I’ve had some health issues recently. While the rest has helped, your prayers are appreciated.
I’ve had many discussions with friends about forgiveness – debates actually. Is forgiveness conditional or unconditional? This past week I couldn’t stop thinking about the topic, and after doing some research, it apparently has been a point of theological debate for a LONG time.
Here’s a definition for Forgiveness: A commitment by the offended to pardon graciously the repentant from moral liability and to be reconciled to that person, although not all consequences are necessarily eliminated.
Many Bible experts say that forgiveness is conditional, but the offer of forgiveness is unconditional. Scholars say Christians are to offer forgiveness graciously to everyone. But forgiveness, if it is to be properly understood in its biblical sense, must be received. So true forgiveness must always lead to reconciliation.
Dr. R.C. Sproul writes, “God does not forgive us unilaterally; He requires repentance.” If God, the perfectly holy One, shows mercy to the unworthy, we who are imperfect and unholy must do the same. If we do not forgive those who ask for our forgiveness, we show that we have not really seen our own need of God’s forgiveness. And if we have not really seen our own need of God’s forgiveness, we have not truly asked the Lord to show us mercy.
But are Christians to put additional conditions on a person who say they have repented? What about forgiveness in relationships? If others confess how they have sinned against us, we are obligated to initiate the forgiveness process. That does not mean we immediately trust them, for credibility can only be restored through faithful behavior over time. But putting unrealistic conditions on someone to “prove” their repentance is manipulative. Jesus says in Luke 17:3: “So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”
Letting go of a hurt can alleviate the bitterness that drains the life out of us. Sometimes people simply do not want to forgive because they are grasping for control, being manipulative, being withholders of grace. For them, forgiveness somehow evens the score, and some of us want the advantage and excuse of being a wronged person. There are a lot of people who use forgiveness as a bargaining chip.
I won’t lie to you and say I thoroughly understand the concept of forgiveness. Suffice it to say, God requires a repentant heart, but it’s not up to us to place additional conditions on that repentance. That’s between the offender and God.
What do you think?
Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”