Letters to an American Lady
I received this message regarding my blog “Forgive and Forget About It” so I thought I should post it along with my response to help clarify things. Enjoy.
Hi Jon: Hope you are doing well. I have read the above blog several times, and I do understand that only God can forgive and remember our sins no more.
What I am not sure of is whether you are also saying that unless someone who has sinned against us (abuse, bullying, etc.) repents and asks us for forgiveness, we do not have to forgive them. From your blog: “My point is this: we should give mercy and forgiveness TO ALL THAT ASK just as God gives mercy and forgiveness to us.”
I believe that unless we forgive someone who has sinned against us (whether they repent or ask us to forgive them) that our sins will not be forgiven. As I am not sure exactly what you are stating, I won’t go into the many scriptures I would use to make my point, but I will quote one of your favourite mentors:
C. S. Lewis said in a radio address that later became part of his book Mere Christianity that “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive, as we did during the war, And then, to mention the subject at all is to be greeted with howls of anger. It is not that people think this too high and difficult a virtue: it is that they think it hateful and contemptible. ‘That sort of talk makes me sick,’ they say, And half of them already want to ask me, ‘I wonder how you’d feel about forgiving the Gestapo if you were a Pole or a Jew?’
“So do I,” Lewis admitted. “I wonder very much.”
Yet as Lewis went on to say, “I am not telling you what I could do– I can do precious little — I am telling you what Christianity is. I did not invent it. And there, right in the middle of it, I find ‘Forgive us our sins as we forgive those that sin against us’ ……..There are no two ways about it. What are we to do?”
Hopefully you will find the time to clarify your blog for me.
My response: I couldn’t have said it any better myself. My point was exactly right and I hope it didn’t get lost in the details. What gets muddied is what the term “forgive” really means. If we don’t forgive even our enemies, then we can not really claim to be Christians. I think what the verse is telling us is that we should forgive and not hold it against “our brother or sister” if he/she asks, but if they don’t ask for forgiveness, then we should forgive them anyways, but sever the relationship. In other words, “if your brother” implies an ongoing, eternal relationship with a person, almost literally a “blood relation” (though the blood is not referring to similar genetics because of a biological relationship like a parent or sibling, but a relationship brought about because of the blood of Jesus like a fellow believer or a friend). Returning back to the verse in question, “if your brother” (or someone you have an ongoing relationship with) repents and asks for forgiveness, forgive him endlessly. If your brother does not repent and ask for forgiveness, then treat him/her as you would everyone else and forgive him/her for their past wrongs, but don’t feel obligated to remain in an ongoing abusive relationship with him/her.