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Does Forgiveness Cancel Accountability and Consequences?

2/24/2023 10:00:00 AM BY Dr James H Dotson Jr

When Jesus was asked by his disciples to teach them how to pray, Jesus taught them what today we call the Lord’s Prayer. One sentence in the Lord’s Prayer asks God to forgive our sins, as we ourselves forgive the sins of others against us (see Luke 11:1–4 and Matthew 6:5-15).

Considering Genesis to Revelation in the Holy Bible, there is no question, at least for me, that God calls the disciples of Jesus Christ to forgive.

That said, does forgiveness cancel accountability and consequences? In other words, if I forgive a person, does that mean he/she is not answerable for his/her actions and/or that he/she will bear no consequences for their actions? Or, stated differently, are those who commit trespasses against me free of responsibility or free of any consequences for their actions by virtue of me forgiving them?

What does the Holy Bible say about this? Space does not permit an exhaustive review here. But let’s consider just one story from the Holy Bible that may shed some light on this question.

King David, Bathsheba, and Uriah

In the Old Testament (2 Samuel 11:1–27), the story is told King David, Bathsheba, and Uriah. What follows is a brief summary of their story.

One evening, King David was walking on the roof of his home, and he saw a beautiful woman bathing. David inquired about the woman, and learned that she was Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah. Even though King David knew she was married, he sent for her anyway, slept with her, and shortly thereafter learned from her that she was pregnant from their union. 

At this time, King David’s army was at war. They were under the command of Joab, and Uriah was one among the troops. In an attempt to cover up their pregnancy, David sent word to Joab to have Uriah sent back to Jerusalem where he was. Once back in Jerusalem, David told Uriah to go home and spend some time there. His strategy was that while Uriah was home, he would sleep with his wife so that the pregnancy could be stealthily attributed to him. 

But being the noble warrior he was, Uriah refused to go to the comforts of his home knowing that his comrades were at war battling an enemy. Instead, Uriah slept at the door of David’s house with his servants. So, David’s first attempt to cover up his adultery and resulting pregnancy failed. 

David tried one more time. This time, he had Uriah eat and drink with him to the point that Uriah got drunk. David’s strategy was that being well-fed and drunk, Uriah would go home, sleep with his wife, and cover up his pregnancy with his wife Bathsheba. But again, Uriah did not go to his home and once again slept with David’s servants.

When David realized his plan was not going to work, he sent a written message back to Joab, in fact carried to Joab by Uriah, instructing Joab to put Uriah at a place where he knew there would be valiant soldiers so that Uriah would be killed. 

Joab did what King David told him to do and Uriah was killed by enemy soldiers. After Bathsheba’s period of mourning was over for Uriah, David brought her to his home, and she became his wife.

So, King David lusted and coveted for Uriah’s wife Bathsheba, committed adultery with her, and got her pregnant. Then, he devised a deceptive plot to try to have the pregnancy attributed Uriah, and when that didn’t work arranged to have Uriah killed, and then brought his wife Bathsheba to his house to be his wife. 

Nathan Rebukes David

Now, considering that David was described as a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:13-15) and that God had selected him to replace King Saul (1 Samuel 16:1-13), God could have chosen to cover up the matter and keep it quiet. I mean really, for this series of events to go public would have been, in the language of today, a public relations nightmare!

But instead, God chose to send one of his prophets to confront King David (2 Samuel 12:1–15):

“And the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had very many flocks and herds, 3 but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. 4 Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” 5 Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, 6 and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” 

7 Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. 8 And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. 9 Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’” 13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. 14 Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.” 15 Then Nathan went to his house. …”

King David Forgiven and Held Accountabile with Consequences

I don’t have space here to recount the full story of King David, Bathsheba, and Uriah. You can read that for yourself in 2 Samuel 11:1—20:26. Here, let me just note seven important takeaways from this story.

