70 x 7

You have heard about “the weaker brother” concept from Paul’s writings. These are people whose sensitivity to certain things is so heightened that you have to be careful around them less you should injure their faith.

But some people take that concept to extremes. I call them “professional” weaker brothers, i.e. people who live to find occasion to get offended. They are the ones who have never been freed from legalism and think they must share the misery of that “jail” with everybody else.

To a brother or sister who is genuinely struggling with certain behaviors that you think Christ has given you the liberty to engage in, I say do everything you can to not build a road block to their growth in Christ. To the “professional” weaker brother, I say, gently but firmly challenge him to recognize his erring ways.

The same is true for those I call the “professional” forgiveness seekers, i.e. people who hide behind the 70X7 passage to excuse sinful behavior. Forgiveness does not mean acceptance of bad behavior. Forgiveness does not always lead to reconciliation. Forgiveness does not mean someone gets permission to live outside the law, whether God’s or man’s law.

To be sure, you should always extend forgiveness whether the person asks for it or not, meaning you free yourself and the other person from the possibility of retaliating against him/her. But that does not mean that there may not be divine or judicial consequences for someone’s evil acts.

David was forgiven for his despicable behavior toward Bathsheeba and his murderous actions against her husband, but the child conceived through that relationship still died. Later, he was barred from building God’s temple because he had shed too much blood.

There are child abusers who have the audacity to ask for forgiveness and turn right around to repeat the behavior. They need to be reported to the police and put away for the rest of their lives. The husbands (and even a small minority of wives) who abuse their spouses physically, emotionally and verbally and expect a passionate kiss later in the evening after they say they are sorry for what they did, need to be forgiven, yes, but they also need to deal with the consequences of their despicable behavior.

Jesus asks you to forgive even the worst of them, but He does not require for you to go running back again and again into the arms of your abuser. Forgiveness is not a passport to victimization. Forgiveness should lead to conviction and changed behavior. Otherwise, it’s just a toy in the hand of our adversary to rob us of the light of Jesus Christ and the full life God desires for us to have.

Only you can determine whether you are in front of a habitual, manipulative, forgiveness seeker. But if you, with God’s help and advice of others, determine that you are, be quick to forgive but protect your soul from further abuse. Forgiveness is a gift from God that should lead to repentance, not a theological excuse to keep on sinning.

Blessings to all,

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA