore some of these instances, but we shouldn’t close our eyes to a pattern of disrespect or abuse.

We should be honest and, out of love for ourselves and others, refuse to give in to selfish demands or egotistical attitudes. Let’s not mistake Jesus words about turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:39) to mean that we overlook sin. We should refuse to accept disrespectful or abusive treatment so that we can restore our dignity and the other person has hope for change through repentance (Romans 6; 1 Corinthians 5:1-5).

Both Jesus and the apostle Paul are known for standing up for what is right and resisting evil. Jesus didn’t passively stroll through the temple while it became a “den of robbers” (Matthew 21:12-13). Paul exercised his rights as a Roman citizen and asked for a public display of regret when he was illegally arrested without a trial (Acts 16:36-40). He also advised the Corinthian church to kick a man out of their congregation who was sleeping with his father’s wife! We can’t pretend that a pattern of serious sin won’t affect our ability to serve.

Jesus set limits on his service to others by paying attention to his own needs as well as the needs of others. He healed the sick and fed the hungry, but he also made sure he got the food, rest, and time with his heavenly Father he needed so that he would be healthy to care for others (John 4:5; Mark 11:12-13; 6:30-32).  We simply can’t ignore our own needs if we want to be available to help others. We must have physical nourishment, exercise, rest, relationship, and time for personal reflection on the Word of God. If we regularly neglect these areas as we serve others, we may begin to resent the very people we want to help.

Another way to limit the chances of becoming someone’s doormat is to keep in mind the scope of our talents, opportunities, and time that we’ve been given, and to seriously think twice about those things that do not fit into the unique purposes of our lives (1 Corinthians 12:1-31). Volunteering for things that you aren’t capable of or gifted for may not be a sensible stewardship of your time or resources. Find opportunities that accommodate the position in which God has placed you and that fit with the dreams and passions God has set on your heart. Performing only obligatory duties will drain us because they aren’t in line with who we were created to be.

And yet, we can’t base our service solely on how comfortable we feel. There are times when we feel the nudging of the Holy Spirit, asking us to do something completely out of our comfort zone. Often, the Lord is asking us to trust Him. On these occasions, pray fervently about it and ask God to confirm the direction. If you go ahead with a heart of gratitude and faith, the Lord will be delighted with you. He loves it when we trust Him.

Serving others involves personal sacrifice, but it is not without appropriate limits. We have physical requirements for life that we can’t ignore, and gifts and opportunities that distinguish us from the next person. But equally important is the disrespect or abuse from another person that may require us to limit our service.

 

Did this answer your question?
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (37 votes, average: 4.38 out of 5)
Loading...

What Does Jesus’ Life Reveal About How to Treat Unbelievers?

Jesus’ entire adult life was characterized by a deep concern for the spiritual condition of the nonbeliever. He saw them as desperately lost, and His heart was broken because of that. His compassionate purpose for their well-being was deep-rooted, and He showed this concern specifically in the way He met them where they lived, fed them, taught them, and healed them (Matthew 9:9-11; Mark 1:33-34; 6:30-42; Luke 5:1-11).

The example Jesus set for us is to build relationships with people who don’t know Him. When we meet a person who has not yet experienced God’s saving grace, we are to have the heart of Jesus and extend a helping hand at their point of need. If they are thirsty, we can give them a cup of water; if they’re hungry, we can feed them (Matthew 25:35-40).

Let’s not forget that Jesus came to our rescue when we were lost. So now, out of gratitude and love, we can find opportunities to do what we can to help others who are separated from God. Isolating ourselves from sinners misses the point of sharing the good news of Jesus, and it feeds into a self-righteous attitude.

