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Question:
One of your Bible Answers indicated that it doesn’t matter if the offender asks for forgiveness from you, you still forgive them. Doesn’t Luke 17:1-4 teach that the offender must be repentant?

Answer:

Luke 17:1-4 Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” (NKJV)

I agree that this passage teaches ABOUT the repentant offender but not that he MUST repent in order for the OFFENDED to forgive. The plain teaching of this verse is that we are to be ready to forgive as many times as someone repents of their sin against us. It does not answer the question, “what if they are unrepentant”?

We can assume, imply, guess or insert new meaning here and conclude “if they don’t repent, you don’t have to forgive” but that is simply not stated in the verse and goes against other Biblical principles of forgiveness.

When you reach the point where someone sinning against you will not repent, the forgiveness you extend in your own heart, and perhaps with your words (as Jesus did from the cross to His executioners) is for YOUR benefit. It keeps YOUR heart free from the burden of unforgiveness, bitterness, hatred or malice. It keeps YOUR spirit free regardless of the offender’s intransigence.

The verse you cite deals specifically with the REPENTANT brother, not the unrepentant (believer or not)…. if someone refuses to repent, WE still act in forgiveness and let God judge and “repay” for vengeance His alone.
  • Luke 23:34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots. (NKJV)

Those who sin and are unrepentant don’t REALLY know the consequences of their offense, or they would repent (whether unsaved and slaves to sin; or saved and out of fellowship)

Again, when a person ASKS for forgiveness (repents) we are commanded to forgive as often as they ask. When they refuse to repent, we forgive them TO KEEP OUR OWN HEART FROM BITTERNESS AND UNFORGIVENESS, and leave the vengeance to God:

  • Mark 11:25-26 “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.” (NKJV)
  • Romans 12:19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. (NKJV)
  • Ephesians 4:32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. (NKJV)

  • Colossians 3:13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. (NKJV)

  • James 2:13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. (NKJV)

  • Matthew 6:14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. (NKJV)

  • 1 Peter 3:9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. (NKJV)

There is overwhelming Scripture to support the idea of forgiveness, with or without the repentance of the offender. The verse you point out, specifically speaks to the situation where the same person keeps wronging us over and over, but repents.

We are commanded to forgive PERSONAL sins against us because God has forgiven us all of our sins which are much greater. God wants repentance from the offender FOR HIS SAKE, not for ours.

We are to forgive and have mercy as God has had mercy on us. Repentance from the offender is for their benefit, to bring them to a place of being forgiven by God. We can forgive the offense against us, repentant or not… but the offender has to come in true repentance before a perfect and holy God before that sin can removed and fellowship restored.

In light of what we have been forgiven by God, and keeping mind the terrible offenses that UNrepentant man inflicted on our Savior, we need to follow His example and forgive those who do evil to us.

This particular topic and question has resulted in a LOT of email to me, much of it disagreeing. Please post your comments on the discussion forum so everyone can benefit. Go here….

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