Must all Christians forgive all the time? Is forgiveness a mandatory action for Christians, or is it conditional? Chris Brauns, a pastor, has spent quite a bit of time unpacking what it means to forgive in a Christian sense of the word. It seems that we are expected to forgive unconditionally (“forgive, and you will be forgiven,” Lk 6:37). Yet, there are verses which seem to make forgiveness conditional. For instance, Luke 17:3 says, “if he repents, forgive him.” This forgiveness can be repeated 7 times a day or even 7 times 70 times, according to Jesus.
But what if the offender neither repents nor seeks forgiveness? This article by Brauns addresses that particular point well in seeking to disclose a full-orbed definition of Christian forgiveness. This article is framed in a pastoral context with Brauns offering biblical counseling to Kelsey Grammer concerning his desire to forgive a man who murdered his sister. The article is thought provoking and pastoral. Consider reading it both for edification and consideration in biblical counseling.
Is he saying we don’t forgive if there is no repentance? And if so, I don’t really understand what that means in terms of how to think “righteously” about a situation. In the case he presented if I did not forgive the killer, then I am certain I could daydream about his demise….seems unhealthy. It appears that my forgiveness would pave the way for me to be able to pray for the killer and hope for his repentance.
Maybe I should read his book!!
The way I understood the article, Angela, he is making a distinction between forgiveness and offering forgiveness. He is arguing that we misunderstand (and in fact undermine) real forgiveness when we undertake the action alone. How does one forgive someone who has no desire to be forgiven? How do you forgive someone who is very happy to have wronged you? His point seems to be that forgiveness concerns the reconciliation after a wrong committed. One cannot reconcile the relationship alone. Thus, forgiveness occurs between two or more parties. His point is that our disposition should be one toward forgiveness, and we should offer forgiveness freely without first contemplating whether the party deserves it or not. Nonetheless, we cannot forgive (reconcile) without the other party. So, he is making the distinction that our part is to offer forgiveness with a forgiving disposition, in the hopes that the person desires or seeks forgiveness. Only when both parties are engaged is there a genuine forgiveness.
So I don’t get to read blogs much and I forgot to check back to see if you had responded! So I did not read this until Oct. 11. Yesterday in our Bible study class the topic of discussion was forgiveness. We are working our way through Colossians verse by verse and we were looking at 3:13 specifically the phrase “forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Our teacher also had us look at Matt 6:9-15, Luke 6:27-38, Math 18:21-35 and Rom. 12:17-21. It made me think about this article and I brought it up and I think we bascially came to the conclusion you stated above: reconciliation is not always possible, but the posture of forgivness is necessary. If we do not have this posture, we will end up bitter, self-consummed with what we “deserve”, angry, and our thoughts will overwhelmed with the situation. It was good for me to think about especially since I have struggled with desire to be in the posture of forgiveness in the last week or so. (There is definitely no signs of reconciliation in the situation.)
Thanks for the comment back…sorry I did not read it until yesterday, but maybe it was because I needed to read it when I needed it apply it! 🙂