Are You Trying to Forgive Someone Who Doesn’t Want It?

Many read Matthew 6:14, 15 and come up with the rule that a faithful Christian will forgive everyone, everything, every time. But, as John 3:16 doesn’t contain every detail in the plan of salvation, Matthew 6:14, 15 doesn’t contain all the teachings of Jesus on forgiveness. He also said:

Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, “I repent,” you must forgive him (Luke 17:3, 4, ESV).

Many people would rather “forgive” someone than rebuke him. But I can’t forgive someone who won’t accept it in repentance. I don’t need to have bitterness. I need to get ready to forgive a person. When he gets ready to repent, I’m ready to forgive.

The prodigal son’s father was ready to forgive his son when he saw him coming in the distance. He had the robe, ring, sandals, and calf ready for the restoration of his son. But he didn’t send a T-bone steak with a baked potato by UPS to the pig pen. After the wayward son’s approach and his expression of sorrow, the father was ready to receive him.

Some friends gave us a Cracker Barrel gift card. But they hadn’t given us the gift of a meal at Cracker Barrel. They had paid for it. We didn’t have to earn it. Two years later, we went to Cracker Barrel, ordered what we wanted to eat, chewed our food, and swallowed it. Only then did we receive the gift. We hadn’t worked for it. It was a gift from our friends. We had received our friends’ grace (gift) in vain for two years.

We can offer forgiveness, but it can’t be given and received until the person accepts it on God’s terms.

“But we should forgive as God forgives.” Exactly. God doesn’t forgive before repentance (Act 2:38; Acts 17:30, 31). If we try to forgive as God forgives without the person repenting, we aren’t forgiving as God forgives.

Jesus was hurt because of the lack of repentance on the part of His people. He wanted to receive them, but they weren’t willing.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! (Matthew 23:37).

One of the problems of forgiving everyone, everything, every time is when someone abuses his wife or children. Many leaders have encouraged the victims to forgive to keep the church from being upset, especially when the abuser is a leader. The abuser abuses the victim, and then the church abuses the victim. The abuser is permitted to abuse again.

Botham Jean was a brother in Christ whom a police officer killed.

He was a 26-year-old accountant for Price Waterhouse Cooper living in Dallas, Texas. On the night of September 6, 2018, he was shot and killed by an off-duty policewoman who mistook his apartment for hers. Read more about the murder of Botham Jean

At the sentencing on October 1, 2019, of Amber Guyger, his brother, Brandt, illustrates the principle of being ready to forgive.

His words were slow and deliberate.
He paused, adjusted himself again.
Here’s what he said:

If you truly are sorry – I know I can speak for myself – I, I forgive you,” he told Guyger.
“And I know if you go to God and ask Him, He will forgive you,” he said.
“I love you just like anyone else,” he said. “I’m not going to say I hope you rot and die, just like my brother did. … I personally want the best for you.”
“I think giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want you to do,” Brandt Jean said.
“Again, I love you as a person, and I don’t wish anything bad on you,” he told Guyger.
He wiped a tear from his eye and stepped off the witness stand to hug her.

Watch this example of being ready to forgive and offering forgiveness on YouTube:

What is important is being ready to forgive and communicating that. Brandt did that. He stated that to be forgiven, she needed to be truly sorry and give her life to Christ. What he did illustrates the path to God’s forgiveness:

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? Romans 2:4

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Jerrie Barber
Servant of Jesus, husband to Gail, father to Jerrie Wayne Barber, II and Christi Parsons, grandfather, great-grandfather, Interim Preacher, Shepherd coach, Ventriloquist, barefoot runner, ride a cruiser bicycle

3 Responses to “Are You Trying to Forgive Someone Who Doesn’t Want It?

  • Roy Allen Crutcher
    9 months ago

    Thank you for this excellent article/lesson on forgiveness. I have taught this for years but find that, seemingly, most do not. They evidently think they they have to forgive whether one repents or not, not realizing that forgiveness cannot be received without repentance, as scripture teaches.

  • I’ve experienced firsthand total abandonment (emotionally, physically) in my marriage, with my spouse lying, being deceitful, having a long, secret affair, not willing to do anything on his part to amend our marriage. He left. Period. Not willing to admit his wrongdoing, or repent of it. Just walked away.
    I’ve struggled 6 years with the topic of forgiveness….How could I forgive him IF he was not willing to admit wrongdoing, or ask for forgiveness? Does Christ expect us to forgive IF the person is not admitting wrong doing? If the person refuses to repent?
    I’ve heard it preached “we must have a forgiving heart”, “we must forgive as Christ forgives”…but, I find that the scriptures teach that one must repent of any wrong doing before forgiveness can be given! Just as this article has pointed out so well, with scriptures given as proof.
    Thank you for this article.

    • I’m sorry for your pain. This is has happened in many religious groups. Someone assaults women or children. The leaders encourage the victims to forgive. This frees the molesters to hurt again with further appeals to forgive. Jesus said, “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him” Luke 17:3, 4). 1 Corinthians 5 might also apply to your situation.

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