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Debbie commented today, after looking at all the books on my desk, “Do you know you have 31 books on forgiveness?” Actually, I didn’t but she’s pretty close.  I’m working on a writing project about forgiveness.  In the process, I am trying to craft a new definition for forgiveness, which is harder than you might think.

I’m interested in a definition of forgiveness that can be applied in pastoral ministry in the local church.  In other words, I’m looking for a definition of forgiveness that pastors can share with their members to encourage them to practice “forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

I am advocating for a new definition of forgiveness that:

  • Takes into account the idea of forgiveness as a process;
  • Produces an effect that is recognizable, so that a person can determine if they are acting in a forgiving manner;
  • Values the broken relationship;
  • Is useful both in situations where the offender has asked for forgiveness, and in situations where he has not done so;
  • Seeks reconciliation as the final goal of forgiving acts;
  • Attends to the psychological and spiritual health of the offended;
  • Deals with the problems of memory and emotions in the forgiving process; and,
  • Can be practically applied in local church ministry to assist and encourage the forgiving process.

What definition of forgiveness meets all of these criteria, and is clear enough to be helpful to pastors in their local church ministry?  Any thoughts?  Fire away in the comments.  Thanks.