/ Christian Living / Forgiving Others (When They Don’t Think They Need Your Forgiveness)

Forgiving Others (When They Don’t Think They Need Your Forgiveness)

Craig Smith on April 18, 2014 - 9:35 am in Christian Living, Craig Smith

There is a long-standing Christian tradition that teaches we must always forgive others regardless of whether or not they have said they’re sorry, repented or sought our forgiveness.  While I understand - and approve of - the motivation behind such teaching, I believe this teaching itself misses the mark on several counts.

On the one hand, the motivation behind such teaching is obvious:  holding on to anger, hurt and unforgiveness can cause immense psychological, spiritual and, ultimately, even physical harm to us.  On the other hand, the teaching that we must forgive someone who has never acknowledged the harm they have caused us appears to me to be a misinterpretation of biblical teaching and a misunderstanding of the nature of forgiveness.

It’s important to recognize that God Himself does not forgive until there is repentance.   A survey of biblical teaching about forgiveness seems to make the principle quite clear.  I could list dozens of texts in which repentance is clearly indicated as a necessary precursor to God’s granting of forgiveness.  Typical passages include:

2 Chronicles 7:13-14   13 "If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, 14 and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Mark 1:4   4 John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Luke 17:3-4 “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”

Luke 24:46-47   46 and He said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day,  47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

Acts 2:38   38 Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 5:31 31 “He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.

Acts 8:22   22 "Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you.

Such texts make explicit the connection between repentance and forgiveness.  However, even “forgiveness” passages that do not explicitly mention repentance seem, in nearly every instance, to assume its presence in the equation. Luke 23:34 ("Father forgive them for they know not what they do") might be an exception to this otherwise consistent rule, but it need not be taken this way.  Jesus' request is not necessarily that his tormentor's sins would be forgiven apart from their repentance but that God would be willing to forgive them if and when they repented.  In other words, Jesus was demonstrating here his willingness to offer forgiveness even to those who had treated him in the worst, most defiling ways.  It would have been perfectly understandable for the early Christians to have thought that Jesus' atoning sacrifice would have bought forgiveness for "ordinary" sinners while excluding those who had a direct hand in Jesus' death, but Jesus here expresses the universality of his offer of forgiveness.  However, since the larger and clearer teaching on forgiveness in the Old and New Testaments predicates the actual experience of forgiveness on repentance there is no reason to to see this instance as an exception. 

The reason that repentance is required for forgiveness is both simple and profound.  At the end of the day, the debt of our sin is the only thing that is ours and ours alone, and for this reason it will not – indeed cannot - be removed without our permission.   Our lives, our possessions, even our capacity for goodness…these we owe ultimately to God.  I am not saying that there is no human cooperation or free will involved, only that anything we may choose to do with borrowed time and talent must ultimately revert back to the originator and owner of the raw materials.  But the debt of our sin…now that we own free and clear.  God cannot take it from us because it is, by His own choice, beyond His reach.  He has given us the right to create a room in our lives that is utterly bereft of His light.  That’s what sin is:  the not-God, the not-love, the not-light.  He could, of course, enter that room whenever He liked – He is sovereign after all - but the moment He did so, the dark would cease to be.  And to the extent that the darkness is us, a manifestation of our God-given ability to choose to be independent of Him, He cannot obliterate it without obliterating us…or at least the us as He intended us to be able to be.

So, the debt of our sin is kept on a ledger locked in a dark room to which God has no access unless we grant it.  He is ready and willing to cancel out the debt, but we must first grant Him access to the ledger.  And this is something we can never do so long as we refuse to acknowledge that the debt is real and that the ledger is unbalanced.  Repentance is the key that unlocks the room where we keep a debt wholly our own but utterly beyond our ability to repay.

Now, if repentance is necessary before God Himself can grant forgiveness, then how can we possibly ask fallen human beings to forgive each other before there has been repentance?  When someone sins against you – and I am assuming here that they have actually done so; that their supposed sin is not a matter of your own invention – they own that debt.  You cannot pay it for them.  You have no access to the ledger even if you were so inclined as to cancel the debt.  You might be perfectly willing to forgive them, but unless they recognize the debt and turn to you for its cancellation, they will never be able to apply your forgiveness to the debt in question.

