Forgiving Others

Greg Gwin

There is no doubt that one of the conditions of our own forgiveness by God is that we forgive others who sin against us. Jesus said: "If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:14,15). He also taught us that we should extend this forgiveness again and again.: "Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:21,22).

The question arises, though, about a situation where an individual is not interested in our forgiveness. They do not ask to be forgiven and may, in fact, continue the offending act against us. What should our response be in such a situation?

Jesus gave valuable information about dealing with this problem in Luke 17:3,4: "Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him." The teaching here clearly indicates that forgiveness must be sought before it can be granted. We must be ready to forgive - willing to forgive - even anxious to forgive. But, until the offender seeks our forgiveness, there is no way that forgiveness can be accomplished. (A moment of reflection will remind us that this is exactly the pattern that God has established for us to be forgiven by Him. He is continually ready to forgive us, but we must repent and seek His forgiveness before we can receive it.)

It's worth noting that the apostles realized the difficulty of forgiving a brother who continues to commit the same offense over and over. After hearing His command in this matter, "the apostles said unto the Lord, increase our faith" (Luke 17:5). It takes a strong faith to fulfill the Lord's will concerning forgiveness.