Do I have to forgive someone who sinned and didn’t repent?

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By BibleAsk Team


The question of forgiveness, especially in the absence of repentance, is a complex and spiritually challenging issue that has been pondered upon by theologians and individuals of faith. Forgiveness is a central theme in the Christian faith. It is often regarded as a fundamental aspect of spiritual life and moral conduct. To explore whether forgiveness is required in cases where someone has sinned but not repented, we must delve into biblical teachings, theological perspectives, and practical implications.

The Biblical Perspective on Forgiveness

  1. The Model of God’s Forgiveness. The Bible presents God as the ultimate model of forgiveness, emphasizing His willingness to pardon the sins of humanity even in the absence of repentance. Isaiah 55:7 (NKJV) states, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” This verse suggests that pardon is available to those who turn away from their sinful ways and seek reconciliation with God. Also,  the Bible tells us, “He who covers his sins will not prosper,
    But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13, NKJV). Thus, pardon involves not just confession but repentance on the sinner’s part. God places a condition for obtaining His mercy which is reasonable and fair. God does not ask us to do something hard like painful penance to atone for our sins. He only asks that he who sinned may humbly confess his sin and repents then he shall obtain mercy (1 John 1:9).
  2. The Command to Forgive. Jesus teaches the importance of forgiveness. Matthew 6:14-15 (NKJV) records Jesus’ words: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” This teaching underscores the reciprocal nature of forgiveness and suggests that withholding forgiveness from others may hinder one’s own forgiveness from God.

Theological Perspectives on Forgiveness for the Unrepentant

  1. Confession. If a person offends his brother, that person needs to confess his sin. The Bible teaches, “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16, NKJV). And if the guilty one is humbled and asks for pardon with repentance, the innocent one should pardon them not just seven times, but “seventy times seven” times (Matthew 18:22, NKJV) so that the innocent may also obtain pardon for their own sins from God (Matthew 6:14; Mark 11:25; Colossians 3:12,13; Ephesians 4:31-32).
  2. Releasing Resentment. If a guilty person fails to confess their wrongs to the innocent one, the latter should harbor no negative feelings towards the guilty one. For “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, NKJV). The love of God towards sinful men was not a response to any love they had for Him, for they were His enemies. “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10,NKJV). Therefore, the innocent should be patient with the guilty (1 Thessalonians 5:14; Matthew 5:39) and pray that they may humble their hearts and seek reconciliation (Luke 6:27–28). Pardon should be freely given regardless of the offender’s repentance.
  3. The Offender’s Guilt Before God. However, the pardon of the victim to the unrepentant doesn’t release the offender of their guilt before God. It only releases the victim from the burden of resentment and facilitates reconciliation. Pardon can contribute to emotional healing and psychological well-being of the victim. Choosing to pardon can release the victim from feelings of bitterness and anger, thus, promote inner peace and healing.

Practical Implications and Challenges

  1. Boundaries and Accountability. While pardon is to be offered to the offender, it does not negate the need for boundaries and accountability in relationships. In cases where the offender has not repented, it may be necessary to establish boundaries to protect oneself from further harm and to encourage the offender to acknowledge their wrongdoing and lead to repentance.
  2. Seeking Reconciliation. Pardon does not always necessitate reconciliation, especially if the offender has not shown genuine remorse or taken steps to repair the harm caused. Reconciliation requires mutual willingness to address the underlying issues and rebuild trust, which may not be possible without repentance.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the question of whether one must forgive someone, who has sinned but not repented involves theological, practical, and emotional dimensions. While the Bible teaches the importance of forgiveness and offers examples of forgiveness extended without repentance, it also emphasizes the significance of repentance and reconciliation in the forgiveness process. Ultimately, the decision to forgive releases the victim from harboring feelings of hate and resentment and facilitates the road for the sinner’s repentance and reconciliation. If the guilty person continues in their evil path, the victim may set boundaries to protect themselves from further harm and to encourage the offender to acknowledge their wrongdoing and consequently change their behavior.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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