The Bible clearly teaches that repentance is necessary before humans forgive one another:

Luke 17:3-4   3 "Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.  4 "And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him."

It is sometimes noted that not every text of this sort specifies the necessity of repentance.  For instance:

Matthew 18:21-22  21 Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?"  22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

However, the immediate context of this verse clearly implies the importance of repentance in this transaction:

Matthew 18:23-27  23 "For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.  24 "When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him.  25 "But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made.  26 "So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.'  27 "And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.

Here, the slave’s request for patience necessarily requires the recognition that the debt was valid. There is no denial that he had accrued the debt nor a claim that it was unjust to expect repayment.  While the word “repentance” is not explicit in the text, the concept is unmistakable and this must inform our understanding of Jesus’ answer to Peter’s question in vv. 21-22.  Though Jesus did not explicitly say “you must forgive him if he repents”, repentance is an implied condition in both Peter’s question and Jesus’ answer.

Some might argue that Jesus was often willing to forgive people who came to him even though there is no mention that such individuals were “repenting”:

Luke 7:37-38  37 And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume,  38 and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume […]48 Then He said to her, "Your sins have been forgiven."  

While it is true that there is no explicit statement of repentance here, the woman’s entire orientation to Jesus implies it:  she came to him instead of running from him.  She presented herself vulnerable before him in a place where she had every reason to expect condemnation. She shed tears that were almost certainly of remorse.[1]  She may not have said “I repent” but she could not have actually repented any more clearly.  

What I am saying is simply that repentance is a necessary prerequisite for forgiveness, whether it is coming from God or from one another.  And for this reason I say that we do not have to – indeed cannot – forgive someone who has wronged us until they ask for our forgiveness.

But…this does not mean that we who have been wronged are free to wallow in anger, bitterness and resentment, constantly holding our unforgiveness over the heads of those who have wronged us.  In this respect I must agree with the traditional teaching about forgiveness, which says that holding on to our hurt will only amplify it and lead us into sin.  I could not agree more.  What I disagree with is the notion that the opposite of holding on to our hurt is granting forgiveness even when it isn’t desired.

The problem with such teaching is two-fold.  First, it asks human beings to do something that even God does not do.  Second, it mistakenly equates forgiveness with grace.  They are not the same thing. 

Let me say this as bluntly as possible:  we do not have to forgive those who do not ask for it, but we are required as Christians to extend grace to those who do not ask for it.  Forgiveness is always conditional (upon repentance), but grace is never conditional.  The very nature of grace precludes such an absurdity.  The moment that grace is withheld until some condition is met, it ceases to be grace entirely.  Grace is, by its very definition, undeserved.  The idea of a conditional grace is every bit as meaningless as the idea of a square circle.

Forgiveness is the cancelling out of a debt of sin.  Grace is the willingness to move towards someone in spite of that debt. Forgiveness actually cancels a debt, grace demonstrates the willingness to cancel that debt.

As you might imagine, grace is quite often the very thing that breaks down the obstacles to repentance, and repentance, once present, allows forgiveness to enter in.  Certainly it was that way with us and God.  His grace, His undeserved kindness towards us, shattered our resistance and gave us the confidence to open the door with our repentance and give Him access to the ledger holding the debt we no longer tried to deny. And it often works that way in our relationships with each other as well.  It is very often the case that the willingness to continue moving towards someone who has wronged us is the very thing that leads to the genuine request for forgiveness.

We cannot forgive someone who refuses to admit that they have done us wrong.  God does not do this for us and He does not require this of us.  But, He does require His people to follow His lead and that means that He requires us to be willing to move towards someone who has wronged us even if they are not yet willing to admit that this is what they have done.

Please understand that I am not saying that those who have been deeply wronged should foolishly put themselves back into harm’s way.  Grace can give way to foolishness in a way that would fail to honor your worth as God’s Image and I would never want to push anyone into that.  I am simply saying that God expects us to be willing to extend forgiveness when repentance comes and that this willingness necessarily requires enough of a movement – cautious and careful though it may need to be – towards those who have wronged us that they know that forgiveness is a possibility should they come to see their need of it.   

Now, I’ve had many conversations over the years with people who have been hurt very badly and who struggle greatly with the teaching that they must forgive those who have hurt them even though those people think they have done nothing wrong.  Though I’m saying that forgiveness is not required or even possible in such circumstances, I’m fully aware that the call to extend grace is not all that much easier a road.

