When does a Christian need to show forgiveness?

Showing Forgiveness

forgivenessQ. If someone does wrong to us but remains unrepentant and won’t admit their sin, how do we show them forgiveness without encouraging them to continue sinning in the same way against us?

A. The Biblical expectation for is for us to act in a manner of a loving heart. Be willing to be quick to turn to God’s word, slow to anger and by the mercy our Lord showed for us we should do so in our forgiveness toward others. We should forgive those who repent and ask to be forgiven:

Luke 17:3-4 (NKJV)

Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.

The Father in Heaven insists that we forgive all who seek our forgiveness, otherwise He will not show mercy to us in our sins:

Matthew 6:14-15 (NKJV)

14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Jesus says that if we are not inclined to forgive others when they ask us, then our Father in Heaven will not forgive us our transgressions. Jesus is not referring to the eternal forgiveness that comes to all believers at the point of faith in Christ. That is salvation through God’s grace and mercy. That is something we have not earned but is made available only by the unmeasurable love the Father in Heaven has for us.  This forgiveness is not conditional. All believers in Jesus receive a pardon of sins and will not suffer the Second Death reserved for unbelievers.

Instead, Jesus is speaking about the Father’s willingness to forgoing bringing earthly consequences upon us for the sins we commit in our life as believers. If we are so hard-hearted that we never forgive others who request our forgiveness, then when we sin on earth, the Father in Heaven will bring the consequences of our sin upon our heads to discipline us and make a point. Our incentive to be forgiving to those who ask is to remember that the Father forgave us when we asked.

What do we do for the believer who doesn’t ask for forgiveness? We must understand what God’s word tells us. God tells us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. And Jesus gave us the great commandment saying, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. The Biblical definition of forgiveness is a grant of mercy to the one who seeks it, so the process of mercy begins with the person who has committed the transgression being repentant and asking to be forgiven. If that request is never made, then the offended person has no way to communicate forgiveness. You may choose to love the transgressor in spite of his sin and hold no grudge against him in your heart (which is a good and proper thing to do), but technically speaking, you cannot forgive him until he opens the door for the opportunity.

If a believer is unaware of his own sin or unwilling to admit his sin or blames others for his mistakes, then he is not seeking forgiveness and you are not able to offer it. You can’t extend mercy to a person who doesn’t seek it, but this doesn’t mean you should hold a grudge or treat him with contempt. Instead, show him grace and love him despite his wrong thinking, and gently work to show him his error, preferably by teaching him from the Bible.

Some personalities are prone to defensiveness and a poor ability to see themselves honestly, which makes working with them difficult under these circumstances. Nevertheless, the Lord is your hope to open their eyes. When this happens, they will ask for your forgiveness, and you shall grant it.



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