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It is not something to be preached and enforced by any third party, least of all by the person who is seeking forgiveness.

How many times have we encountered an attitude which is summed up in the words, "I SAID I'm sorry; what more do you want?" Obviously we want a LOT more than that kind of an attitude before we would be moved to forgive someone who has sinned against us.

There is an attitude that is often referred to as forgiveness, that can take place in the heart of the victim of an injustice, which does not depend on the offender being sorry at all. We do not regard this WILLINGNESS to forgive as forgiveness per se, and we do agree that we should always have this willingness to forgive. But for the willingness to be transformed into genuine forgiveness, there needs to be a change on the part of the one being forgiven.

We recently received a disgusting letter from a lawyer in Kenya who had spread sensational lies about us being evil. He had promised to turn a whole village against us, and he texted us at about the same time to say that he, as God's messenger, would kill us all one by one. We reported the matter to the local police, and he wrote back to say that he had "forgiven" us for doing that, and that it was our duty as Christians to forgive him as well. Ironically, at this time he had never even performed the shallow ritual of saying "sorry". It was all a sermon about what we owed him, with or without any remorse on his part.

This story may sound extreme, but it really is not.

In a series of question and answer sessions with Quaker quarterly meetings in Kenya, the most frequent question went something like this: "I did such and such against my neighbour and then asked for forgiveness, but he/she has refused. What do you say about that?" (These questions came after a talk by myself that did not even relate to the topic of forgiveness.)

These people obviously expected me to deliver a public discourse condemning the neighbour for not behaving in a Christian manner. But I did the opposite. I challenged them for not expressing genuine remorse for their sins. I could tell that they were not genuinely sorry, because a truly repentant person knows that they do not deserve forgiveness.

The Prodigal Son was forgiven by his father, and welcomed back as a son; but that was because he returned home full of remorse, and fully expecting to take on the role of a lowly servant. Where are the offenders today who apologise on the assumption that they will be punished to the full extent of the law, and that they will have nothing to complain about if that happens? Until people are prepared to face the awfulness of their sins, there will be no change... and I strongly suspect that even God himself will not impute forgiveness.

The Christian churches have made a law out of grace. They teach that even God has no choice but to forgive every bastard that comes to him reciting a little prayer, and that when they have finished the prayer, they can demand health, wealth, and happines AS WELL AS forgiveness all as part of their rightful inheritance as the "king's kids". What cheek!

I have called them bastards because that is exactly what they are. The Bible says that whom the Lord loves, he chastens, and he whips every son whom he receives. The passage goes on to say that if you do not accept God's discipline, then you are not his children, but you are bastards instead. (Hebrews 12:6-8)

God is a wonderful loving heavenly Father. We have discovered that from personal experience. But he's not stupid, and he's not going to be pushed around by selfish rebels who try to twist something he has said to his obedient, disciplined children to use it for their own selfish ends. When we stop making a law out of forgiveness, and come prepared to take our punishment, then we'll begin to understand just how gracious God (and his children) really can be.

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