Extending grace rather than forgiveness to those who have wronged us yet refuse to acknowledge it is not an easier road to walk, but it is a different road and I think that matters.   I think that the distinction between forgiveness and grace has at least two advantages. 

First, it allows us to stop wearing ourselves out trying to maintain the fiction that we’ve really forgiven someone who doesn’t think they need our forgiveness.  When we say “I forgive you” to someone who doesn’t think they need it and hasn’t asked for it, it’s like we’re trying to apply jelly to Scotch-guarded toast…it just keeps sliding off, forcing us to gather it up again and try over and over to apply it.  Forgiveness is, in some sense, a transaction and until the transaction is complete, we’re forced to constantly keep dealing with the funds bouncing back and forth between our accounts.  That is exhausting, but what a relief it is to be able to say “I have the funds available to cancel your debt.  They’re right here whenever you’re ready to make use of them.” The teaching that says we have to forgive even when they don’t want our forgiveness is crippling.  We struggle to do it because we have been told that it’s what God expects of us, but we know that we have not succeeded, forcing us to pretend, to put up a false face whose maintenance will weary our very souls.  But the practice of grace, which says “I cannot forgive you until you ask for it, but I can still approach you and let you know how much I long for us to be reconciled in truth rather than in fiction”…that is a relief that cannot be expressed in words. 

Second, the practice of grace rather than false forgiveness – and remember that forgiveness is transactional and until it is requested, extended and accepted it is never true forgiveness - provides a context for real transformation.  There is little hope for real transformation and healing when we say that we are forgiving those who don’t think they need it. All we have done at that point is agree to stop calling attention to their wrong.  Darkness does not become light by being hidden further away; darkness can only be eradicated by bringing it out into the light.  I don’t mean to say that we must constantly remind those who have wronged us that they have done so, but only that buried wrong never turns right.

The kind of grace I am talking about here is a balancing act between extremes.  On the one side of the thin line we have a cheap imitation of grace that pretends it has done the impossible, forgive those who don’t want, and won’t accept, our forgiveness.  On the other side of the thin line we have a cheap imitation of justice, one that beats sinners about their head with constant reminders of their sin.  The grace that is willing to move towards someone in spite of their refusal to acknowledge that they have wronged us, the grace that is willing to offer genuine forgiveness the moment such repentance blossoms…that is a tricky thing, but it is the godly thing, the biblical thing and it is a balancing act that we can only hope to achieve in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Now, and this may be the hardest part:  if we are doing what God does, moving towards those who have hurt us with a willingness to forgive should they truly repent, then we cannot refuse such forgiveness when it is finally requested.  While forgiveness cannot be granted without repentance, forgiveness cannot be withheld when repentance is present.  God does not withhold it from us and we cannot withhold it from others if we are going to claim to be His people. 

However, this does not necessarily mean that we forget entirely about powerful wrongs just because someone has said they’re sorry and asked for forgiveness.  Forgiveness is partly transactional as we have seen, but it is also relational and it is very nearly impossible for us to re-enter a relationship with someone who has harmed us deeply without reservation or caution.  I think that this is the reality of living as finite creatures.  God knows the repentant’s heart in a way that we cannot.  He knows if the repentance is genuine and not feigned, but we cannot see so clearly.  We will almost always have to re-enter that relationship with caution and it is right that we do so.  But, grace compels us to re-enter that relationship in the genuine hope that the repentance was real and that transformation is now possible.  We cannot proceed with our arms folded and a scowl on our faces, just waiting for the other person to make the same mistakes again, thereby proving our deepest suspicion that they were faking repentance all along.  Where would we be if God’s grace and forgiveness were so grudgingly rationed out?

 

[1] It would make little sense to see these as tears of gratitude or joy…she had not yet received forgiveness or anything else to cause her to feel such emotions.




16 POST COMMENT

Leave a Reply

16 Comments
  • April 18, 2014

    The only thing you are ignoring is that all sin is against god first. People second. We already know there must be a conscious understanding of sin before it is fully held against us. Repentance is nice, but it is not a requirement of forgiveness. Though I think when we are judged we will probably understand both concepts fully. I find you article cunning and something that would lead people to strife. I hope you do it in ignorance. Articles like these lead people away from an understanding of Christ’s heart.

