Research and study By: Timothy M. Youngblood
Copyright © The Master's Table
Recently I encountered a number of people that believe any person that has offended or sinned against them must repent before they were obligated to forgive them. Should we as Christians forgive others even if they never come to us asking for forgiveness? Which concept is biblical and are we really saying the same thing in different ways? We need to take a close look at the subject and all the points in order to understand so we can do what God instructs. Let's start by asking if we are talking about forgiving in a way that gives the person salvation, or are we talking about not holding a grudge? Let's look at the word repent first to understand the point of repentance and forgiveness. The word repent means to turn and go the other way or to think differently which is to reconsider our actions, and when we find them hurtful to ourselves or others then we determine to stop the act. In all the cases used in the scriptures the meaning was to think differently, or stated in a better way, it means to change our thinking. The point of repentance as used by Jesus was to turn from the old way of sinful acts or from the Old Covenant and to accept Jesus as our savior and then work on our human nature to become more like Him. The reason repentance is so important before accepting Christ as your savior is because to not change (or repent) would be contrary to the plan God the Father has laid out for those that will be in the Kingdom of God. To not repent before accepting a new way of life like the New Covenant would be like accepting two different contracts for the same job.
Repentance for salvation is different than Repentance from an Old
Repentance for salvation which is the forgiveness of sins can only come from God and is necessary in our relationship with Him because God wants a family that's concerned for the good of all the creation, not just conforming to rules. God wants a family that has His own mind and desires to fulfill His will. God wants a spirit family that is full of the love that can only come from God. This love from God is a true love, which is the type of love that goes away from the self and out-ward towards others; it is what sustains all life and the creation because this kind of love is in cooperation with all creation. Would you really want to live in a world of evil and selfishness forever? Would you want to live in a world like we see today with all the suffering from war and crime? Would God want to have a kingdom like Sodom and Gomorrah that would continue throughout eternity? I must say that one of the reasons the world is like it is today is because of strife and a lack of mercy, forgiveness and cooperation among people!
To forgive others:
Jesus stated "Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses." Mark 11:24-26. Jesus did not denote that they had to repent first, and if we would look for the many scriptures that are recorded we would find there are many that reflect this same attitude of forgiveness. The real point Jesus is trying to convey is that for us to forgive others is equal to us having mercy on even those that offend. Mercy is from the heart, not the mind so to forgive is to forget! This will allow us to make peace and peace is life to the soul. It is recorded in Matt 5:43-45 that Jesus stated. "You have heard that it has been said, you shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust."
This scripture reflects that even the Holy Father in heaven has mercy even if the person does not repent. Paul stated in Col. 3:13. "bearing with one another, and forgiving one another," And Jesus stated in Matt 5:7, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." Mercy means the same as compassion which denotes forgiveness, indulgence, and clemency. A Child of God should have the attitude of forgiveness in that we understand mercy greatly because of the mercy that God has shown for all mankind who will accept Jesus as the Son of God and the Eternal Sacrifice as we read in Eph. 4:31-32. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in the Messiah forgave you."
We can't judge anything in anyone's life in a condemning way, and that includes motives in any given situation. This is the very reason we are to have understanding towards the weaknesses of others, and this is the very reason Jesus taught this concept in this profound story in Matt 18:21-35 concerning the man that was forgiven by the King but the man that was forgiven all went and cast a man in prison for not paying a very small amount to him. Brethren, we should realize the great seriousness of what God is doing and be very humble and thankful realizing that without God's love and grace we too would be condemned without any hope what-so-ever. Consider this: Those that Judge with self-righteous condemning judgment very well may find themselves stating this one day. “I have become what I despise.” Remember it is recorded that Jesus stated "Judge not, that you be not judged for with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”
In some cases we do need to go to others and make peace as we read in Matt: 18, but this does not mean we must necessarily go to the person or persons in every case before we can forgive them. Forgiveness from the heart is what counts most of the time, and true forgiveness will be reflected in our actions and feelings towards those that we have forgiven. What we need to do is come to a place in our Christian growth where we can have "compassion" and "understanding" towards others weaknesses, and realize that they too have insecurities that cause them to come to wrong conclusions in the same way we do. We humans not only have to fight our own human nature, and what ever is in our past that may cause fears, or insecurities which can make us put up walls as well, and on top of all that we must contend with the other persons human nature as well. We then have to guess in many cases, what the problem may be and did we goof, or was it the other person and we can only see clear if we get our emotions out of the way and think about mercy. When we allow mercy to come into the process we will access the Holy Spirit and then compassion, and forgiveness will prevail. Once mercy, compassion, and forgiveness have become a part of the picture then it does not matter why, or what happened so the offense no longer has power to divide, or harm. Sometimes problems come on us because a third party has sown lies around about us. This is very difficult to deal with because in many cases the one sowing the lies appears as our friend. Jesus Himself had to deal with such a person named Judas Iscariot, however Jesus did not deal with him personally, but instead He let Judas fall in his own trap, and judgment was from God the Father. This is the best way to deal with most people because God knows them, and will judge righteously and for the betterment of all, but our attitude should be in love for the offender and hopeful that the offender will be helped for their own salvation.