  1. God did not hide the issue or use cleverly devised speak to twist the truth about what happened. He confronted the issue head on and exposed the truth of what King David did. This story is included in the Scriptures so we may learn from it (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
  2. God reminded King David that he could have and would have provided for all of his legitimate needs. But instead of living in harmony with the Word of God, God declared that by his evil actions David despised the Word of God (2 Samuel 12:7-9)
  3. In response to being confronted by God through the prophet Nathan, King David did not seek to make excuses for his sins. For example, nowhere is it recorded that King David said something like Bathsheba should not have been on her roof bathing nor that she shouldn’t have come when he sent for her. Rather, “David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” … (2 Samuel 12:13, ESV).
  4. King David took responsibility for his sins and he repented (see Psalm 51). And God forgave King David for his sins: “… And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.” (2 Samuel 12:13, ESV).
  5. At the same time, while forgiven of his sins, God held King David accountable for his sins and, through Nathan, announced the consequences that would follow as a result (2 Samuel 12:10-12 & 2 Samuel 12:14). 
  6. Notice also that the consequences of King David’s sins did not affect King David only, but also extended to his household (2 Samuel 12:10-12 & 2 Samuel 12:14).
  7. Yet, even throughout the consequences, God remained present with and faithful to King David—ultimately, he was never defeated by his enemies, even though the consequences he and his household experienced were significant indeed (2 Samuel 13:1—1 Kings 2:12).

So, Does Forgiveness Cancel Accountability and Consequences?

Forgiveness does not necessarily cancel accountability and consequences. Forgiveness, accountability, and consequences may sometimes occur together. Throughout the Holy Bible, we see God’s love, and we also see God’s justice; and we see God’s forgiveness, grace, and mercy, and we also see God’s punishment and discipline. 

Now, am I suggesting that I should forget about forgiveness, and focus instead on accountability and consequences? No! No! No! No! No! Certainly not! Or, am I suggesting that I should definitely forgive, and then race like a pit bull to vengence against the person I have forgiven? Again, no, no, no, no, no—absolutely not!!!

So, exactly what am I saying. To forgive another person does not necessarily nor always mean that the action(s) of the person forgiven is or should be left unaddressed. 

Sometimes, the results of leaving sins unaddressed can lead to other undesireable consequences. Let me share three examples to explain.

First, a girl’s father was sexually abusing her. She did not want to report him because she loved her father and was concerned about what would happen to him if he was reported. Left unaddressed, he continued to sexually abuse her, as well as another sibling, and later his own grandchildren. It’s great to have concerns for the abuser. But what about concerns for the abused? Do they not count? Sometimes, leaving sins unaddressed may allow a person to continue bringing harm to others.

Second, during a service at a church I once attended, the Pastor got up and called upon the church to forgive the organist who had committed adultery. But at no point did I ever hear the Pastor get up and speak about the adultery the organist committed or the damage resulting from his adultery. I believe in forgiveness. Really, I do. I also believe in the commandments “You shall not commit adultery” and “you shall love your neighbor as you love yourself”. Do we promote forgiveness, and yet ignore sin and its consequences? Do we tell a wife who is living with an adulterous and abusive husband to forgive, and yet say nothing to or do nothing about the adulterous and abusive husband? Do we tell persons affected by the sins of others to forgive, while saying/doing nothing about the persons committing the sins? Sometimes, leaving sins unaddressed may create an environment where individuals feel enboldened and enabled to continue in sin. 

Finally, a teacher was caught one night having sex in his car with one of his students. How did the church/school respond? They rallied around the teacher to support him, rather than rallying around the student to support her. In a situation like this, it is so very important to undertake a process to really look closely at what happen, get at its core, and take genuine steps to effectively help BOTH/ALL parties in the situation. Sometimes, we are so quick to jump on the forgiveness / restoration bandwagon, that we overlook the real victims of sin as well as miss an opportunity to work with those committing sins to address areas in their life where critical growth and transformation are needed.  

To forgive is an important call of God to all the followers of Jesus Christ. At the same time, the story of King David, Bathsheba and Uriah indicates that sometimes accountability and consequences accompany forgiveness. 

Do I have a formula to give you for whom, when, where and how that happens? No, that’s the kind of wisdom you want to get from the Holy Spirit (James 1:5). I just hope that you take away from this blog greater awareness that sometimes forgiveness, accountability and consequences occur together. You can forgive a person, and that person can still be held answerable, responsible, and accountable for his/her action(s), as was the case with King David.

For More Information

For notifications of upcoming blogs and other TFT updates, go to our Home page and Join Our Email List.

For more information about sexuality, wellness, and change, visit our online Resource Center.

Contact Us to schedule TFT coachingcommunications, or consulting services.

Copyright © 2023 Training for Transformation, Inc. All rights reserved.



