– Justin Taylor, Is Forgiveness Always Right and Required?
“God’s forgiveness is defined as “a commitment by the one true God to pardon graciously those who repent and believe so that they are reconciled to him, although this commitment does not eliminate all consequences.”
Human forgiveness is defined as “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.””
– Chris Brauns, Unpacking Forgiveness
“[B]iblically speaking, forgiveness is conditional. The offer of forgiveness is unconditional. Christians are to offer forgiveness graciously to everyone. But forgiveness, if it is to be properly understood in its biblical sense, must be received. So true forgiveness must always lead to reconciliation.”
– Trevin Wax, Is Forgiveness Conditional?
“Forgiveness is a figurative handshake. You cannot shake hands alone. For forgiveness to happen, you need to seek out the offending party (or the offended party if you are the offender), extend your hand, and pray that the other party will offer his or hers to you.”
– Chris Brauns, Unpacking Forgiveness (127)
“Not to grant forgiveness of sins to the unrepentant is not the same as being unforgiving…We must always be ready to forgive, eager to forgive, praying that the Lord would grant repentance to the unrepentant person in order that both he and we may grant forgiveness of sins.”
– A.B. Caneday, Must Christians Always Forgive?
“Aforgiveness is not unforgiveness. We are to demonstrate a disposition of grace and willingness to forgive, but we cannot forgive them until they accept it in repentance.
If God’s forgiveness is unconditional, then everyone is forgiven and therefore everyone is saved, i.e. universalism.
God’s forgiveness is conditioned upon our repentance (1 John 1:9), we are to forgive as God forgave us (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13), therefore human forgiveness is conditioned upon repentance.
God’s love is not conditioned upon our repentance (1 John 4:19), we are to love others as God loved us (Eph. 5:2), therefore human love is not conditioned upon repentance (Lk. 6:27).”
– ObjectiveGospel, Forgiveness and the Christian
“Today the question is: what is forgiveness? What does it look like? What isn’t it? We have heard from Jesus that it is essential. It is not icing on the cake of Christianity. If we don’t experience it and offer it to others, we will perish in our sin. So it is tremendously important to know what this is that is so essential to our eternal life.
Let me begin with a definition of forgiveness that we owe to each other. It comes from Thomas Watson about 300 years ago. He is commenting on the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our debts as we for give our debtors,” and asks,
Question: When do we forgive others?
Answer: When we strive against all thoughts of revenge; when we will not do our enemies mischief, but wish well to them, grieve at their calamities, pray for them, seek reconciliation with them, and show ourselves ready on all occasions to relieve them. (Thomas Watson, Body of Divinity, p. 581)
I think this is a very biblical definition of forgiveness. Each of its parts comes from a passage of Scripture.
- Resist thoughts of revenge: Romans 12:19, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
- Don’t seek to do them mischief: 1 Thessalonians 5:15, “See that no one repays another with evil for evil.
- Wish well to them: Luke 6:28, “Bless those who curse you.”
- Grieve at their calamities: Proverbs 24:17, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.”
- Pray for them: Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”
- Seek reconciliation with them: Romans 12:18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”
- Be always willing to come to their relief: Exodus 23:4, “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him.”
Here is forgiveness: when you feel that someone is your enemy or when you simply feel that you or someone you care about has been wronged, forgiveness means,
- resisting revenge,
- not returning evil for evil,
- wishing them well,
- grieving at their calamities,
- praying for their welfare,
- seeking reconciliation so far as it depends on you,
- and coming to their aid in distress.
All these point to a forgiving heart. And the heart is all important Jesus said in Matthew 18:35—”unless you forgive your brother from your heart.””
One last observation remains: forgiveness of an unrepentant person doesn’t look the same as forgiveness of a repentant person.
In fact I am not sure that in the Bible the term forgiveness is ever applied to an unrepentant person. Jesus said in Luke 17:3–4, “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.” So there’s a sense in which full forgiveness is only possible in response to repentance.
But even when a person does not repent (cf. Matthew 18:17), we are commanded to love our enemy and pray for those who persecute us and do good to those who hate us (Luke 6:27).
The difference is that when a person who wronged us does not repent with contrition and confession and conversion (turning from sin to righteousness), he cuts off the full work of forgiveness. We can still lay down our ill will; we can hand over our anger to God; we can seek to do him good; but we cannot carry through reconciliation or intimacy.
Thomas Watson said something very jolting:
“We are not bound to trust an enemy; but we are bound to forgive him.” Body of Divinity (581)
You can actually look someone in the face and say: I forgive you, but I don’t trust you. That is what the woman whose husband abused her children had to say.
But O how crucial is the heart here. What would make that an unforgiving thing to say is if you were thinking this: What’s more, I don’t care about ever trusting you again; and I won’t accept any of your efforts to try to establish trust again; in fact, I hope nobody ever trusts you again, and I don’t care if your life is totally ruined. That is not a forgiving spirit. And our souls would be in danger.”
– John Piper, As We Forgive Our Debtors
– Justin Taylor, Why We Shouldn’t Settle For God’s “Unconditional Love”
– John Piper, Is God’s Love Unconditional?
– Tim Brister, Forgiveness – Is It Unconditional or Conditional?
– Tim Challies, Is Forgiveness Conditional or Unconditional?
– Trevin Wax, Is Forgiveness Conditional?
– GotQuestions, Since God Withholds Forgiveness, Can We?
– Spruce Pine Church of Christ, What Is Forgiveness? Is It Conditional?
– Chris Braun, 5 Problems with Unconditional Forgiveness
– Chris Braun, Didn’t Jesus Forgive Unconditionally on the Cross?
– Chris Braun, Unpacking Forgiveness