As I come to the end of  the Mending the Soul books, I find myself struggling to get this written.  Not because it is hard but because the truth in this chapter is so amazing and gives so much hope and speaks peace to wounded hearts. There is far more in the books than I can write here, but I am using mostly quotes from the book to tell the story.  When I see the brokenness in so many people and realize none of us have to be trapped there, it shines a light of peace and bright futures.  God can take the  ugliest of situations and redeem them into something beautiful for Him.  For the thirsty soul looking to break free of the bondage of abuse, there is hope.  So forgive me for using so much of the book, but I feel I cannot add much to a job well done.

Often when we share our stories of abuse with others, the first thing we’re told is that we must forgive our abusers.  However, although forgiveness is essential, it must come at the end of our healing rather than at the beginning.” Cellestia Tracy, Mending the Soul Workbook Page 229 copyright 2015

“Some Christians claim that biblical forgiveness means letting go of the offense so that there is no longer any fear, anger, or mistrust toward the one who hurt you.  This, however, is a harmful, incomplete, and unbiblical model of forgiveness. Scripture does describe forgiveness as letting go of a debt, but it also demonstrates that there are consequences for the offender. Nowhere does the Bible say that trust and reconciliation will always be granted. It’s important to realize that trust cannot be demanded – it’s earned. 

There are three types of forgiveness.  The first is forgiveness that can only come from God and that is Judicial forgiveness and this is a complete pardon of all sin, which happens only after a person has acknowledged their own sin and repented of their sin and have accepted Christ and his work done on the cross to cleanse those sins.  Proverbs 28:13 tell us that He who covers his sin will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” Cellestia Tracy Mending the Soul Workbook Page 220 – 221 copyright 2015

Religious leaders and even family members are often quick to tell victims they must forgive, regardless of the circumstances of the abuse or the posture of the abuser. Sadly, insensitivity to the complexity of the biblical doctrine of forgiveness and ignorance of the dynamics of abuse often lead Christian leaders to inflict much additional damage on survivors of abuse. Abuse victims need clear direction about the biblical doctrine of forgiveness and what it means for their relational healing. More specifically, they need to know what Christian forgiveness means for their relationships with their abusers, particularly if an abuser is unrepentant. This is what I seek to provide in this chapter.” Tracy, Steven R. (2009-05-26). Mending the Soul: Understanding and Healing Abuse (Kindle Locations 3397-3403). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Judicial forgiveness involves the remission or pardoning of sin by God. It pictures a complete removal of the guilt of one’s sin (Psalm 51:1–9), and it’s available to abusers and all other categories of sinners (Psalm 32:1–5; 1 Corinthians 6:10–11). The judicial forgiveness of sin by God lies at the very heart of Christianity and the salvation experience. God’s desire is unequivocally to forgive and to heal those labeled by society as the worst, the most hopeless, and worthless sinners, a prospect that was as odious in the first century (Matthew 9:9–13) as it is today. Modern society’s repulsion toward abusers, particularly toward child molesters, is well-known and in many respects quite logical. I vividly remember calling a close friend to inform him that a mutual friend had been discovered to be a molester, and that he should take extra precautions to protect children from this man. Upon hearing that this man was a child molester, my friend’s first words to me were, “As far as I’m concerned, Bill can’t die and burn in hell soon enough.” I certainly understand my friend’s visceral reaction to this shocking discovery, but as soon as we consign abusers to the ranks of the irredeemable, we distort the message and ministry of Jesus. What’s more, we threaten to impale ourselves on our own sword of justice, for those of us who have never molested children are surely in need of God’s mercy and his forgiveness for other kinds of malicious acts, as well as other kinds of sexual sins.” (Matthew 18:21–35).  Tracy, Steven R. (2009-05-26). Mending the Soul: Understanding and Healing Abuse (Kindle Locations 3461-3474). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

