Forgiveness without Repetance

The other night I gave a talk which touched on the topic of forgiveness. During the group discussion afterward the enduring question was brought up, do you forgive if the person does not repent? The answer to this question is a straightforward no, but the situations are not. How can you forgive if someone is not sorry? On the other hand, who is on what side of that equation?

The problem is that not all situations are black and white. In cases of rape, murder, and abuse it is clear that there is a victim and a criminal, but in cases of slander, gossip, and greed the line isn't so clearly etched. Naturally, the parties involved don't see it that way, but that should be expected. Although God is infallible, Christians are not.

Jesus, completely innocent and justified, on the cross said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." This example of forgiveness is what should guide our hearts when dealing with our fellow man. Jesus did not wait for man to come to Him in repentance, rather He did everything possible to prepare the way for reconciliation by going to man. But, He didn't forgive everyone either, otherwise there would be no Hell.

Christians should not wait for the other party to come in repentance begging for forgiveness. Of course that is what we would like because of our egos. Instead, they should proactively seek reconciliation. In humility, we always need to remember that we could be wrong even if we don't feel that way.
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift (Matt. 5:23-24).
The overwhelming emphasis of God's word is that we should forgive. It is even fair to say regardless of the sincerity of the repentance. Jesus taught us to forgive seventy times seven and even seven times in one day. Let me tell you if somebody sinned against me twice in one day good luck with getting me to forgive them. Clearly, I have something to work on. We as humans always try to rationalize the command to forgive because it seems impossible. In fact, it is impossible unless we have God's help. Atheist like to point out that the miracles in the Bible disqualify it from being true. The disciples who arguably saw more miracles than anybody else heard Jesus' teaching on forgiveness and cried out, "Increase our faith!"

Finally, forgiveness does not just apply to criminals. In fact, I think it mostly applies to the mundane situations between our most common relationships, such as, friends, family, spouse, and especially the church. Regrettably, many of the discussions around forgiveness seem to centre around obscure corner cases that don't apply to 80% of the situations. Instead of being lawyers we need to be judges of our own hearts and seek reconciliation in our own relationships.


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