What is your view on forgiving others (in the full sense)?

Conditional: If another sins and expresses repentance, God demands I forgive
42% (8 votes)
Unconditional: I forgive whether the other person repents or not
53% (10 votes)
5% (1 vote)
Total votes: 19
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There are 8 Comments

Ed Vasicek's picture

I believe that the longer, more lengthy passages of Scripture generally explain the more summarized, briefer ones.  This comes to bear particularly with forgiveness, which differs, IMO, from just letting things go (as in "love covers a multitude of sins" for smaller offenses).


Luke 17:3-4 (ESV) reads:


Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”


Of course forgiveness is not the same as trust; credibility must be proven over time.  If a brother sinned seven times and said "I repent," (and this is meant to be an exaggerated example, IMO), I would have to commit to forgiving, but I would not trust him for a long time.


"The Midrash Detective"

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Forgiveness includes restoration, which is impossible if the action is one sided (as in the second poll option).

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Aaron Blumer's picture


The issue is complicated by problems of definition. These are actually two different questions:

  • What does it mean to forgive?
  • What does it mean to be forgiven?

At least, in our parlance they are not consistently the same thing. An example:

  • Gang member assaults a Christian's wife, steals her purse, things go sideways, wife is murdered by gang.
  • Christian husband "forgives" the gang member who killed his wife
  • Is the gang member "forgiven"?

Because the gang member committed offenses in multiple relationships, his status as "forgiven" or not is complex. Relationship one: the gang member's relationship to the husband
Relationship two: the gang member's relationship to law and society
Relationship three: the gang member's relationship to God

So the husband can forgive in the context of the first relationship. He cannot forgive in regards to the second one. (For various reasons, the second relationship is on in which forgiveness should not usually be granted at all).

But even at this point, we're not done sorting it out. What if the gang member expresses and seeks the husband's forgiveness? Scripture is crystal on that point and the answer is simple: the husband is to forgive. (This does not mean he refuses to testify in the context of the second relationship.)

But what if the gang member is unrepentant? Can the husband "forgive"? I think he can in one sense and can't in another.

  • He can decide that he will personally release the killer from obligation. He can decide the killer does not "owe him" (this is the fundamental idea of forgiveness) and that he will interact with him accordingly
  • He cannot make the killer actually be released. That is, the owing still exists as long the killer holds onto it by not repenting. As someone put it above, the relationship is not restored.

Some students of Scripture prefer not to use the word "forgiveness" for this scenario, because the relationship is still broken. I'm not sure if that's warranted. But I do think what's really happening and not happening when there is no repentance is important. We should be clear about that. I'm also persuaded that what Scripture teaches--and what we ought to teach--is that believers are obligated to do their half of forgiving (the release of debt) unilaterally: with or without repentance. To do otherwise is to bear a grudge, fuel bitterness, breed malice, etc.

I'm persuaded that this is why some passages include the condition of repentance and some do not (e.g., Eph. 4:32, Matt. 18:21-22, Mark 11:25, Luke 11:4, ). Our personal obligation is the same with or without the repentance of the offender.

Pastor Doug H's picture

I think Chris Braun gives a pretty good and biblical definition of forgiveness "A commitment by the offended to pardon graciously the repentant from moral liability and to be reconciled to that person, although not all consequences are necessarily eliminated."

This gets to Chip's point that there needs to be restoration.

For me the hardest thing to determine and then define is Proverbs 19:11 and 1 Peter 4:8?  I'm afraid that too many believers have thought they did 1 Peter 4:8, but in reality they just avoided confrontation, but still cling to "I've been offended, but I'll just ignore it" and as Aaron pointed out bitterness and its cousins take up residence in our hearts.  If we are truly going to do Prov 19:11 and 1 Peter 4:8  then forgiveness is conditioned by a gracious determination, in our hearts, to overlook and drop the matter withholding the offender from any "moral liability and be reconciled to that person".


So Forgiveness is always conditioned: In the Matt 18 and Luke 17 mode forgiveness is conditioned on the offender's repentance.  In the 1 Peter 4:8 forgiveness is conditioned on our not pursuing the matter, but covering it with love and dropping it (not harboring ill well about the matter).



Aaron Blumer's picture


Good pts. I heard somebody (maybe more than one) on the question of "when do I just drop vs. when do I confront?" suggest that one key factor is whether dropping it works. That is, if you decide to overlook, and then find it keeps nagging at you, probably better have a talk.

But that doesn't stand alone, obviously. And we aren't usually free to overlook conduct that impacts others as well as ourselves. A guy can call me a twit and I can overlook it. If he takes dishonest advantage of me I've got to think about what he might be doing to others. And if he's offended in some way that involves a trust that includes others.... Well, there are lots of situations where we can't do the overlooking option.

(By the way, I think this is why you have "sins against you" in Matt.18. Though there's a manuscript issue there as I recall... but if someone added "against you" later it may well have been because this was recognized to be the intent. In any case, it makes sense. We don't get to deal one on one w/people over things they have done against other parties. Because we don't have the authority to forgive in those cases, among other reasons.)

Aaron Blumer's picture


Post here seems appropos... excerpt from Calvin on Matt.18

It is necessary that this be wisely observed; for nothing is more difficult than to exercise forbearance towards men, and, at the same time, not to neglect the freedom necessary in reproving them. Almost all lean to the one side or the other, either to deceive themselves mutually by deadly flatteries, or to pursue with excessive bitterness those whom they ought to cure.


Ed Vasicek's picture

I would point out that the question is about forgiveness in the full sense.  God forgives conditionally (when we repent), and so he is our model.  God does not forgive the non-repentant in the full sense or we would have universalism.  God does not expect us to be more gracious than he is.

"The Midrash Detective"

Ed Vasicek's picture

It is interesting that, at this point, half of us believe in CONDITIONAL forgiveness.   In the broader evangelical world, I would expect such a viewpoint would to be under 10%.

"The Midrash Detective"