Nonbelievers are spiritually sick (like we were), and they need saving faith in Jesus. They need His love, forgiveness, mercy, and grace. And it’s important to remember that the only difference between a believer and a nonbeliever is the condition of the heart. He who has a redeemed heart should be broken over the one who has the sin-sick heart. Matthew 9:10-13 reads,

“While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and ‘sinners’ came and ate with Him and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and “sinners”?’ On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’   ”

We won’t be much good to the spiritually sick, however, if we ignore our own spiritual health. Just like getting enough rest, exercise, and nutritional food will help build strong physical bodies, meditating on God’s Word, praying, and listening to God will strengthen our spiritual lives. It’s equally important to make sure our closest friends are Christians who encourage us in the faith. It matters who we spend most of our time with, because friends can either make us stronger or bring us down (1 Corinthians 15:33).

I think it’s clear that we, in countless ways and opportunities, can and should reach out to non-Christian people. We can show them love by offering them a meal, a job, or friendship, and most importantly, we can introduce them to Jesus, the Savior of our souls.

Did this answer your question?
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (119 votes, average: 4.08 out of 5)
Loading...

How Can Our Stepfamily Be a Happy One?

All families struggle at times to be happy, but blended families

1 often have bigger obstacles to face than others. For instance, the quality of the relationship between the stepparent and the stepchildren has a big impact on the level of happiness in a blended family. Loyalty issues with the biological children and knowing how to discipline also add major complications.

To meet these challenges well, a husband and wife must make their relationship to each other the top priority ( Genesis 2:24 ). All efforts toward a happy home are useless if you don’t consider your spouse’s feelings and make decisions together. A spouse whose feelings are ignored will begin to feel neglected, insecure, and unloved, which creates unhappiness. It’s important for spouses to discuss everything and make decisions only after they have come to an agreement.

It takes a lot of time to build loving relationships in a blended family. Emotional bonds don’t happen overnight, and it’s unrealistic to think that a stepparent and a stepchild will automatically hit it off. Sometimes that happens, but more often than not, it takes years to develop a more normal parent-child attachment. Be patient when it comes to developing close relationships with your stepchildren ( Proverbs 19:11; Colossians 3:12 ). Also be realistic enough to recognize that sometimes the kind of affection you long for never develops. Nevertheless, stepparents need to respect and accept their spouse’s children, not seek to force an immediate close relationship. That respect and acceptance often turns out to be the foundation of the relationship you desire.

As your husband or wife gets to know your children, they will begin to see things in them that you may have overlooked. Be open to your spouse’s judgment about your children. You may feel threatened to hear something negative about them, but listening to your spouse shows respect. Valuing these insights indicates that you respect your spouse’s important role in the family. Honoring his or her opinion may even help solve some of the discipline or relationship problems you may have with your children. It’s natural to feel protective; but those protective feelings could lead you to reject valuable observations, which can in turn lead to heated disagreements over the children ( 2 Timothy 2:22-26 ). When that protective instinct is turned on, admit it to your spouse and talk about it. If you are open about your feelings, you can develop deeper trust and intimacy with your spouse ( 1 Corinthians 13:6; Ephesians 4:15; James 5:16 ). Remember that it’s not you against your spouse; it’s you and your spouse, together, trying to find the best way to raise the children that God has given you ( Proverbs 1:8 ).

Both the natural parent and stepparent 2 are responsible for the guidance of the children ( Proverbs 13:24; 23:13; Ephesians 6:1,4 ). If you love your children (or stepchildren) you will lead and train them. Neglecting to help prepare them for life is a failure to love. Biological parents, in their own way, need to make it known to their kids that the stepparent has equal authority so that there is a strong united front. It’s vitally important for the kids to know that there is agreement between you, and that each of you has the same authority over them.

Blended families have just as much hope for happiness through good relationships as traditional families. They need to recognize that their unique situation has unique challenges, and that those challenges are best met when they have built a strong, God-honoring marriage. (See the ATQ article Who Should Come First in My Stepfamily: My Spouse or My Children?)

  1. A blended family is one where one or both spouses have children from previous relationships.Back To Article
  2. Stepparents can have a positive influence in their stepchildren’s lives. While stepparenting is difficult at times, especially with older children, it is an important role because they are looking to you as a role model James 5:10-11. Back To Article
Did this answer your question?
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
Loading...