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Forgiveness and Peace

Theophostic Prayer and Forgiveness and Peace


Critic’s concern: Is Smith’s teaching that peace is one measure of genuine healing by God (Ibid, p. 107-108) really adequate to explain the complexity of this issue? Isaiah 26:3 teaches us that peace comes from consistent trust in God (intimacy), not quick fixes.  Can we also assume that a lack of peace may or may not indicate that a lie persists?

Ed Smith’s response:  Theophostic Prayer is not a course in systematic theology. I have not tried to cover every aspect of peace any more than I have tried to expound on all areas of grace, sanctification, salvation or the nature of man.  However, I have expounded on how peace can be an indicator of truth and the absence thereof can point us in the direction of lies we may believe.  

The Apostle Paul prays that the “Lord of Peace Himself (should) grant you peace in every circumstance.”  The Lord said that “My peace I give to you…” Peace is also the results of abiding in truth which would include trusting in God.  However, it is difficult to trust when I am holding onto a lie. If I lose my job tomorrow and I feel fearful then I am not walking in truth and there is also an absence of truth which is producing the fear that I feel.  My emotional response to the circumstance exposes what I believe.  However, if all I feel is the peace of Christ then I KNOW the truth and thus can trust.
   

 TPM is not, as you have suggested, a quick fix but rather a process of my choosing to identify the lies in my life and my holding these lies up to the Lord for His truth. This is not a quick fix but a process of prayer. No one would call a person coming to Christ in faith and getting saved a quick fix but rather a part of a life long journey with God. However, much does get “fixed quick” at the moment of salvation. Much can get “fixed” in a ministry session. However, much remains to yet be dealt with as well. Mind renewal is long term. When people call TPM a purported quick fix they are suggesting that we teach that everything is resolved in a session. This is not so and was never suggested by this teaching.  I have often stated in the training that mind renewal is a life-long process.

  I received this comment in an email from a person who had used TPM for many years. He said, “When people start TPM, they ask questions like, “How many sessions will it take?” But, as they move into and embrace this journey, they discover that it really isn't about getting this problem or that problem resolved (although that does happen). Rather, it's about opening more and more of our hearts to the Lord. Consistent trust of the Lord comes from an ever deepening relationship with Him. I believe that when I experientially know the truth I will know His peace. This has been very consistent in my own journey. When I have an absence of peace I have always been able to trace it back to one of two fundamental reasons. I either am not walking in the truth and am being deceived and thus my peace is stolen and replaced wit a lie-based emotion or I have sinned. When I sin, I lose my peace. TPM is focused on lie-based pain and regaining the peace of Christ by knowing His truth. When I know (not just have memorized) I have complete trust in God and thus abide in peace and the “peace of Christ can rule in my heart.”
 

Critic’s concern: Is it possible that Smith’s teaching about forgiveness may be lacking and therefore could not contribute to true “peace” since it may be both unbiblical and unhealthy? The Bible describes or presumes forgiveness to be a transaction: the first person honestly repents and seeks forgiveness with willingness to make amends; the second person extends forgiveness in response to the first person.  Luke 17:3 says, “…if he repents, forgive him.”  This qualification trumps all other passages on forgiveness according to the hermeneutical principle that the specific defines the general. Smith teaches that a person can forgive another by simply releasing the wounder of the debt even if the person is unrepentant.

   

Ed Smith’s response: I see your point and opinion and believe it has merit.  It is important to note that I do not teach that forgiveness is something that a facilitator suggests or directs the person to do in a session.  Rather, forgiveness (Greek-aphamey - letting go, cutting off, releasing something) is something that occurs as the person finds freedom from the painful lies they harbor and thereby the resentment, anger, hate, etc. simple falls off when freedom comes.  I have witnessed scores of people fully letting go of all resentment, anger, hostility and forgiving the person in sessions without the wounder ever participating in the process.  In the Theophostic process the wounder is not the focus of attention, but rather the lies the ministry recipient is holding. Forgiveness is focused on the dept and not the debtor.  I draw a clear distinction between forgiveness, which is focused on releasing the debt and reconciliation which is focused on the person and relationship.  You can read about this in the book Healing Life’s Hurts where I have committed a chapter to this issue.  

