I know a man who has a sexual addiction for which he has never received therapy. He seems unconvinced that he has a “problem,” despite a history of using pornography, exposing himself publicly, using prostitutes, and molesting children (to include his own daughter).
His daughter has forgiven him, and she wants to honor God by honoring her father. But wouldn’t that necessitate some sort of relationship? How could there be a relationship without honesty and trust? And what about the likelihood of future abuse of daughter and grandchildren if unrepentent offender enters their lives once again?
How can the daughter honor the father? Can this be done without having any contact? And does forgiveness necessitate a restored relationship in the case of such a potentially dangerous person?
I’m sure the readers will have much to add.
One of the toughest issues we sometimes face is how to forgive someone without become an enabler. By “enabler” I mean someone who helps a sinner sin.
For example, if an employee steals from men and asks my forgiveness, I should forgive him. That doesn’t mean I should leave him handling cash unsupervised. That would not only be naive of me, it would tempt him to repeat his sin — which would be very wrong of me.
Forgiving someone doesn’t mean believing a lie about her. It doesn’t mean assuming that she’s utterly defeated the sin. It just means I’ve forgiven her and so no longer hold that sin against her. It doesn’t mean that I have to trust her. That’s not the meaning of forgiveness.
Rather, forgiveness means I no longer hold the sin against the sinner. The sin no longer interferes with our being friends and loving each other. And it allows me to see that person as he really is without being clouded by resentment. Indeed, forgiveness sometimes even allows me to see his sin more clearly because it becomes less personal. I can be more objective about it.
Forgiveness doesn’t require that the other person repent or change. Forgiveness means that I change because my attitude toward that person changes. Obviously, the person being forgiven ought to repent and ask for forgiveness, but I shouldn’t wait. Rather, I should forgive as God forgives.
(Col 3:13) Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
When Jesus asked God to forgive those who crucified him, he didn’t wait for their repentance. When we were baptized, we were forgiven. We repented in the sense of turning our lives toward God, but we didn’t entirely stop sinning. In fact, many of us continued to sin because we didn’t even know we were sinning. Our education in Christian living came later. But we were still forgiven.
Therefore, the daughter of an abusive man should not allow herself or her chidren to be abused. Forgiveness doesn’t require that. In fact, it would be a grave sin to permit that to happen. But she can and should still forgive her father and seek a relationship with him. But she shouldn’t ever put herself or her children in a situation where they are at risk, even if it hurts his feelings.
Paul tells children –
(Eph 6:1-2) Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother”–which is the first commandment with a promise–
– but notice the “in the Lord.” She has no obligation to allow or permit him to sin. Indeed, she honors her father best by helping him overcome his sinful tendencies.