One of the most challenging issues I face in my work with clergy sexual misconduct and church conflict is forgiveness. How many times have I heard something along the lines of “The scriptures instruct us to forgive one another, you should forgive her and just get over it” or “I know I will never be truly free and healed until I forgive him, but I just can’t do it. He destroyed my life and my best friend took his own life because of him, he has never acknowledged the wrong, even in prison. I can’t forgive him and I am stuck.”
Compared to other elements pastoral teaching like the call to exercise compassion, kindness, justice-seeking and truth-telling, the biblical material relating to forgiveness is actually quite complex for several reasons.