We may have to disagree on this point to some measure. However, whether you hold my position or not will not hinder the process. I would see this issue as peripheral (though still very important). You could embrace the basic principles of TPM while rejecting my position on forgiveness and still do effective TPM.  A problem I would have with waiting on the guilty party to come to me before I release them is, most guilty people never come to that place.  If my withholding forgiveness means that I have to hold to the resentment, anger, hurt, until the person seeks forgiveness then I cannot agree with your position.  I do not believe that it is ever God’s will we carry the emotional pain of unforgiveness or non-forgiveness.  I also am going to assume that you are saying that we can release the pain of what has been done against us while not letting the wounder off until he comes to us seeking forgiveness.  My main concern is that the wounded person let go of all that has him in bondage to the one who has wounded him.  This is about releasing a debt and not a debtor.  I am seeing this occur on a regular basis.  This is freedom.  I will look more carefully at the Luke passage and possibly write an article.  As I stated, I wrote about forgiveness in the sixth chapter of the book Healing Life’s Hurts where I tried to show forgiveness has much to do with letting go a debt and not so much on the relationship.  It sounds like you may be mixing up reconciliation with forgiveness.  Reconciliation has everything to do with the wounder repenting and seeking release.  Forgiveness of a debt can occur without the wounder’s participation.  We will probably not come to an agreement here which is really Okay with me since a person can still use TPM whether he agrees with me here or not.
   

  A primary passage that I look to is Matthew 18 where the King forgives the debt of the servant.  Yes, it appears the servant is repentant when he asks for release. However, we later see that he was not being honest by the response he makes toward a fellow servant who owes him little.  Nevertheless, the King releases him even when his motive was questionable.  Jesus also spoke from the cross, Father, forgive them…” long before we ever asked or repented.  

  A friend of mine who is an avid user of TPM wrote this in response to a letter he received about the issue of forgiveness in Theophostic Prayer.
   

  “Dear  ___________,

I agree with you that forgiveness is one of the most misunderstood concepts in the church. While it should be part of Christianity 101, even those who have been Christians for decades struggle with understanding this.  

  And I am saddened but not surprised that you have been at the business end of persecution by those who preach unconditional forgiveness.  

  I find Matthew 18 to be helpful in understanding forgiveness. We notice that forgiveness does not take place until the king takes a close look at what is owed and the servant's inability to repay (18:23-25). The point here is that forgiveness is not the same as condoning sin. We cannot truly forgive until we understand the gravity and harm of the offense we are forgiving. Many people confuse forgiving with condoning, rationalizing, minimizing or explaining away sin. Not true. Sin is sin.  

  I'm not sure I would call the servant's action in verse 26 repentance. I would call it fear and desperation. He promises something he cannot possibly fulfill. You could even say the servant is lying. But the king forgives the debt anyway.  

  Note that the king forgives the debt. Debts are forgiven after they are measured. Technically, he doesn't forgive the servant; he forgives the debt. If another debt came to light, the process would start up again. This is why global prayers of forgiveness don't seem to work too well. (For example, “I forgive my brother for everything he ever did wrong,” doesn't work. If he did something wrong, I must identify it, face it and make a decision to forgive.) Forgiveness must be aimed at a specific offense.
   

  The condition for forgiveness comes in verses 28-35. Being forgiven when he doesn't deserve forgiveness, the servant refuses to forgive a fellow servant, and makes him pay for his “crime” against him.  That tells me that we have an obligation to forgive, an obligation that God takes very seriously. In your letter, you give several examples. I would like to respond to them. The fellow board member who “was responsible for a great deal of unpublicized harm.” Forgiveness is not the same as condoning. Nor does it preclude rebuke when rebuke is called for. Nor is it the same as reconciliation. Relationship is based on trust. If trust is lost, it must be restored, earned again before the relationship can continue.

 For example, someone I care about was raped. Although I think forgiveness is an important part of the healing process, I do everything in my power to protect the victim from having any contact with the perpetrator. I also championed the prosecution of the man who committed the crime. Simply because we may choose to forgive does not mean that the legal system should forgive. No. They have a different responsibility before God. It isn't our job to dispense justice, but it is their job to dispense it. We are not vigilantes; we are citizens.
   