“Psychological forgiveness is the inner, personal category of forgiveness, and it has two aspects: negatively, it involves letting go of hatred and personal revenge; positively, it involves extending grace to the offender. Letting go of hatred and revenge; Some philosophers have persuasively argued that bearing resentment against those who maliciously harm us is necessary to maintain the moral order and to maintain respect for the victim. Furthermore, resentment often feels psychologically necessary for abuse victims. Letting go of resentment toward an unrepentant abuser feels like letting go of justice; it may also feel like letting the abuser win and may appear to justify his or her evil. These arguments against psychological forgiveness cannot lightly be brushed aside. I’m clearly not equating all anger with undesirable hatred or resentment, nor am I letting go of justice. Anger can be a healthy and appropriate response to evil, for Jesus himself became very angry, particularly at those who defamed God and hurt humans made in God’s image (Matthew 21:12–17; Mark 3:5). Many of the psalms contain vivid expressions of anger toward evildoers (Psalm 5; 10; 69). Abuse victims can and should be angry at abusers, whose evil also angers God. The kind of anger prohibited in Bible verses such as Matthew 5:22 is the “deliberate harboring of resentment” with a view toward personal revenge. Hence, Paul in Ephesians 4:26 indicates that one can be justifiably angry but must be careful not to let this disposition turn into sinful resentment. Thus, forgiving abusers at this level means letting go of settled bitterness and rage and committing abusers to God, who is both loving and just. The way victims are able to do this is by entering into God’s point of view, for all humans—abuse victims as well as abusers—are individuals for whom Jesus Christ died. At the same time, God will execute justice against all evil. This approach to forgiveness overcomes the objection that letting go of resentment demeans the victim and undermines justice. At a practical level, letting go of bitterness means letting go of the right to personally exact revenge. In other words, forgiveness is letting go of my right to hurt another person for hurting me. This is a cardinal element of forgiveness. Letting go of personal retribution, however, doesn’t mean letting go of justice or the desire for it. Rather, justice is intensified. By letting go of my right to take personal revenge on my abuser, I am relinquishing the roles of judge, jury, and executioner over to God. His judgment toward unrepentant evil will be perfect and indomitable, making my feeble attempts at revenge appear quite puny. At the same time, in letting go of my right to hurt the offender for hurting me, I am implicitly expressing the desire that he or she would repent and experience God’s forgiveness and healing, so that eternal judgment might be precluded.” Tracy, Steven R. (2009-05-26). Mending the Soul: Understanding and Healing Abuse (Kindle Locations 3389-3517). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

“Extending Grace It is not enough, however, simply to define psychological forgiveness in negative terms as the withholding of retribution, for there is a positive side to this as well. ..Psychological forgiveness also involves the willingness to extend grace and goodness to those who have hurt us. This doesn’t mean victims give abusers free rein to hurt them again, for that would make a mockery of forgiveness. Rather, it means—based on the mercy and grace of God I have experienced—I’m willing to extend kindness even to my enemies (Matthew 5:43–47), with a view toward their own repentance and healing. For abuse victims, one of the most appropriate expressions of this type of forgiveness is simply the extending of grace through the inner desire and prayer for their perpetrators’ healing.” Tracy, Steven R. (2009-05-26). Mending the Soul: Understanding and Healing Abuse (Kindle Locations 3532). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Relational forgiveness is the restoration of relationship. It is synonymous with reconciliation. From a biblical perspective, this forgiveness is always desirable, though it’s not always possible. God’s desire for the human race is for healing and reconciliation, both individually with himself (2 Corinthians 5:18–21) and interpersonally with other humans (Ephesians 2:11–14; Colossians 3:10–13). Stanley Grenz, a leading theological researcher on the nature of the church as a community, summarizes the twofold reconciling work of God in human history: The vision of the Scriptures is clear: the final goal of the work of the triune God in salvation history is the establishment of the eschatological community—a redeemed people dwelling in a renewed earth, enjoying reconciliation with their God, fellowship with each other, and harmony with all creation. Consequently, the goal of community lies at the heart of God’s actions in history. Though reconciliation is always the desired goal, many abusers cannot be given relational forgiveness, for they refuse to do the painful work of repentance. We must not soften the conditional force of Jesus’ words in Luke 17:3: “If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if [emphasis added] he repents, forgive him.” Jesus goes on to say that if this sinning brother repents repeatedly, he or she is to be forgiven repeatedly. Paul gives a similar teaching in 2 Corinthians 2:5–11, where he commands the Corinthians to now forgive the man they had excommunicated for his brazen sexual sin (1 Corinthians 5:1–13), as the excommunication seemed to have served the desired purpose of creating the shame and loneliness that stimulated repentance. Thus, Christians are to offer relational forgiveness when genuine repentance has occurred. Some argue that forgiveness is not given at any level until the abuser repents, but this approach fails to recognize that the biblical repentance demand applies to relational, not psychological, forgiveness. In other words, there are ways abuse survivors can offer forgiveness to their perpetrators that don’t involve reconciliation or the establishment of a relationship.” Tracy, Steven R. (2009-05-26). Mending the Soul: Understanding and Healing Abuse (Kindle Locations 3532-5252). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.


Stephen Tracy lays out 5 steps to forgiveness:

1 Clarify the offense (s) and the resultant negative emotions

2. Determine appropriate boundaries to check evil and stimulate repentance

3. Deliberately let go of the right to hurt an abuser for the hurt they have inflicted.

4.  Reevaluate the abuser and discover their humanity

5  Extend appropriate grace.

He goes into each step in depth in his book.  This is both  challenging and rewarding.  Learning to let go and forgive brings great freedom.  Walking through this personally to grow and learn more of God is a blessing beyond comprehension.  As healing happens you will be  an instrument that God can use to help others.

Since I have been writing this blog, it has become more evident how widespread the tragedy of abuse is in the lives of so many.  When you wonder at irrational behavior of some it can often be traced back to abuse in their past.  As thoughts and information come my way, I will still post blog post about this issue.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: