In order for one of us to forgive another, must that other person genuinely repent of the wrong he or she has done us? What if a person who has wronged us shows no sign of a change of heart (repentance) and will not ask us for forgiveness?
Best to answer these questions with the answers to two more: 1) Must unrepented sin be forgiven by God and/or man? 2) What ought the posture/attitude of the offended party be toward an offender who gives no evidence of a desire for forgiveness ?
Answer to question No. 1:
For sure, the offending party ought to go to the person he or she has wronged and ask for forgiveness. Jesus said, “…If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way: first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Matt. 5:23-24).
“Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee” Luke 15:18
For sure, the sinned-against party ought to give the offender an opportunity to repent. Jesus said, “…If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou has gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican” (Matt. 18:15-17).
But what if the offender just won’t budge?
I believe repentance is a requisite of the forgiveness process. From the cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34). Fifty -two days later the Apostle Peter preached to thousands of the people for whom Jesus had prayed, the very ones who had been implicated in His crucifixion (“…ye have taken [Him], and by wicked hands, have crucified and slain” [Acts 2:23]).
Many of them were “pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins….” (Acts 2:37-38). Here was an opportunity for them to receive the blessing of forgiveness for which Jesus had prayed from His cross.
Sermon on the Mount by Karl Bloch See Matt. 5:23-24 and 18:15-17
“Then, they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). Three thousand of Peter’s hearers responded to his offer of “remission of sins” (forgiveness), on condition of repentance followed by baptism in the name of Jesus Christ. I believe they received forgiveness, but what about those who did not repent? Did God forgive them of their murderous act, when they refused the conditions upon which His forgiveness was proffered — one of which was repentance? I believe not.
God is waiting to confer forgiveness on sinful human beings. He patiently defers the conclusion of what we call history in order to extend his offer of forgiveness to them — on condition of repentance! “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise [i.e. of the conclusion of this world order] as some men count slackness, but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).
God does not forgive the persistently unrepentant offender/sinner. Nor can I, if he who wrongs me will not own up to it, repent of it, and accept my forgiveness. If he chooses to retain and bear his guilt, I cannot relieve him of it. If he does not want my forgiveness, I cannot force it upon him.
That brings us to question No. 2: What ought the posture/attitude of the offended party be toward an offender who gives no evidence of a desire for forgiveness ?
To be continued, in next blog: Forgiveness — Repentance a Requisite? No. 2
“Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” Rom. 2:4