    Phil
    Reply
    • April 19, 2014

      Repentance is required for forgiveness. Please see the biblical evidence detailed in the article itself.

      I must also suggest that you are mistaken about conscious understanding of sin being necessary before it is held against us. The OT contains a number of stipulations for atoning for unintentional sin (see Lev 4 especially). By your reasoning it would appear to be better to never tell someone they have done wrong (either by God or another person), thereby allowing them to remain guiltless in spite of their sin. Or perhaps I’ve misunderstood you?

      Reply
      • April 19, 2014

        I saw the biblical evidence. It is easy to cherry-pick your verses and ignore God’s FULL nature. So here are a few for you.
        Acts 7:59-60 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
        Luke 23:33-34 When they came to a place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
        In these instances no one is repentant. Indeed they are doing this in anger and hate. And, there are more. You found what you wanted to find.

        As for your second comment Romans 5:20 makes it very clear that when there is no law it in not imputed or accounted to man. The consequences are still there of course. That dose not change which is why Christ had to die. Your second argument is a straw man. You don’t tell people that they have done wrong in order to maintain or eliminate guilt or sin. You tell people that they have done wrong so that they can become more like Christ (if they are a christian) or come to Christ (if they are not).

        Your foundation is flawed my friend. It’s a problem with most Christians today. They shy from the question “Why does God love me?”. They don’t want a personnel God with an objective personality and emotions they can empathize with. To do so brings great pain and anguish. People have a hard enough time dealing with their own emotions. That is a tangent of course.

        phil
        Reply
        • April 21, 2014

          OK, first, some ground rules. If we are to have a Christian discussion about this issue, you must refrain from inflammatory remarks and what are essentially nothing more than personal attacks. I’m quite busy doing ministry and I don’t have time to waste on a heated and accusatory conversation with someone who purports to be a brother in Christ but can’t discuss issues such as this one in a manner consistent with that claim.

          Now, you do raise some important questions and I’m quite interested in having a profitable discussion about them. I don’t really have a dog in this fight, so-to-speak, so if my thinking needs to be adjusted, I don’t think there’s much in the way of that happening. In spite of your accusation that I only found what I “wanted to find” (which is precisely the kind of remark I ask you to refrain from), I think as I do currently simply because a consideration of the biblical evidence has led me to this point. I honestly don’t think I “wanted” this to be true before I began considering the evidence. Rather, I’ve been searching the Scriptures and attempting to rightly understand them because I’ve had so many interactions with Christians asking for guidance on this issue.

          As you must acknowledge, there is considerable biblical teaching which indicates that God’s forgiveness is contingent on creaturely repentance. On the other hand, as you have rightly indicated, there are also texts which seem to suggest that God’s forgiveness is not-contingent, or at least sometimes not-contingent, on repentance. Unless these texts are dealing with different kinds of sins (possible but not immediately evident in the texts), these two assertions cannot both be true. So, the question is, how to reconcile the two kinds of texts?

          It seems to me that the contingent view (i.e. that forgiveness is contingent on repentance) can account for the apparent non-contingent texts by assuming that the necessity of repentance is implied but not made explicit. On the other hand, the non-contingent view (i.e. that repentance is NOT necessary for forgiveness) cannot so easily account for the contingent texts. If forgiveness is even only sometimes contingent on repentance (which is beyond debate) then the non-contingent view has the greater difficulty because it cannot account for those texts which explicitly identify the necessity of repentance.

          So, both the Acts 7 and Luke 23 passages above explicitly identify the speakers’ (Stephen & Jesus) prayer that God would not withhold forgiveness from their tormentors, but they do not explicitly identify the means by which their tormentors were to take hold of this forgiveness. That they were guilty is assumed by the prayer itself. Why else pray for their forgiveness if they were not guilty? So, they were guilty but not forgiven of their guilt. The question becomes then, how they were to take advantage of the forgiveness Stephen and Jesus were asking the Father to make available to them. If their tormentors were guilty but Stephen and Jesus both wanted God to forgive them, are we to understand they they were forgiven simply by someone else’s prayer on their behalf? And if someone could be forgiven by proxy, then why would anyone need to personally respond to the Gospel at all? In fact, isn’t the Gospel issue quite similar to this question? I can pray for God to save someone, but they are not saved simply because of my prayer. They must still respond to God’s work in their lives by trusting in Jesus. So I pray “God save my brother, Jim” but there remains in implicit understanding that Jim will have to respond to God’s work by trusting in Jesus. It seems to me that the non-contingent forgiveness texts are best understood in this way.

