Father, forgive them

It’s very basic that Christians are to forgive those who offend against them. The scripture is very clear on this and in fact, warns us that if we do not forgive others, we will not be forgiven by God. (Matt 6;14).

If someone offends against us and later repents, we must forgive them 70 times 7 times if we are to claim the name, Christian. That is clear enough from the many scriptures given us in the bible.

What is not so clear is whether we must forgive those who have not and will not show remorse? One might notice the scarcity of direct teaching on this question and infer that we are obligated to forgive only in the case of an apology or repentance. If someone offends against me and won’t admit it or show any remorse, do I have to forgive him?

There are two arguments against withholding forgiveness when the offender is unrepentant.

The first argument was provided by Jesus on the cross when he said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Even while his persecutors were in the act of taking His life, he forgave them. What more extreme case could you have for withholding forgiveness? And yet Jesus forgave.

The second argument has to do with our own attitude. We are so imperfect that I don’t believe it is possible for us to maintain an attitude of unforgiveness without it affecting our attitude. We are just too proud. Pride fosters unforgiveness because it keeps us from seeing our own shortcomings. The way for us to act is to realize our own shortcomings and just forgive. That is where grace is required. That is where humility is required. It takes no grace or humility to withhold forgiveness.

One of the best admonitions of scripture on this subject is given us by Paul who tells us, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Eph 4;32).