When interacting with people it is impossible to avoid unpleasant situations. The question is: how should we relate to those who sin against us when they ask for forgiveness, or when they don’t admit their guilt and are not sorry for what they have done?
This is what the Lord Jesus teaches us what to do when someone sins against us:
Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” (Luke 17:3-4)(NASB)
According to this text, when someone sins against us we must:
- First rebuke them, confront them, whether they intentionally sinned against us or not. If we don’t confront those who sin against us, the relationship between us will gradually cool down until it will be broken.
- Secondly, if those who sinned against us are sorry for what they have done, we must forgive them. If they sin many times against us, ask for forgiveness and are sorry — we also should forgive them.
So, we have to forgive those who ask for forgiveness.
How should we relate to those who sin against us, but don’t ask for forgiveness and are not sorry for what they do?
Here are the instructions the apostle Paul gave to the believers from Rome:
„ If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:18-21)(NASB)
Forgiveness without repentance is a justification of the sin, without the justification of the sinner.
What happens when we forgive the people without rebuking them, without confronting them with their sin? Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a great theologian who was martyred by the Nazis in a concentration camp in 1945, called such a forgiveness:
…Cheap forgiveness… that leads to the justification of the sin without the justification of the repentant sinner.
By not rebuking those who sin against us and by forgiving them when they don’t ask for forgiveness, we justify or approve their way of life and we deprive them of the opportunity to repent and be justified before God.
What does God do with those who don’t repent?
God gave His only Son as the sin offering for the whole world (John 1:29; 1 John 2:2) but this sacrifice is available for those who repent, recognize their sin, are sorry for what they have done and ask for forgiveness. Those who don’t repent, will be judged and “their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8) (NASB)
Translated by Liza Bîrlădeanu