My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.
What do Americans really think about forgiveness? When the Barna Research Group conducted a survey about forgiveness, they learned that 40 percent of Americans say they are struggling with forgiving somebody who has hurt them deeply. That means right now there are 65 million Americans who are having difficulty with the issue of forgiveness. And a whopping 62 percent of Americans say you cannot forgive people who show no remorse for what they have done. Are those people correct? Is it impossible to forgive people who refuse to say “I’m sorry”? Is your healing from past wounds dependent on what your offender chooses to do or not to do?
This week we will look at powerful and biblical reasons for unconditionally forgiving those who have wronged you, even if they are unwilling to say “I’m sorry.”
There are four times that repentance is necessary. First, repentance is necessary for receiving God’s forgiveness. God only forgives those whose hands are open to receive His free gift of grace through Jesus Christ. Second, repentance is necessary for reconciliation with people we have wronged. We can never expect somebody to be reconciled to us if we are unwilling to repent. Third, repentance is necessary for our restoration to a position we have lost. We can’t be restored until we acknowledge the wrong we did. And fourth, repentance is necessary for experiencing relief from guilt. Only when we acknowledge our sin to God will we experience the relief that comes through forgiveness. So for these four things, repentance is critical.
But notice each of those examples is about the person who was guilty of the wrongdoing. What about the person on the receiving end of the wrongdoing? Does the victim need to demand repentance from his offender before he forgives? Absolutely not. The Bible makes a strong case for unconditional forgiveness.
Matthew 18:35 is the climax to Jesus’s story about the unforgiving slave. This slave would not forgive his fellow slave of a $16 debt–even though he himself just been forgiven by the king of a $16 billion debt. When the king heard about this unforgiving slave, he was “moved with anger”and “handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him” (v. 34). Then Jesus added the application. “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”
Forgiveness does not begin in your offender’s heart; forgiveness begins in your heart. And it not only begins there, but it ends there as well. The forgiveness transaction begins and ends in your own heart.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Forgiving Sorry People Who Aren’t Sorry” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.