Not just anyone said this… Jesus said this:
“Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”
— Luke 17:4 (NIV)
RELATIONSHIPS spell disaster when there is one of two things: either wrongdoing that isn’t addressed honestly or if sins that have been repented of aren’t forgiven (Luke 17:3).
Let us get one thing straight: Jesus is not talking, above, about forgiving in any other context than as a consequence of repentance. Recall his previous verses of Luke chapter 17; the particularly gruesome sins of offences against children — the leading of weaker ones astray. Even these sins are forgivable, if there is a genuine repentance. Maybe Jesus picks the worst of sins out so as to show how unconditional our forgiveness is to be in the light of a remorse that ubiquitously regrets previous sins.
Practically, if a sex-offender were to repent of their despicable deeds against a child they are to be forgiven; and not only that, we are compelled to forgive them “seven times in a day…”
There is no point in getting angry about it. Jesus commands it. And we might ask why.
There is a principle of compassion amid justice implicit in Jesus’ injunction.
If a person were to seek to right their wrong — whether they are able to do it or not — they deserve forgiveness. It’s only the person who has no cause for remorse that we are not compelled, for their sake, to forgive. But the person who sincerely hopes never to do what they did again has earned the right of our compassion.
Deserving our compassion is not the same as deserving our trust in the same situation should it come in future.
The nature of God we are impelled to adopt here is mercy. If we will not forgive someone who genuinely commits to change — who wishes to turn from their wrongdoing — we may well cause them to be so aggrieved and discouraged, they will again fall into the hands of Satan.
Forgiving a repentant brother or sister is the justice of compassion; the divine mercy of God’s grace.
To forgive a repentant brother or sister — to pardon them unconditionally — is to do the will of God.
The Christian obligation to forgive the repentant one is tantamount to a command. We don’t get a choice. But forgiveness is also a process of prayerfully seeking God to change our hearts.
What this means, also, is an unrepentant person need not be forgiven. But we must always ready ourselves to forgive them.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.