Many assume that Jesus commands his followers to blindly forgive, freely forget whatever offense might have occurred, and unconditionally reconcile even with those who show no signs of remorse for what they have done to hurt or offend us. That is not what Jesus said…
Read: Luke 17
“If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive.” (Luke 17:3, NLT)
There are two extremes when it comes to forgiveness: On the one hand, we fail to practice it far too often. We conveniently and creatively bypass Scripture’s teaching on this matter so easily that it must grieve the Father’s heart. And this unwillingness to extend forgiveness is such a huge problem in the family of God today, since Jesus tied our forgiveness of others to the Father’s forgiveness of us.
“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 5:14-15, NLT)
An unfortunately large number of “believers” will be surprised when they stand before the Great Forgiver and he informs them that the pardon of transgressions they hoped for had been held up because of their own unwillingness to let go of anger, bitterness, resentment, and hurt long enough to extend the hand of reconciliation to someone who had offended them. Jesus is pretty clear about the matter: You don’t forgive others, God can’t forgive you! For that reason, if you are like me, you need to practice forgiveness early and often.
On the other hand, we fail to properly understand forgiveness far too often. That is an extreme as well. Many assume that Jesus is commanding his followers to blindly forgive, freely forget whatever offense might have occurred, and unconditionally reconcile even with those who show no signs of remorse for what they have done to hurt or offend us. That is not what Jesus said.
Did you notice a very big condition that Jesus attached to this forgiveness directive? “If” a brother sins, “then” when there is repentance, forgive him. We need to be ready to forgive, willing to forgive, generous in forgiving—even if it is seven times for the same thing in the same day, we are called to forgive offenses (Luke 17:4, NLT)—but only if there is repentance.
God himself doesn’t dole out forgiveness unconditionally. He is willing to, but his hands are tied if the offender doesn’t acknowledge their sin, feel authentic contrition in their heart, and offer the fruit of repentance (a change of mind and a change of direction) in their behavior. (Matthew 3:8, NLT, Acts 2:38, NLT)
To forgive, forget and reconcile with an unrepentant person is to go beyond what God, himself does. Now in that, there is yet another extreme into which Christians can fall: Withholding forgiveness until proper repentance is expressed for every little thing that rubs them the wrong way. My advice to you, if you are guilty of that: Don’t be ridiculous. Not everything that gets under your skin falls into the category of a moral offense—so grow some thicker skin and exercise a lot of grace, my friend!
Jesus is calling his followers to a balanced understanding and a generous commitment to the practice of forgiveness. It is the lifeblood of his kingdom, and when it flows rightly and freely from your life, it is your calling card into the throne room of your gracious and forgiving Father.
Who do you need for forgive? I think you know what to do!