Can we forgive someone who sinned against us even though they don’t have repentance but blaming us instead… To what extent it’s correct… What if that person is friend or husband or parent… I want to know at what levels we can be humble to them
Hi @Dhanya, thank you for asking this question - it’s one that is applicable to absolutely everyone. It’s really important to look at the biblical command whilst also to acknowledge the pain that we might bear as we seek to follow God’s way.
When we look at the Biblical approach to forgiveness, I feel Jesus spoke plainly on this: that we’re not just to forgive 7 times, but 77 times (Matthew 18:21). I’m sure you realise this is not a literal number of times but instead represents an ongoing forgiveness without limit. God commands us to forgive and there are no degrees of wrongdoing that do or do not deserve forgiveness
However, I feel it’s also important to acknowledge that to forgive as Jesus commanded can be very hard and even painful to do. Especially, as you have described, where the other person is unrepentant, and not even acknowledging that they are in the wrong.
In this circumstance of unrepentance, it’s really helpful to realise what forgiveness is and what it is not. I found it very helpful in my own life to understand that forgiving someone is not letting them off the hook in any way. It’s not saying that they get away with what they’ve done without consequence. In fact, forgiveness is saying to God: I let go of my right to judge that person and surrender them to your judgement. When we hold unforgiveness, we are practising judgement in our hearts. God is the one who claims this right only and we must be careful not to think we know better than God. He is also the God of justice and he will defend those who have been hurt. For me to know that in forgiving someone, I was simply handing them to God’s justice, I was able to be free of unforgiveness and a heavy burden of carrying injustice and judgement. Holding unforgiveness is our way of trying to take revenge. We think that it’ll hurt them if we don’t forgive them. Actually the only one that unforgiveness hurts is ourselves.
Romans 12:19-21 “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord…
So even if this person who has hurt us is the very last who should have done so, like a spouse, for example, God still wants us to forgive them. He will defend us but also wants to see our heart healed. This healing can only take place when forgiveness happens. We see through the gospels that healings and forgiveness go hand in hand.
Finally, it’s worth taking forgiveness in little steps. If the wrong done against you is utterly devastating and destructive, it is likely that to forgive that person feels absolutely impossible and that any attempt of praying forgiveness might not feel genuine. Therefore, I recommend first asking God to make you want to forgive. A few days later, see if the Holy Spirit has strengthened your heart enough to pray out that you choose to forgive this person. I’d also recommend walking through difficult situations and forgiveness with a trusted friend who can uphold you in prayer.
I don’t know if this is a Biblical principle you’re trying to understand or whether it’s something you’ve got to wrestle with for personal reasons but I really hope that God brings clear understanding for you on this so that you know there is freedom for each person when they choose to forgive, even when it feels impossible to do.
Hi, @Dhanya. @artownsend gave a great answer. I do have something to add that is incredibly important. In discussing what forgiveness is and what it isn’t, we need to understand that it does not call for a lack of boundaries. We have struggled and struggled with my husband’s family doing down-right abusive things to us, slandering us through lies and gossip, that really worked at destroying the relationships, and then they turned around and asked why we wouldn’t come for Christmas or Thanksgiving anymore. Every time we went, they would actually look for something to judge us over and cause havoc in our lives because of it. Depending on what the offense is, we may need to draw healthy boundaries and love someone from a distance for a while and pray for God to open hearts and eyes. Forgiveness and boundaries can go hand in hand. They are not over and against each other. We had to draw boundaries once the attacks of the family started being aimed at our kids instead of aimed at me and our marriage (they didn’t like that my husband became a stronger Christian when we got together and started setting boundaries with them). When we started setting firmer boundaries to protect our marriage and our kids, there were definitely fits thrown because his family is what therapists will call an enmeshed family–they had no boundaries before. They weren’t used to people setting boundaries and telling them no at times. But with the help and support of good Christian counselors, we learned how to stand firm while watching for opportunities that we could still show them love and care. We prayed and prayed for God to work. Finally, Ben’s mom said she wanted a more honest conversation about what happened. Ben talked with her about the lies and the slander and told her it wasn’t us that destroyed the family relationships and the ability of her family to come together on occasions like Christmas–it was the gossip and the lies. We talked to her about how much damage that does. She listened intently, was quiet, and quietly said, “I don’t know what to say.” We talked with her further, but long story short, drawing healthy boundaries while praying fervently and actively looking for opportunities to demonstrate love and care from a healthy distance led to the process of reconciliation. We have a great relationship with my mother-in-law now, Ben’s sister, and one of his brothers. We have been praying and praying about the other brother, for God to give us an opportunity to reconcile so that we could be in each other’s lives, even though they haven’t repented that we know of or apologized for the horrible things they did (he and his wife) to us. To give some hope and to show God’s faithfulness when we do the best we can to handle these situations in a godly way, I’ll tell you that my brother-in-law and his wife have a severe crisis they are in. He has been praying for possibly the first time in his life, and he had a dream that God was telling him to come to Ben and me for help. He did that, and we are preparing to help them through as we speak. The only way we are able to do that is because we made the decision to forgive them, though it was difficult, and asked God to help us to view them through the eyes of Jesus as he hung on the cross for them. If we can see past our situations and our present hurts, we can look at things from the perspective of eternity and the truths that accompany it. Their eternities and relationships with Jesus are far more important than my comfort. Praise God for His faithfulness, love, and mercy in the struggle. I hope this helps you in some way.