  “... the implication is that if Christ teaches us to forgive everyone, then we should not take action ...” Of course we should take action as appropriate. But that doesn't preclude forgiveness. Compare, for example, Acts 7:60 with Acts 16:37 and 22:25.  

  The Lord has given us the great privilege here in the United States to have a voice in the political process. I have certainly used that right to influence public policy where possible. Forgiving wrongdoers doesn't prevent me from campaigning against wrongdoing.  

  Luke 17:3-4. There is a process we must go through when we sin. We must see the wrong that we have done. We must change our minds and align ourselves not with the sin, but with God. That is, we must repent. Until we do so, we are out of sync with Christ and with His church. To gloss over this process when a fellow believer sins is not loving at all. It is destructive because it adds distance between that believer and his God. So we help our brothers and sisters find their way to repentance. We could pull 2 Timothy 2:24-26 into this context for a fuller understanding of how this works. (Note particularly who grants repentance.)  

  Now compare Luke 17:3-4 with Matthew 18:22-23. When someone sins against me, it is my job to forgive. Nothing is said about repentance here. This will probably make more sense if you have children. As an inexperienced parent, when my children had conflicts, I tried to act as an arbitrator; I tried to make everything fair. But I quickly discovered something. It will never be fair in the minds of all my children. What is fair to one child seems grossly unfair to another. And what seems fair to me seems unfair to all the parties in the dispute. So I stopped trying to resolve fights by trying to make things fair. (I do try to make things fair; I just don't rely on that as a means of resolving fights.) The point is this: If we wait until the offender has repented to our satisfaction, we may have a very long wait.  

  I think we need to sort out something here. There are multiple relationships with multiple responsibilities. If you strike me in the face, it is my job to forgive you, whether you repent or not. I have a right to be angry with you, but I don't have a right to stay angry. I cannot let the sun go down on my wrath (Ephesians 4) lest a root of bitterness in me defiles many (Hebrews 12). However, the church has a responsibility to deal with you (Matthew 18), as do the civil authorities (Romans 13). To gain God's forgiveness, you have a responsibility to repent (1 John 1:9 among others). So my forgiving you is not wiping out your responsibilities to the church, the government and to God. It is simply transferring something that is not my responsibility (assuring justice, fairness for the wrong that was done) to God and his servants.  

  The passage in Isaiah 2:9 comes to mind here. Isaiah as a priest and a prophet was acting on God's behalf. He was not to extend God's forgiveness to an unrepentant people.  

  My wife and I pray with people who have been abused and sometimes traumatized by others. We help these people find the grace from God to release their once righteous but now unholy anger. We don't bully people into saying boilerplate forgiveness prayers, but rather invite the Lord's comforting grace and truth into very difficult places. The outcome is forgiveness, emotional healing, spiritual transformation, righteousness, peace and joy.  

  You mention the example of someone banking on God's forgiveness in order to commit a sin. This is extremely dangerous and presumptive. I wonder if Ananias and Sapphira were banking on God's forgiveness in Acts 5. True repentance has not taken place or the sin would not be committed.  

  Psalm 51 is an excellent model for repentance. Note particularly David's statement: “You desire truth in the inner parts.” Lies keep us from repentance; truth sets us free. And I see wisdom in your observation that repentance doesn't necessarily shield us from the consequences of our sin – particularly for leaders.  

  Forgiving someone who wrongs you for your own sake is not selfish. Rather it is obedience. Beware of rejecting something merely because it is therapeutic. Some Christians make the mistake of thinking that God does not want us whole. To not forgive is to harbor bitterness that will defile many (Hebrews 12). This has nothing to do with justifying the actions of a perpetrator. On the contrary, when we truly forgive we have the emotional strength to do what is appropriate in regards to the perpetrator – as in the rape example I provided earlier.  

  People like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Richard Wurmbrand, Harlan Popov and many others understand forgiveness at a deeper level because they had to live it without making excuses for those who did wrong. They were on the knife edge. Failing to forgive would destroy them. Condoning their tormentors would destroy them. Forgiving is in the best interests of Christ. Condoning is in the best interest of the devil. Restoration and reconciliation is possible when repentance takes place and trust is restored.”


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