Forgiveness and Repentance

In Luke 17:3-4, Jesus declares, “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.” You might be tempted to think that Jesus believes we don’t have to forgive people if they don’t repent. But Mark 11:25 argues otherwise: “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.” Here is a situation in which you are praying, you realize that you have something against someone, and there has not yet been repentance on the part of the offending brother; you’re still standing praying. We are to forgive people even before they repent, so that when they do repent we will be ready to extend to them the forgiveness that is in our hearts. We have no right not to forgive, especially in light of the forgiveness that has been granted to us in Christ. To be sure, until there is repentance, there will not be full reconciliation; but Mark 11:25 (along with other passages) makes clear that our granting forgiveness is not contingent upon someone’s seeking it.



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