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Ambassador Baptist Church
1926 Babcock Blvd
Pittsburgh, PA 15209
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clear.gif - 808 Bytes I was physically & sexually abused by my father. The Bible says I should forgive those who sin against me, but I am having a tough time forgiving my father. One reason would be the effects it still has on my daily life. I was raised in a church-going baptist family and this also caused confusion for me. He would abuse me Saturday, then take me to church twice on Sunday. For a long time I wanted nothing to do with the church. I still loved my Lord, but I guess I just didn't trust him to protect me. Recently, I have gone back to church. I am doing my best to get my life the way it should be. But not being able to forgive my father is hindering me in my spiritual walk. I was once told I did not have to forgive him because he had not repented or acknowledged any wrongdoing. Is this true?
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Thanks for writing.

I am very sorry to hear about your childhood experiences with your father. His behavior is sinful, and he needs to repent of it.

What do you need to do? You can not answer for your father, nor can you force your father to repent or change. However, you are responsible to live your life from here on in a way that is pleasing to God, as we all are.

I agree that you can not forgive your father for something that he has not repented of. The concept of forgiveness means that I am going to deal with the offender as Christ has dealt with me. Christ buried my sin in the depths of the sea (Micah 7;19); He put it behind His back (Isaiah 38:17); He has separated it from me as far as the East is from the West (Psalm 103:12), and He remembers it no more (Heb 8:12). In other words, He never brings it up, and treats it as if it never happened. However, Christ did that in response to my repentance, and my subsequent confession of sins. According to I John 1:9, when I confess, He will forgive.

Your father needs to deal both with you and God about his sin. It is, however, the responsibility of believers to attempt to restore those who have faults (Gal 6:1). You can not do that with your father if you do not confront him with his unBiblical behavior, and you can not confront him if you have forgiven him. Therefore, you can not forgive him, because it is important that he repent and confess so that he can be in a right relationship with God.

At the same time, apart from your responsibility to confront your Father, you have a life that you need to lead. Paul said that "forgetting those things which are behind... I press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:13-14). You need to move on, and live the parts of your life that do not directly involve your father as if you had forgiven him. You need to try to control what you think about. I am sure your experience is something that is vivid in your memory, but you CAN control your thoughts. In Phil 4:4-8, Paul tells the church (in the context of two women who used to be close, but now can't get along) that they are to 1. Rejoice in the Lord always; 2. Be moderate, which means to be willing to put up with less than you think you deserve, because Christ is coming soon; 3. Don't worry about anything, but pray and thank God for every situation; 4. Let the peace of God take control of your heart and mind; 5. Control your thought life, and only allow thoughts that are virtuous and praiseworthy. I'm not saying that this will be easy, but I am saying that it is not only possible, but Biblical.

You need to understand that you are responsible for your own spiritual life. We are not going to be able to stand at the judgement seat of Christ and blame others for our lack of Scriptural behavior. Romans 14:12 states that "Every one of us shall give account OF HIMSELF to God". You won't give account for your father, but for you. Thus, you can not allow his wickedness to keep you from doing right. I have often asked people this question: Are you going to allow a carnal, backslidden Christian to determine your personal relationship with Jesus Christ? If you don't do right because of your father, this is exactly what you will be doing. Thus, not only will Satan have won a victory in your father, but he will win one in you as well, because you will not be an effective servant of our Lord.

I am basing all this, of course, on the assumption that you have been born again. If that is not the case, then that needs to be the first step in your relationship with Christ. (See the Priority Section of our website). If you are indeed already a Christian, please don't get mad at God for what has happened. Isaiah tells us that God's ways and His thoughts are not like ours, for His are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9). Paul reminds us that "all things work together for good to them that love God" (Romans 8:28). God was not asleep when these things happened in your life. He did not cause them, for men sin because of their own lusts (James 1:13-14), and God can not be blamed for that. Yet somehow, in the sovereign mind and plan of God, these seemingly tragic events will not only make you more conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29), but will also allow you to bring more glory to Him (I Cor. 10:31). And being conformed to Christ and bringing glory to God is what we as Christians want to do more than anything else.

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Dr Mark Montgomery
Ambassador Baptist Church
1926 Babcock Blvd
Pittsburgh, PA 15209

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