I asked Ravi Zacharias a similar question a few years ago. He responded in a video here on RZIMConnect. I don’t think I can offer a better answer myself, so I’ll simply offer the link to his response instead.
This is a very good question. Jesus said in Matthew 6:14
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
He said that if we forgive, our heavenly father will forgive us. So from scripture, I don’t think forgiveness is contingent on the other person. We are to obey the words of Christ and forgive.
Matthew 6:14 - But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Jesus also said in:
And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.
But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.
Also Jesus says in:
Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.
The word of God is the ultimate and as such i believe we should honor God and we need to forgive whether the offender is sorry or not.
This is a very important question that you are asking, and one that I think we all wrestle with at one point or another. I think you have received some great feedback in these posts and I pray you find them lifegiving.
I want you to know that sometimes in life there are deep deep hurts and that forgiving those who have wounded us so deeply can be a very difficult struggle. The greater the wounding, the more difficult may be the forgiveness. We know that forgiveness is important. It is important in order to free us and keep us from bitterness. And it is important because unforgiveness can harm our relationship with God. That said we often wonder, “What does it really look like practically to forgive? Especially what does it look like to forgive those who should be the closest to us and yet have wounded us so deeply?”
I have had to wrestle with these thoughts and emotions myself. I have found great comfort and direction in looking at the life of Joseph. I think that aside from the Lord Jesus Himself, Joseph is probably the person I think of first when I think of forgiveness. It can give us a great deal of practical help to read and ponder his story. You will find his story in Genesis 37-50. I would like to encourage you to take some time and read his story slowly and with prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to guide you in your understanding.
There are several take aways from his life that you might find helpful.
Joseph was born into a highly dysfunctional family, and although that was not of his choosing, he still had to deal with it. (Gen. 37:3-4)
Joseph either directly or indirectly played a part in the dysfunction of the relationship. (Gen. 37:5-8,9-11) When we are in dysfunction it is the easiest thing in the world to add to that dysfunction. By-the-way, God is masterful at healing dysfunction when we are surrendered to Him!
No matter how great the dysfunction it did not justify the treatment he received from his brothers. (Gen.37:18-28)
Joseph placed his hope and his security in God in the midst of great adversity.
(Gen. 39:2-9; Gen. 39:20-23; Gen. 40:8; Gen. 41:15-16,25,32) This is an act of the will. If we choose revenge and to hold onto a grudge, our hearts will often be closed to depth of relationship with God. I really liked what Alison said regarding this.
Joseph was honest about his difficulty. (Gen.40:14-15)
Joseph developed character in the midst of hardship. (Gen. 39:2-6, 21-23)
When Joseph was promoted to a place of authority and greater freedom he did not try to force himself back into the situation with his family. He remained in the place where God had placed him. (Gen. 41:41-52) We need to seek guidance about when to move toward restoration. It takes discernment to know when the time is right. But the Holy Spirit will guide when we are willing to follow.
When Joseph’s brothers arrived in Egypt to buy grain he did not immediately reveal himself to them. He set in place a safety net and set about to test them to see if there was the fruit of repentance in their lives. (Gen. 41-44)
When Joseph’s brothers arrived looking for food, Joseph abundantly cared for them even in the place where reconciliation had not yet occurred. (Gen.42:25; Gen. 44:1) I don’t believe that we are able to demonstrate this type of love if we are harboring bitterness in our hearts. I believe Joseph had fully forgiven his brothers by this time.
Joseph continued to feel the grief of damaged relationships even years after the offense. (Gen. 42:21-24; Gen .43:29-30; Gen. 45:1-2) Grief over broken relationship is NOT the same thing as unforgiveness. We can forgive another and still feel pain at the memories of the hurt.
When Joseph saw that repentance was demonstrated in their actions, then he revealed himself to them. (Gen. 45:1-4) This is an amazing thing! Although Joseph had already demonstrated forgiveness, he now risked being known. This was the first step toward reconciliation. Forgiveness is something that God asks of us as His followers. It is not dependent on the other party’s response. Reconciliation is different than forgiveness and it is built on trust and it takes a willingness on the part of both parties. Some Bible scholars believe that when Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come closer to me. I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt,” that perhaps it was such a shocking and fearful thing, that he chose to reveal to them that he was circumcised. This would have proven to them that he was in fact their brother and a son of the covenant. If this is true, it is a powerful picture of intimacy. Notice that Joseph did not jump to this level of intimacy immediately upon seeing them in line for food.
