Welcome to the second entry in my blog series about forgiveness. I recommend starting at the beginning for context, so if you haven’t already, check out the debut entry to this series: The Top 10 Most Prevalent Lies About Forgiveness.

The Broken Heart, by Kiomi at SXC
The Broken Heart, by Kiomi at SXC

WHO SHOULD BE FORGIVEN & WHO SHOULD NOT?

In the example of Matthew 18, things are pretty cut and dry.

People who ask for forgiveness should be forgiven.

There is no mention given in this passage of God requiring us to forgive people who are not sorry. “The Wicked Servant” is called “wicked” because he refused to have mercy on someone who begged him for mercy. He was not called “wicked” because he refused to forgive someone who was actively taking advantage of him or belligerently refusing to work things out. No. He assaulted and imprisoned a fellow servant who was humbly apologizing.

While some have claimed that God will not forgive us unless we forgive others (all others – even those who aren’t sorry), this is not a Biblical idea. In fact, it’s legalistic and works oriented, and flies in the face of the very basic Biblical principal of Christ’s redemptive work being all-sufficient.

God forgives people who repent. And yes, he calls us to do the same. But what he does not do, is call us to exceed him in mercy.  Besides being unnecessary, it’s also completely impossible. There are no Biblical grounds for believing we’ll be damned if we don’t forgive someone who doesn’t want to be forgiven.

“Wait, wait wait!” you may be thinking, “In Matthew 6:14-15, Jesus says, ‘For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.’”

That’s true. However, we must let Scripture interpret Scripture, and Biblical forgiveness is consistently a direct result of genuine repentance. What Jesus is saying, is that if we do not accept the repentance of others, we can’t be truly repentant ourselves, and God only forgives those who are truly repentant.

Let’s put it another way:

If we’re so overwhelmed by the sin of others that we can’t forgive them even when asked, we can’t possibly grasp the depth of our own sin against God. Genuine repentance requires an comprehension – at least on a small scale – of our own guilt. Refusal to forgive and sympathize with other sinners demonstrates a lack of understanding and a misplaced reverence for our own spiritual status.

Nevertheless, if we are truly redeemed, we will be forgiven, and eventually be empowered to forgive others. Jesus says in Matthew 12:31, “… every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven …” It goes on to say that even those who slander Christ himself can be forgiven by God.

“Throughout life people will make you mad, disrespect you and treat you bad. Let God deal with the things they do, cause hate in your heart will consume you too.” ~ Will Smith

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” ~ C.S. Lewis

That’s all for now folks!  In future blogs in this series I’ll be covering topics including:

  • Forgiveness Doesn’t Mean We Should Put Up With Evil
  • Why Is It Good To Forgive People Who Aren’t Sorry?
  • How Do I Forgive The Unforgivable?

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Thanks!

Jennifer

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