There's another way we can come to understand the mistakes that may happen that causes problems among us all. This way is to try and be unbiased with all people, and even against ourselves. Being unbiased will help us consider all the facts in all situations where we can come to a better conclusion as to why someone did what they did. I have found that in many cases the one that did the offense did not even realize they offended someone. If we put off our opinions until all the facts are understood then we can put out a lot of fires before they start. The problem comes in most of the time because we act on our emotions first, and then we get locked into our FIRST impressions of the situation, and at that point we only consider the words, or actions that verify our preconceived conclusion. After we have reached this point we can't hear or see the words or actions of "I'm sorry", or body language that reflect "please forgive me" or words like if you would only understand why. If we would "look for reasons" to forgive and if we would "look for reasons" to be peacemakers, we would grow greatly as Christians and gain many to Christ that otherwise may have become bitter.
I read a very good story that is from the wisdom of our Lord Jesus and want to share the point of it with all here. "Unless you know the whole picture, how can you judge? If you read only one page of a book how can you judge the whole book? If you read only one word of a phrase how can we understand the entire phrase? The fact is that we only have a fragment of it all as we go through life." Life's mishaps and troubles are only a page out of a grand book so we must be slow about drawing conclusions. We must learn to reserve judgment on life's storms and about people until we know the whole story. Jesus stated… "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself." (Matthew 6:34)
If we would think of all people as a fellow child of God and brother, or sister we might have a better attitude towards their offense just like we do our mate, children, and close friends. This is difficult for most of us because although we don't like to admit it most minds like conflict, but the Holy Spirit can help us in all things and remember some of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is love, longsuffering, and peace. To walk in this way is what the apostles called walking in the Spirit. In order to walk in the Spirit of God we must go away from the self, and reach out to others with this great news of the Gospel that God the Holy Father sent to us by way of His Son Jesus. It is the doing and giving of the gospel message that helps us grow in this good news that we can be forgiven, and that we also need to forgive, and that we all can be included under the fantastic grace of God never having to fear. As stated above it is always best if the offender repents but let's have mercy and forgive others even if they never repent. Ask yourself this question; If forgiveness can only be given after repentance then are you absolutely sure you have thought of everything you have ever done as sin against God or someone else and repented of it?
I leave you with these wise words from the apostle Paul Gal 5:14-15. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!
You also might want to read the companion article Just What is Sin ?
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Below you will find a poem I love, titled Judge Gently.
Regards in Jesus' Love:
Pray for the Messiah to return soon.
Timothy M. Youngblood
Webmaster of The Master's table
Pray don't find fault with the person who limps or stumbles along the road, unless you have worn the shoes they have worn, or struggled beneath their load.
There may be tacks in the shoes that hurt, though hidden from view, or the burden they bear placed on your back might cause you to stumble too.
Don't sneer at the person who's down today, unless you have felt the blow that caused their fall, or felt the shame that only the fallen know.
You may be strong today, but still the blows that were theirs if dealt to you, in the selfsame way or the selfsame time might cause you to stagger too.
Don't be harsh with the person who sins or pelt them with word or stone unless you are sure yea, doubly sure that you have no sins of your own!
For you know perhaps if the tempters voice should whisper as softly to you as it did to them, when they went astray it just might cause you to falter too.