Forgiveness and Trust Are Not the Same
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. 2 Corinthians 5:16
In treatment for chemical dependency, the one who’s struggled with addiction will often return to his faith, appropriately finding forgiveness in God. Then, because he feels that God has forgiven him, he expects that others should forgive him as well. God has forgiven me. Why can’t you?
Regarding those Christians around him, the newly sober addict has a case found in today’s passage. In it, Paul said that when others come to Christ, we’re to no longer regard them according to their old, destructive flesh nature. We’re now to regard them as new creations in Christ. The old has passed, the new has come, and we’re not to hold previous mistakes and sins against them.
The one new to recovery knows this though, and often wants to take advantage of it as if it were a loophole provided by Christianity. The Bible says you can’t hold my past against me. I’m no longer an addict and you must forgive me and act as if nothing ever happened. I’ve seen many addicts who, though they only have a few days or weeks sober, think that their spouses (whom they’ve hurt repeatedly) must trust them again because they’ve confessed faith.
This isn’t what the passage says though. The passage says that when someone comes to faith, we should regard them as new creatures in Christ. That likely will involve forgiveness, but it doesn’t mean we just forget the hurts of the past and it doesn’t necessarily mean we must trust them again. Forgiveness and trust are not the same. Trust must be earned back over time. If a man cheats on his wife 10 times, she may eventually come to forgive him. She can however, forgive while removing herself from his destructive path, never trusting him again. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we must allow the other person to wound us over and over.
When others come to faith, we can and should regard them as new creations. There is significant responsibility on their part though, to live up to that new life. If they repeatedly return to the destructive old life, Paul doesn’t ask that we turn a blind eye to failure, just because someone calls themselves a Christian.
When others come to faith in Christ and are transformed, we can and should forgive the past. However, they must now live in that new life. In doing so, they may earn trust back over time. Forgiveness and trust, however, are not the same.