God’s love is unconditional (Matthew 5:44–45; Luke 6:35). For He desires all people to be saved (2 Peter 3:9). But God’s forgiveness is not extended to all irrespective of their will, as His love is. It only benefits those that seek it with repentance (Acts 8:22; 3:19; Psalm 86:5). Thus, it is conditional.
In the Old Testament, we read about God’s goodness and mercy (Exodus 34:6,7). But those that reject His love can’t receive His forgiveness (Joshua 24:19–20). Thus, repentance is a prerequisite for obtaining His forgiveness (Jeremiah 36:3, Psalm 51:3, 16–17).
In the New Testament, we learn the same truth. For God’s graciousness has been extended to all sinners in Christ (John 3:16). This is clearly illustrated in the story of the sinful woman that washed Jesus’ feet in gratitude for granting her His forgiveness after she repented of her sins (Luke 7:40–50). Likewise, Paul preached the call to repentance (Acts 26:20). And Peter in his teachings tied repentance with forgiveness (Acts 2:38; 5:31; 8:22).
We are to imitate Jesus Christ and to “follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21). We are called to treat our fellow men as He treats them (Colossians 3:13). The Scriptures teach to forgive “even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).
But do we forgive those that don’t ask for our forgiveness? Jesus answered this question clearly when he said, “If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him” (Luke 17:3–4).
The Savior taught clearly that we need to rebuke the sinner that he may see his sin. Then, the sinner needs to “repent” to receive our forgiveness. Thus, human forgiveness, is conditional, just as the divine forgiveness is (2 Peter 3:9).
Jesus stressed the need to reconciliation before worship. He taught, “if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24).
But if the erring one, at this point, refuses to be reconciled, the Christian should not give up but pray for his brother that he may be convicted to repent. Jesus urged the believers saying, “pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27).
Biblical forgiveness is not given arbitrarily but is conditioned on the repentance of the sinner. This forgiveness leads to both reconciliation and spiritual healing. As the offended seeks reconciliation and gently rebukes his brother, the offender sees that his sin has not been bypassed, but rather has been condemned. Then, he gets the chance to repent to receive both the forgiveness of God and man. By this action, he avoids God’s final judgment (1 Corinthians 11:31–32). This process leads to holiness and peace among God’s children.
In His service,