Joseph entered back into relationship with his brothers and reconciliatory living began. (Gen. 45:5-11)
Joseph chose the path of victory rather than the path of victimization.
Joseph recognized the sovereign hand of God in his circumstances. (Gen. 45:5-11; Gen. 50:15-21)
These are all things that I have benefited from in my struggle to better understand forgiveness. Forgiveness usually takes time, and it often takes many years. We don’t know exactly when Joseph forgave his brothers, we just see the fruit of it in his life. But we do know that it took about 25 years for reconciliation to occur. Praise God this family was not too far gone for redemption, because our redemption rested in their story!
God is at work! He is trustworthy and kind and His ways are just! He is worthy of our trust and obedience! I pray you find peace in the midst of all the kind responses you have received and that you find the courage to follow our Lord in this difficult place! You are dearly loved by your Abba Father!
Hello Dhanya, I once also asked almost the same question to myself, “Can we forgive someone who is not truly repentant?” I do understand where you’re coming from.
Jesus said, “ Father , forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.- Luke 23:34. The Bible implies that the people whom Jesus has prayed for to the Father didn’t ask forgiveness or they were not repentant but still Jesus asked the Father to forgive them.
Early in 2018, we held a Bible Study with a group of youth and three months later, we let two of the youth(1 girl and 1 boy) stay at our home .The girl(Heidy) was 18yrs old at that time and the boy who was his nephew was turning 16. The girl’s mother passed away 5 years ago and his father was on jail, while the teenage boy’s father died when he was still at his mother’s womb. His mother married again but got separated and live with another man. We treated them as our own children . My husband was only driving a passenger jeepney to make ends meet for our family and at the same time he also serves as a pastor for our small church ministry. But even though we only had a small source of income, we never let them go hungry, we also provided for their needs. I also have a teenage son who was only 15yrs old at that time
To cut the story short, I found out (five months later, ) that Heidy and my son are into a “relationship”. We talked to both of them and told Heidy that we could no longer allow her to stay at our home. We advised her to just attend to other church. We assured her that if God really meant them for each other, we have no objection but it should be at the right time, they are both too young they must finish their studies first and more importantly, they should prioritize their relationship with the Lord. . My son is an introvert and he didn’t show any interests on girls before, he was a shy person, he was just so hooked on mobile games but he “fell so much in love” with heidy. Heidy felt sorry for what happened or for what she has done to us and promised she will not do it again. Unfortunately, she broke her promise not only once, but many times since she and my son broke off. She’s the one going to my son’s school and they were still seeing each other. Heidy was a very jealous type, their relationship has been “on and off”
Sometime in August last year, she came and talked to my husband and cried. She said she missed attending church and she promised again. She said, “this time she is sincere in her words .So we received her again . At first, I had doubts but still I gave her a chance to prove her sincerity. There’s a saying that TRUST is like a glass, once broken, it will never be the same again. But because I understand that God’s grace to me is limitless, I also should do the same to others. I fully trusted Heidy again, treated her so well than ever before. So we received her again wholeheartedly. Sad to say, just after a few months, she did it again! My son neglected his studies he got very low grades on the fourth quarter of the school year. During the 1st and 2nd quarter, he was among the top 3 students in his class. This time, the effect on my son and on our family is worse and till now, we’re still struggling a lot on the trouble Heidy has caused to our family.and the church as well.
I realized Heidy was not truly repentant. She said sorry many times but there was really no action on her part. I was deeply hurt but I am always ready to forgive her, and forgive her again.
I pray that God will speak to you through His Word and guide you what to do whatever you’re going through right now. God bless you.
Hi there, great heart felt discussion, and there is no pain quite so bad as betrayal of love and trust. In this scenario the Lord showed me once that there are 2 ladders going up 2 buildings, one is the ladder of unforgiveness, leaning against a building of bitterness and revenge. The other ladder of forgiveness leads to peace of heart and eventually to love. He said in my heart it was better to be on the bottom rung of the ladder of forgiveness, by just admitting you didn’t want to be on the ladder of unforgiveness. Then in time with prayer and looking to the Lord, He brings change to the situation. I trust this helps. The cross unleashed the powers of the world to come, of which forgiveness is one. So of course is freely available to those who abide in Christ Jesus. God bless anyone struggling with this very difficult issue!
Blessings Angela WG
The link does not seem to work…
Just this morning I came across this wonderful article on forgiveness. We all have people to forgive, even daily little offenses, so I think this discussion is so good to have!