If we are the offended party, how are we to forgive the offender according to Luke 17:3-10 & Matthew 18:15-20? Here are the only two possible scenarios:
1) The offender is NOT repentant.
2) The offender is repentant.
In both cases, the offender is a BROTHER or SISTER in Christ.
In scenario #1, we are required to have a FORGIVING SPIRIT (or attitude) toward the person. If the offenese was sinful, we need to go to that person about the offense because of our concern for the other person. It’s a command. It’s not an option. Why? Because you are getting a sovereign opportunity to show the love of Christ to this other person. We covered this in the previous blog.
All right, so we go to the offender who remains UNREPENTANT. We told them of the offense according to Luke 17:3 for the offender’s own good. We were loving, gentle, yet firm about the offense so as not to add another offense to this conflict!
But the offender who is a professing Christian remains unrepentant. Now, what?
We are to follow the steps Christ Jesus laid out before us in Matthew 18:15-20. We are now to take 1 or2 others. If the Offender continues to say, “I’m not listening to you – I’m going to continue to sin,” then we are to go to the church (leaders). All of this is to help bring a sinning brother/sister to repentance with Christ. If the person continues to be unrepentant, then we are to treat them as a “Gentile and a tax collector” which means as an UNBELIEVER. In other words, “if you are going to act like an unbeliever rather than as a Christian, then I must treat you as an unbeliever” meaning I am going to EVANGELIZE you! You need the Gospel.
In another sense, we are to do what Jesus did on the cross in Luke 23:34: “Father, (You) forgive them for they know not what they are doing.” Jesus PRAYED because He understood that the sin issue was really between the offenders and God the Father. Also, Jesus knew that His offenders did NOT want to be reconciled to Him. They were not repentant! As a man, He could only pray for them and pray that God would work in their hearts as He did at Pentecost in Acts.
If someone is unrepentant and we have rebuked them, then we must pray for them for they are lost. We are to have a forgiving spirit toward them and we can continue to pray. But technically, by definition, though we WANT to give them this great gift of forgiveness personally, they will not receive the gift. The process of forgiveness in order to reconcile the relationship is stuck. Forgiveness cannot proceed further until the other person repents.
Luke 17:3b says, “If he repents, forgive him.” IF he repents…IF he repents…IF he repents…IF he repents…the actual gift of forgiveness is conditional upon his repentance.
But here’s what you must do: FORGIVE in your heart. You must have an attitude of forgiveness toward this unrepentant person. You must be ready and willing to forgive when/if the offender becomes repentant. You must PRAY diligently for his/her salvation and repentance!
Technically, the offender is stuck with God and with you (the offended party). The offender will not experience the wonderful gift of forgiveness of sins from God. Also, your relationship with the offender will never be as close as it could be IF the offender becomes repentant. There will always be a chasm there – sad to say, but true.
Stay tuned for more…I know this is tough stuff but we must recognize the important relationship between repentance and forgiveness!
-Mark (desiring to grant the gift of forgiveness to others but understanding that I must call them to repentance to Christ for their own good, also!)