1/22/2023 8:00:00 AM BY Dr James H Dotson Jr

The dictionary defines joy variously as the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; a source or cause of keen pleasure or delight; something or someone that provides a source of happiness; a person or thing that causes happiness.

How do I get that? How do I keep that? How do I experience joy in a life that, while it includes blessings, also includes unwanted, unexpected, and undesirable issues, problems, pain, trauma, as well as trouble and tribulation all around?

The Good and the Bad

There is no question but that I have many blessings in my life. At the same time, I have experienced and still experience some drawbacks, trouble, hurts/harms, grief, and loss, including child sexual abuse; an absent father (Dad was out of our home before I was 11-years old); loss of one kidney due to cancer; a tumor in my brain; loss of vision in one eye resulting from radiotherapy to prevent further increase/expansion of my brain tumor … 

So, how do I deal with that? And, how do I find joy in the midst of ALL the realities of my life—the good and the bad?

Temporary Happiness

Earlier in my life, I sought happiness through lots of stuff that was only temporary. I smoked, I drank, I was sexually promiscuous with many women, and for a time I pretty much did whatever I felt like doing.

But the happiness always evaporated. Yes, it was fun and cool and pleasurable at the time. But eventually, it left me unfulfilled and, sometimes, dealing with unintended consequences—often too high a price to pay for what was only temporary.

What brings you happiness? When you’re “hit in the gut” with the circumstances of your life, what or who is it that enables you to keep on going? To what or to whom do you turn to be happy?

A Sustaining Joy

Fortunately, I’ve found a way to experience a kind of happiness that is lasting and transcends the everyday realities of my life—joy

What is the source of my joy in the midst of my good AND my bad?

Allow me to share some selected passages from the Bible to answer that question.

  • ““For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NLT
  • ““Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” (Revelation 3:20, NLT)
  • “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. … “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (John 15:4–11, NLT
  • “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. …” (Galatians 5:22–23, NLT
  • “So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”” (Luke 11:13, NLT
  • ““Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” (John 14:1–3, NLT
  • “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”” (John 16:33, NLT)
  • “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. … And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” … All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children. …”” (Revelation 21:1–8, NLT)

My Bottom Line

There is so much more I could share with you about joy. But in the interest of time and space, let me end with this summary of how believing and living by these biblical truths in my life has and continues to bring me joy, both in the “good” and the “bad” of my life.

  1. Jesus Christ invites me into a relationship with him. It’s not mandatory or compulsory, but voluntary. I believe in Jesus and willingly accept his invitation.
  2. For me, that’s more than just head knowledge. It’s an ongoing relationship. I love Jesus and Jesus loves me; I abide in Jesus and Jesus abides in me. We are friends.
  3. Jesus is also my Savior and Lord. As I follow him, I seek to keep his commandments. This is not a checklist of do’s and don’ts I mechanically follow. Keeping his commandments flows from my loving relationship with him.
  4. But you know what? I can’t do any of this on my own. I need help—and not just once, but continuously. So, I ask my heavenly Father for help and seek day-by-day to live in the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit who he willing gives to all who ask.
  5. And I am counting on and trusting God’s promise that he has a better life ahead for me at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This gives me the hope I so much need to keep journeying through life even when I face the unwanted, the unexpected, and the undesirable.

What About You?

Are you looking for joy? Do you need joy in your life?

I invite you to believe in Jesus Christ and anchor your joy in Him. 

Will that remove all issues, problems, pain, suffering, sorrow, trouble, or tribulation from your life?

No, not at all. The Bible doesn’t promise that to us in this life. (See, for example, John 16:33.)

But to those who are followers of Jesus Christ, the Bible does promise that God will walk with us through life and will never forsake us (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5).

And the Bible also promises those who believe and follow Jesus Christ that God will also work all things for good (Romans 8:28), ultimately including the inheritance of a new Heaven and Earth at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (Revelation 21:1-8Revelation 22:10-20). 

For More Information

For notifications of upcoming blogs and other TFT updates, go to our Home page and Join Our Email List.

For more information about sexuality, wellness, and change, visit our online Resource Center.

Contact Us to schedule TFT coaching, consulting, or communications services.

Copyright © 2023 Training for Transformation, Inc. All rights reserved.

Be Alert!!!

1/7/2023 10:30:00 PM BY Dr James H Dotson Jr

Did you know that every 68 seconds, an American is sexually assaulted?

