(An email from a woman to a local pastor)
I was listening to an apologetics program today and a woman who called in stated that we should forgive others even if they have not asked for forgiveness. She sited Luke 23:34 “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” And also Acts 7:60 (Stephen Speaking) “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” The apologetics facilitator said that we should not forgive those who have not asked for forgiveness because there must be repentance to forgive.
Our Christian nature I would think (at least mine does) leads us to forgive those who have wronged us. This is how I have dealt with my divorce by forgiving my ex-husband and allowing me to be freed from resentment. A woman I work with and I had a huge personality conflict but because of my forgiveness of her shortcomings and my love for her, we have a rather good working relationship.
Could you please shed some light on this? Does the person need to repent to receive forgiveness from us?
The pastor passed this email on to me to give an answer. Below are some key New Testament scriptures that deal with the issue of forgiveness. These helped me as I formulated my answer.
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Matthew 18:35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”
Mark 2:7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Mark 11:25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
2 Cor. 2:7 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.
Col. 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
Luke 17:3-4 So watch yourselves.”If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,' forgive him.”
This was a good question and one I was excited to try to answer. In part 2 I will share my reply to the woman.