Okay, now a follow-up to this post on "forgiving and forgetting" which was itself a follow-up to this mega-post.
I presented three illustrations of grace, through forgiveness and discipline, in action. I hoped to demonstrate that one can forgive an offender but still maintain a disciplinary distance, if you will, in one's relationship with the offender. The illustrations were:
1. My daughter poured coffee grounds all over the kitchen floor. I forgive her, which means I treat her as if she'd never done it. But I move the coffee canister out of her reach so she no longer has access to it.
2. A wife runs up massive credit card debt shopping online. Her husband forgives her, which means he treats her as if she'd never done it. But he nevertheless cancels her credit cards to prevent subsequent offense.
3. A husband is addicted to online pornography. His wife forgives him, which means she treats him as if he never looked at those images, but she nevertheless installs a web filter and monitors his browsing.
So, is this really forgiveness? I'm asking it to myself, so I'm assuming someone else is asking it also. I tried to point out in that previous post that we can't cheapen grace to exclude a disciplinary aspect, but if we are to treat someone as if they'd never hurt us, wouldn't that include opening ourselves up to the possibility of suffering that hurt again?
What we're talking about now is trust. Trust is both the seed and fruit of reconciliation.
You can forgive someone you don't trust, but you can't trust someone you haven't forgiven. Trust takes time.
Actually, that's what trust is. Trust is the offender's repentance plus time.
When someone sins against you, theoretically speaking, you can forgive them immediately. You can respond with grace nearly instantaneously. But in most cases of severe offense, disciplinary action is necessary, and this action is a two-way street. Over time, the discipline "rehabilitates" the offender and cultivates trust in the offended. (This is always assuming, of course, that the offender is truly repentant and the offended is truly forgiving.)
It takes time, but a repentant person can re-create trust between himself and the one he's sinned against. Your mileage may vary.
So grace and forgiveness can be immediately offered; trust and restoration most often cannot be.
To the illustrations again:
1. Our coffee canister is back within reach of my daughter. I was at the point to treat her as if she hadn't spread coffee all over the floor mere moments after she'd done it. But now we are at the point where I really trust she won't do it again. Although I know my daughter will disobey every day (she's reliable like that ;-), it doesn't occur to me to think she'd play with the coffee again. Time grew trust.
2. Some day the concerned husband will trust his wife with the credit cards again.
3. Some day the dishonored wife will not think to see where her husband has been going online. Over time, she will trust that his repentance has stuck.
Trust is repentance plus time.