          In short: the contingent view of forgiveness can easily and consistently account for the apparently non-contingent texts, but the reverse does not appear to be true.

          Reply
          • April 22, 2014

            Forgiveness among people is not about what the offender says/feels/does. Forgiveness frees the offended (me). Repentance to God for a wrongdoing is also to free me. I don’t believe that God is “carrying a grudge” as you might imagine people doing. Is my repentance to God enough or must I repent to both God and the person I have offended? If I repent but do not get forgiveness from the offended, am I “forgiven”? Is my forgiveness conditional on the acceptance of my repentance (which we assume God will always accept, people may not)

            You can label one-sided forgiveness as “grace” if you are trying to win a semantic argument, but the sentiment regarding forgiveness among people and repentance to God is the same – free yourself from the burden of a wrongdoing (inflicted to you or by you) so that you can more fully embrace your relationship with people and God.

            Simple, forgive others (no matter their state of mind) and yourself (repentance to God and others) to free yourself from living in the past, so you more fully live today and in the future.

            Eric Winner
          • April 23, 2014

            “As you must acknowledge, there is considerable biblical teaching which indicates that God’s forgiveness is contingent on creaturely repentance.” I do not acknowledge this. I acknowledge that repentance is a part of every christian’s life and should be practiced every evening in prayer. Your arguments here are again straw man arguments. This is like election verses free will. They are both equally taught in the bible and are equally valid. Instead of assuming they oppose each other which they do not. You must reconcile what the Bible is teaching as truth.

            “Unless these texts are dealing with different kinds of sins (possible but not immediately evident in the texts), these two assertions cannot both be true.” You just set up your argument as if those are the only 2 options which they are not. They simple are together sometimes in the bible because often they go together. To say repentance is required based on the 50 percent of texts that agree with your theory is like saying that frogs must be green because it is used in so many sentences that also have the word frog in them. You cannot point out one text that actually supports your hypothesis beyond the fact that the word comes after or before forgiveness. Your argument is coming from silence not from the presence of any kind of context.

            The rest of your post is the same arguments you made before. You cannot make assumptions about biblical text because you think they are logical. I’m sorry you just can’t.

            Finally I did a word study of forgive in Luke 23 and forgive (aphiēmi) is in the third person plural perfect passive indicative. The perfect tense is a consummative perfect, which emphasizes a past, completed action. The passive voice indicates that the sins of someone receive the action of being forgiven. The indicative mood is declarative for a simple statement of fact. Greek has a future tense which is not being used here. Unless you would like to argue now that God just meant the people that were repentant there at that very moment. Which is a really big leap.

            phil
          • April 23, 2014

            To deal with the last thing first, I’m afraid you are mistaken about aphiemi in Luke 23:34. The form is a second person aorist active imperative (aphes). There is no ” third person plural perfect passive indicative” in this clause. Perhaps you were thinking of the word translated here “know”? This is a third person plural perfect, though it is active rather than passive, so that doesn’t quite fit what your’e saying either. In any event, this is an insignificant matter, though it is illustrative of how convoluted this conversation is becoming.

            Let’s try to clear the extraneous things away. Of far more interest to me is the question of what, exactly, you are so concerned to refute. I have stated that we must move towards one another in grace, which means that we must be willing to forgive, whether or not there is repentance. So what have I said that you find so terribly “dangerous”?

          • April 23, 2014

            “In any event, this is an insignificant matter, though it is illustrative of how convoluted this conversation is becoming.” This makes it clear that you should not be teaching anyone sir. You are correct it is the aorist tense which is still passive. Meaning that it is very relevant as it proves your assertion that the repentance can be in the future wrong. In point of fact almost every verse discussed here is in that tense. Meaning the entire argument in your article is obviously wrong. In any event the reason you article is dangerous is because if Christians were to take it to heart they would stop forgiving their brothers and sisters in Christ, as the Bible teaches. This would create strife sooner or later in every church. But, I will not be replying further as you flippant remark about hermeneutical studies makes it clear we will get nowhere.

