Tuesday, August 18, 2015
During one of our “Jesus Without Religion (Or Politics)” meetups, someone asked if Christians were expected to forgive those who don’t repent.
It’s a common question, and a good one. Especially when you consider that Jesus tells us to forgive those who sin against us “if they repent…seventy times seven”.
So, if repentance is a pre-requisite for us to receive God’s forgiveness, then isn’t it only fair that other people should repent before we’re expected to forgive them?
Here’s what I think: Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount that we should “forgive our debtors” and even tied our own forgiveness of sins from the Father with our willingness to forgive other people.
However, if you forgive a debt, that means the person doesn’t pay what they owe you. And if someone owes you an apology, or an “I’m sorry”, you are expected to forgive that person without waiting to receive what they owe you.
I think we can also look at a few other places where Jesus forgave people who did not repent. He forgave the sins of the man dropped down from the roof right before he healed him and told him to take up his mat and walk. He also forgave the thief on the cross and promised that the man would be with him in paradise that very day. No mention of repentance there. And, of course, Jesus also forgave the soldiers who nailed him to the cross without waiting for repentance or contrition saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
So, I think that as followers of Jesus we are expected to forgive people without expecting an apology first.
“For if you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive your sins. But if you do not forgive those who sin against you, your Father will not forgive your sins.” – Jesus [Matt. 6:14-15]