Do I have to forgive a person even though he did not ask for my forgiveness?

The Bible teaches that we are to forgive those who are repentant (Luke 17:3-4). But does the Bible teach that we are to forgive the unrepentant ones as well?

Jesus taught us in the Lord’s prayer saying: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). Christ’s command means that we dare not ask for forgiveness unless we have forgiven even those who didn’t ask for our forgiveness. It should be our habit to pardon others.

Jesus explains, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15). You can’t expect God to do things for you when you won’t do it for others. He who is unwilling to pardon others does not deserve to be forgiven. Only when we are right with our fellow men can we be right with God (1 John 4:20; Matthew 7:12).

The Christian needs also to make an effort to seek reconciliation. In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus said, “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.” And if the erring one refuses to be reconciled, the Christian should pray for his brother that he may be convicted to repent. Jesus said, “pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:27).

Forgiveness is based on the love of God that He pours into our heart. “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20). If the spirit of forgiveness actuates the heart, a person will be ready to forgive his unrepentant brother and not hold a grudge.

Check out our Bible Answers page for more information on a variety of topics.

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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