Or did you know that:

  • 1 out of every 6 American women and about 1 out of every 33 American men has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime;  
  • Eight out of 10 rapes are committed by someone known to the victim; and 
  • Only 25 out of every 1,000 rapists will end up in prison?

Or were you aware that from 2009-2013, Child Protective Services agencies substantiated, or found strong evidence to indicate that, 63,000 children a year were victims of sexual abuse? (Note: A majority of child victims are 12-17. Of victims of sexual assault and rape under the age of 18: 34% are under age 12, and 66% are age 12-17.)

What is Sexual Violence?

These statistics do not tell the whole story about sexual violence, because there are other forms of sexual violence and, unfortunately, many cases of sexual violence are unreported because victims:

  • May be ashamed, embarrassed, or afraid to tell the police, family, or friends about the violence. 
  • May keep silent because they have been threatened with further harm to self or family if they tell anyone.
  • Do not think anyone will believe or help them.

“Sexual violence is sexual activity when consent is not obtained or freely given.”

Sexual violence is an all-encompassing, non-legal term that refers to rape, sex trafficking, sexual assault, sexual abuse, child sexual abuse, incest, intimate partner sexual violence, and other forms of nonconsensual or forced sexual activity. (Note: Here in the USA, the legal definition of crimes vary from state to state.)

Sexual violence is a serious problem that profoundly impacts the health and wellbeing of those who are victims. And the impacts can be lifelong, especially if left unaddressed. 

Is Help Available for Victims of Sexual Violence?

Yes!!! If you need help or know someone who does, consider these resources.

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN)

National Domestic Violence Hotline

  • Free. Confidential. 24/7.
  • Call 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) OR TTY 1.800.787.3224
  • Text “START” to 88788
  • Chat Live Online

love is respect

  • Help specifically for young people.
  • Call 1.866.331.9474 OR TTY 1.800.787.3224
  • Text LOVEIS to 22522
  • Chat Live Online

Read the brochure Breaking the Silence: You Can Stop the Violence. This can be a healthy step to getting the help you need.

What Can We Do to Stop Sexual Violence?

First, be alert. “… Anyone can experience or perpetrate sexual violence. The perpetrator of sexual violence is usually someone the survivor knows, such as a friend, current or former intimate partner, coworker, neighbor, or family member. …”

Second, set aside myths and other common beliefs about sexual violence that are not true. These undermine efforts to prevent sexual violence, become an obstacle to taking appropriate actions when sexual violence does occur, and ultimately make it difficult for victims of sexual violence to receive the help and justice they so deserve. 

Space in this blog does not permit an exhaustive review of these myths and false beliefs. To raise awareness about the facts about sexual violence, begin by reading the brochure Breaking the Silence: You Can Stop the Violence.

In the meantime, let me just call out some of the falsehoods that are common.  

  • Only strangers molest children. 
  • Children will quickly outgrow effects of abuse. 
  • Abuse survivors exaggerate.
  • Some people ask, provoke, or want to be abused.
  • It is a sin for Christian victims to seek to prosecute their abusers. 
  • Some people deserve to be abused.

These are among the myths and common beliefs that are not true, which are obstacles to dealing lovingly and justly with victims of sexual violence.

Finally, if you suspect someone you know is being abused, the Women’s Ministries Department of General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists offers this counsel on how you can help.

  • Call the authorities and report the abuse.
  • Don’t try to solve the abuse situation by yourself.
  • Find out about abuse prevention agencies in your area. Call and initiate the help needed.
  • Listen without interrupting and don’t feel as though you have to offer advice.
  • Encourage him/her to seek professional counseling.
  • Don’t criticize the abuser.
  • Offer to be a prayer partner.
  • Invite him/her to join you on outings without bringing up the abuse situation.
  • Keep your word and frequently follow-up to see how he/she is doing.

Be alert!!! Don’t be a passive bystander. Do what you can to help stop sexual violence.


“Breaking the Silence: You Can Stop the Violence”

CDC, Injury Center, Violence Prevention, Intimate Partner Violence

CDC, Injury Center, Violence Prevention, Sexual Violence

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network)

For More Information

Visit the TFT Online Resource Center for more information about sexual abuse and exploitation.

Copyright © 2023 Training for Transformation, Inc. All rights reserved.