            I again plead with anyone reading this to realize your brothers and sisters in Christ should always be forgiven right away no matter what they have done. It is how Christ forgives and how the Bible teaches us to forgive. Repentance is not required lest we hold anything against each other.

            phil
          • April 25, 2014

            You are consistently making clear factual errors in regards to the Greek that you’re attempting to use. You said initially that the “forgive” verb was a “third person plural perfect passive indicative”. This is categorically wrong. As I corrected you above, the “forgive” verb in this text is actually a second person, singular imperative active. You literally got every part of the conjugation wrong. Your response was to say “you are correct it is the aorist tense which is still passive”. This doesn’t even make any sense. Any Greek tense can be active, middle or passive depending on the form. The aorist tense is not automatically passive and, in this case, the verb is in the active form, not the passive. So your attempt to use grammar to prove your point is demonstrably and objectively wrong. I attempted to avoid such a direct confrontation, but you insist on attempting to use linguistic arguments that you are clearly not familiar with. The verb form here indicates that Jesus was asking God to forgive them, but it does not necessarily say how it is that his tormentors would take advantage of that forgiveness. The aorist tense means that the forgiveness Jesus was envisioning would be a one-time thing…that is, it was not something that would need to be extended time and time again (for the same sin) as would be implied by the perfect tense.

            More to the point, you insist on making subjective, personal attacks such as saying that I should not be teaching anyone because I attempted to redirect the conversation to the key issues instead of your completely erroneous use of Greek syntax. Fine, you think I shouldn’t be teaching anyone because I tried to redirect attention from your completely mistaken use of the Greek? Then let me return the favor: you should stop making comments about things that you clearly don’t understand.

            Finally, please consider the following texts:

            Luke 17:3 3 “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.
            Luke 17:4 4 “And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”
            Luke 24:46-47 46 and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
            Acts 2:38 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (here the grammar of the passage connects “repent” to “forgiveness”)
            Acts 5:31 31 “He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.
            Acts 8:22 22 “Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you.

            If you read the article itself, which I seriously doubt, then you know that I did not say that Christians should withhold forgiveness from one another. I am attempting to come to an understanding of the role of repentance in such relationships based on the biblical text as well as to understand what it means to act towards one another in the same way that God acts towards us. Your statement that “repentance is not required” is DIRECTLY contradicted by the texts I have cited in the article and here in this comment. At best, you might say that “repentance is not always required”. This at least would be based on the evidence that there are some texts which speak of contingent forgiveness and some texts which do not directly speak of such contingency. One final time: while there are texts that do not explicitly mention repentance, there are several texts which clearly make forgiveness contingent on repentance. I am attempting to understand how to reconcile those texts, but you are clearly not giving any consideration whatsoever to the clear, explicit and numerous texts I have cited.

            Craig Smith
      • April 19, 2014

        Sorry forgot about the sacrifices. They are again not applicable to our discussion. That particular sacrifice was, as most of the sacrifices were, to appease God’s wrath over sin. It did not require repentance. They were looking towards Christ’s death of course. It actually makes sense now that I think about it. Christ’s death was about appeasing god’s wrath over the sins we didn’t know about just as much as the sins we acknowledge. Your article taken to its logical conclusion would suggest as Catholicism teaches that you are required to confess all sins before you die least they not be paid for at the judgement seat.

        Mark 11:25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.
        Romans 12:19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

        phil
        Reply
        • April 21, 2014

          I agree that the sacrifices were looking forward to Christ’s death. But I’m not sure that they are inapplicable to our discussion. I cited them as evidence that people are held guilty of sin whether they are aware of the law or not. I think this point still stands.

          I also agree that my assertions about repentance and forgiveness could be taken to the extreme version that you’ve identified and I would certainly want to prevent that from happening. I don’t think that each and every sin must be known, acknowledged and repented of. Rather, I am saying that the recognition of our sinfulness and guilt must lead to a general turning away from that manner of life and back to God; i.e. repentance.

