Rick Warren: There Is a Difference Between Forgiveness and Trust

(Photo: Reuters/Chip East)Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren participates in a panel discussion during the Clinton Global Initiative in New York September 26, 2008.

While God calls all Christians to practice forgiveness, there is a clear distinction between forgiving and trusting again, Pastor Rick Warren says.

Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Orange County, California, explains in his Devotional this week that while forgiveness does not need to be earned, a restoration of trust does, and therefore it does not happen instantly but over time.

"Forgiveness does not mean the instant restoration of trust. Forgiveness is instant. Trust must be rebuilt over time. Forgiveness is based on grace. Trust is built on works. You earn trust. You don't earn forgiveness," the pastor emphasizes, pointing to Romans 12:19 (NIV) which reads: "Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord."

Christians should trust that God will deliver justice to those who have wronged them, Warren adds. So it's important for believers to practice forgiveness for their own spiritual health.

"Forgiveness is only your part, whether they respond or not, whether they ask for it or not, whether they even recognize they need it or not. You forgive for your sake. Restoration of a relationship takes far more than forgiveness. It takes repentance. It takes restitution and a rebuilding of trust. And it often takes much more time," he says.

Warren has spoken on the importance of forgiveness before, writing in a blog post earlier this week that Christians need to forgive because resentment resembles a "self-inflicted wound."

"Whenever you're resentful, it always hurts you more than the person you're bitter against. In fact, while you're still worrying about something that happened years ago, the other person has forgotten about it! Your past is past, and it can't hurt you any more unless you hold on to it," he says.

The megachurch pastor wrote in a separate post that while God calls believers to forgive, he doesn't tell people to forget.

"When you're trying to forget, you are actually focusing on the very thing you want to forget," Warren explains. "Instead, [God] wants you to trust him and see how he can bring good out of it. That's more important than forgetting, because then you can thank God for the good that he brought out of it. You can't thank God for things you forget."

Warren cites Romans 8:28, which states that God will work "for the good of those who love Him."