How Can I Forgive that Man?



By Dan Doriani - Posted at Place for Truth:

"I know what the Bible says, but how can I forgive that man, after everything he has done? And he isn't even sorry."

It is a familiar question or comment, and perhaps the second most common and difficult that pastors hear (trailing only "How could God let this happen?") Both ask for help explaining suffering; the second addresses great sins and offenses: "How can I forgive that man?" This question is more complex than it seems and the answer has several aspects. Indeed Jesus spoke to it several times. Two passages might appear to stand in tension at first, and seeing how they fit together is essential.

In Luke 17:3-4, Jesus says, "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' you must forgive him." 
In Matthew 6:14-15, he says, "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

These texts describe different aspects of forgiveness. Matthew 6 sounds absolute. If we are forgiven, we forgive, because the forgiven are ready to forgive. This free forgiveness echoes Jesus' free gift of salvation (Rom. 6:23). And yet forgiveness comes with a cost and a condition. The cost is the blood of Christ. The condition is that the sinner must repent (Luke 24:47). Humans forgive similarly, but not identically. We forgive freely, "from your heart," Jesus says (Matt. 18:35). The cost is letting go of our desire for justice or vengeance. We then "pray for those who abuse" us (Luke 6:28). We don't call down God's wrath, we pray the Lord will lead sinners to repent, believe, and receive his mercy (Rom. 12:19-21).

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