          Reply
          • April 23, 2014

            I’m not sure what the argument is here. Just because you feel guilty and give an offering doesn’t mean you are repenting. You could do that for a whole host of other reasons. Repentance is an acknowledgment of sin and a turning away from that sin. Does a man in a tribe out in the amazon understand that murder is a sin if his culture teaches it is honorable? The only thing that I can think of in the bible that repentance is a requirement for is salvation. As you must acknowledge your sin to accept the holy spirit.

            phil
          • April 23, 2014

            Are you saying that salvation happens apart from forgiveness?

      • April 19, 2014

        “However, even “forgiveness” passages that do not explicitly mention repentance seem, in nearly every instance, to assume its presence in the equation. Luke 23:34 (“Father forgive them for they know not what they do”) might be an exception to this otherwise consistent rule, but it need not be taken this way. Jesus’ request is not necessarily that his tormentor’s sins would be forgiven apart from their repentance but that God would be willing to forgive them if and when they repented.”

        “While it is true that there is no explicit statement of repentance here, the woman’s entire orientation to Jesus implies it: she came to him instead of running from him. She presented herself vulnerable before him in a place where she had every reason to expect condemnation. She shed tears that were almost certainly of remorse.[1] She may not have said “I repent” but she could not have actually repented any more clearly.”

        You are simple ignoring that the verse does not fit with what you think here and interpreting it as you want. That’s called eisegesis

        phil
        Reply
        • April 21, 2014

          I accept that it is possible that I am doing this, though I’ve thought carefully about it and don’t feel that this is the case. Eisegesis is reading into a text what one already believes before coming to the text. But reading a single, perhaps puzzling text, in light of the larger biblical teaching found in more didactic and otherwise direct texts is not necessarily eisegesis. It might simply be systematic theology. Gen 3:9 indicates that God called out to Adam and Eve, asking “Where are you?” On the surface, this might suggest that God is neither omnipresent nor omniscient, but we read this text in light of the larger witness of Scripture and conclude that the text in question is not intended as a direct statement about the extent of God’s presence or knowledge. This is not eisegesis in the traditional sense.

          Reply
  • May 11, 2014

    I am compelled to respond here, after reading such lengthy (I read it all!) and detailed “discussion” about repentance and forgiveness.

    I believe you are both making this about a bazillion times more complicated than it really is, although I do find the reasoning and arguements here interesting and even… fun, if I can say that. Honestly, I am amazed and impressed with the depth of knowledge shown here, but can you even imagine Jesus entering into such a discourse, or requiring that we understand those depths?

    It is said here that “God Himself does not forgive until there is repentance”, but…

    When our sweet Lord Jesus died on the cross and said “It is finished”, that is exactly what he meant. God’s forgiveness for all mankind’s sin was forever granted at that moment. All sin forgiven… granted to every soul past, present, and future – bar none. The price was paid in full at that moment. To actually receive that forgiveness, however, one must accept it. And you cannot accept it unless you first believe and even repent. It’s just as if someone comes to your home for dinner and brings you a gift, saying “this gift box contains the finest bottle of wine and it’s for you.” You may rudely choose to ignore the gift; or may force a fake smile and take it but set it aside and never open it; may disbelieve that it really contains any such thing; may mock it; may say “I dont want it”… I mean the possible reactions are nearly infinite, but only accepting the gift will make it manifest. No analogy I can come up with will do justice to the death and resurrection of our Lord, and I feel odd making one up as it is inherently weak – but I think it makes the point.

    So.. I’ll leave all the verse proofs and quotes to others as I have neither time nor energy to continue this. When you hold what I say here up to Scripture, I think you’ll see what I say is evident. All sin is already 100%, completely, totally, absolutely, forever forgiven even to the most sinful and unrepentant. “It is finshed.” People can, and do, decline the gift – but it is no less there. Accepting that gift of salvation can only happen if we believe it exists, AND if we want it (there’s your repentance, as no one who is unrepentant really wants our Savior’s gift).

    I certainly don’t need a response to this, and I doubt I could ever find my way back here anyway. 🙂 So… feel free to respond or not… it’s doubtful I’ll see it or be able to continue.

    By the way… I realize that what I’ve said here may not have been the point of the original article, as you were writing about Christians forgiving others. So, sorry if I’ve wasted your time, but I think it was important I say it.

    L Harte
    Reply