I'm really having a hard time with Christianity right now. Things keep getting more confusing to me, which makes me want to give up. We were discussing forgiveness in class Sunday and scenarios we brought up stating how hard it would be to forgive someone and how the relationship may not be the same based on the circumstance.

For example, if someone continues to steal from your home and they continue to ask for forgiveness. You forgive them, but at the same time you use common sense and put your valuables away. The argument was did you really forgive them if you don't trust them? I am so confused.

Another example was what if a pedophile asked for forgiveness? A sister mentioned she wouldn't leave her children around him although we have forgiven him. We also talked about hating the sin and not the sinner, and it was mentioned that it's easy to say we would forgive the murderer, but in reality it may not happen right away. In some cases it's easier to say something that you should do until you're put in the situation yourself.

So I guess I'm asking: does forgiveness mean that the relationship has to go back to the way it was after a person has asked for forgiveness and you've forgiven them? Is it literally possible to forget an offense? Like God remembers our sins no more, but how could He forget them if He knows everything? Or is that figurative to say that you shouldn't dwell on it?

I'm just tired of feeling like I understand the word then come to realize that I may not even have a clue about what I thought I knew. I am beating myself up, getting discouraged and loosing faith. I think my worry comes from not knowing the final judgment and wondering if I'm in good standing with God.


"Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation -- as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen" (II Peter 3:14-18).

Yes, there are hard things in the Scriptures, but surely you didn't sign up to follow Jesus because you thought it would be easy?

"Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'; and 'a man's enemies will be those of his own household.' He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it" (Matthew 10:34-39).

When Jesus taught about forgiveness, the disciples were shocked, much like you. "Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, 'I repent,' you shall forgive him. And the apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith"" (Luke 17:3-5). In essence they told Jesus they were having a hard time believing that the thing he just told them was true. They probably couldn't see themselves doing as Jesus taught.

The problem with hypothetical situations is that they tend to be extremes -- situations you would never run across in real life. Nor are the answers you relayed ones where people put enough thought into their responses. Reverse the situation and think about the problems again. If someone sins against you, repents of their sins and asks for your forgiveness, we are commanded to forgive. That means we are releasing them from any obligation to us because of their sins. If you owed me $500 and I told you that I forgive the debt, it means I don't expect to be paid back and I won't hold it against you that you were once indebted to me. If you smacked me and cracked my jaw, my forgiveness means that I won't hold you liable for what you did. It is over and done.

But that is only a portion of my obligation to a brother who had sin. His sin shows a weakness in the face of certain temptations. I need to be concerned about protecting my brother against temptation. "But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!" (Matthew 18:6-7). If I know a brother is an alcoholic, I don't help him get an apartment above a liquor store. If I know a brother has problems with sexual sins, I don't leave him alone with a woman. I do these things for his sake. It isn't about protecting me from harm but keeping a brother I care about out of the path of harming himself. So in the case of a former pedophile, I don't leave him alone with any children -- mine or any others. I don't want him tempted again and I don't want Satan having opportunities to falsely accusing him either.

Let me give you an example, I deal with addicts quite a bit. When they repent and try to clean up their life, I give them all the help I can. I encourage them to make good decisions, which is often hard when you are trying to get your brain to function again. I help them though the panic attacks and the despondencies that comes from withdrawal. I help them find productive work and a safe place to live. But I lovingly tell them that when it comes to drugs or alcohol, I won't trust their ability to resist. I try to watch over them, checking on them, and when they do succumb again, confront them. I do it because I love them. It doesn't matter how many cycles we have to go through. What is important is that this time, I want them clean, sober, and righteous before the Lord.

What happens too often is someone sins and people are quick to say, "I forgive you." But they never try to change the sinner. Instead, they isolate themselves from the sinner and believe that they are doing as God requires. But always, the goal is to remove sin from people's lives. "Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins" (James 5:19-20).

OK, thanks. I have read the articles on your site regarding forgiveness.

So is it different when it comes to a relationship and dating? If a person cheats or wrongs you and you break up, but you forgive them, are you required to be buddies again? Or is being cordial OK because of not wanting to fall back into an emotional bond, knowing it won't work?

My apologies if it seems I don't grasp it all the time, but I try to understand by putting myself in a situation and not really knowing how I would react when it comes to forgiveness.

Forgiveness doesn't mean you have to start dating a person again. It does mean that you aren't going to hold his mistake against him. So yes, it does mean treating them like every other Christian. "Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do" (Colossians 3:12-13). You should not treat him worse than others just because you had a falling out.