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I wrote and posted the following a couple of years ago. Since a lot of readers weren’t around back then, I thought it might be worth re-posting. I’d be interested in your feedback.

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In the above post I mentioned the provocative commentaries by Dennis Prager and Greg Koukl arguing that “to forgive” is not always right. This is my own inclination as well, but I’ve decided to study the issue in more depth and to see if this position is indeed biblical. To do so, I’ve had to widen the scope of the investigation and address some related issues.

What Is Divine Forgiveness?

Calvin explained that when God forgives us, he “remits all the punishment that we had deserved” (Institutes 3.4.30). W.G.T. Shedd argues that divine forgiveness means that “the punishment due to sin is released or not inflicted upon the transgressor” (Dogmatic Theology, p. 698). In the application of our redemption, God first regenerates our heart, then grants us faith, and by means of that faith, gives us the forgiveness of sins (our debt is removed) and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness (a perfect record is granted). The Christian life involves a lifelong process of confessing our sins and forgiving the sins of those who sin against us—and if we do, God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins (1 John 1:9).

What Is Horizontal Forgiveness?

Horizontal forgiveness could mean a number of different things: (1) accepting someone who “asks for forgiveness”; (2) forgetting that an offense has occurred, i.e., not keeping “a record of wrongs”; (3) restoring a relationship back to its pre-offense condition; (4) treating the person as if the offense never occurred in the first place; (5) desiring that only good, and not punishment or consequences, would befall the offender. I’m sure that most people would argue for a combination of some of the above. Scripture does not explicitly define horizontal forgiveness. Therefore, to understand the concept behind the terms, we have to engage in an inductive approach (which is outlined, in part, below).

Ken Sande’s Definitions and Distinctions

Before doing so, I want to look at the work of Ken Sande, president of Peacemaker Ministries, who has thought about the biblical basis for and the practical ramifications of forgivness as few others have. In his excellent book The Peacemaker, he defines forgiveness as follows: “To forgive someone means to release from liability to suffer punishment or penalty.” He explains:

We must release the person who has wronged us from the penalty of being separated from us. We must not hold wrongs against others, not think about them, and not punish others for them. Therefore, forgiveness may be described as a decision to make four promises:

[1] “I will not think about this incident.”

[2] “I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you.”

[3] “I will not talk to others about this incident.”

[4] “I will not allow this incident to stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.”

Sande goes on to suggest that ideally, repentance should precede forgiveness (Luke 17:3). But he also rightly points out that we should be quick to forgive minor offenses against us, not insisting on every case upon expressed repentance.

When repentance is not forthcoming, Sande suggests that we think of forgiveness as a two-stage process: (1) positional forgiveness, and (2) transactional forgiveness. Positional forgiveness entails an unconditional commitment to God that you strive not to dwell on the incident, that you have an attitude of mercy and love, and that you not seek vengeance. In other words, it seeks to fulfill promise #1 listed above. You are in a “position of forgiveness”—ready to reconcile upon repentance. Transactional forgiveness is a commitment to the offender to fulfill the other three promises, but it is conditioned upon their repentance.

For the most part, I think Sande gives wise, biblical advice that applies to the vast majority of situations where we have been wronged by another. I am unpersuaded, however, that Sande’s first promise—that I will not think about this incident—is biblically required. God does say that he will “remember their sins no more” (Jer. 31:34b; cf. Isa. 43:25), but divine remembrance here is to be understood in analogical language. Just as God does not literally “remember” the rainbow (in the way that we “remember” where we left our coat), so in the same way I do not believe that God literally forgets our sin. The language is judicial and covenantal—God will not punish us on the basis of those sins. The same would be true for biblical statements that, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has [God] removed our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12) and statements that God does not “keep a record of sins” (Ps. 130:3-4—compare 1 Cor. 13:).

Furthermore, I don’t think that on the horizontal level we are required to abstain from thinking about offensive incidents. This might apply if I say a poorly-timed word to my wife and it makes her upset. But if a man murders my daughter, I will think about the incident everyday for the rest of my life—even if the murderer repents and is forgiven. I agree with Sande that we should have a merciful, loving, non-vengeful attitude. But I don’t see that that entails never again thinking about the incident.

As another example, think of church discipline—the process instituted by Jesus in Matthew 18:15-20.

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

It is difficult for me to see how treating an unrepentant sinner as a Gentile and a tax collector is compatible with making an unconditional promise to God to “not think about this incident.” (Cf. 1 Corinthians 5:1-9!)

The second critique of Sande’s otherwise helpful and wise approach is that it does not seem to adequately distinguish between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man. Let’s return to the scenario of a man whose daughter has been murdered. Let’s suppose that the murderer repents of his sin and seeks reconciliation with the victim’s parents. Is it plausible, and is it biblically required, that the parents will make promises to the effect that they won’t bring up the incident, won’t use it against the perpetrator, and won’t talk to others about the incident? Such a promise would preclude any testimony in court. These promises would apply in the spiritual kingdom, but not in the context of human courts. I may desire that the murderer repents and is accepted into heaven, and yet also desire that he suffer the temporal consequences on earth. In other words, I think we have to make some further distinctions.

What Does the Bible Teach About Horizontal Forgivnesss?

In our English Bibles, there are approximately 130 references to some form of the word “forgive.” The vast majority of occurrences reference God forgiving his people or an individual. Only about 12 passages deal with horizontal forgiveness (Matt. 6:12, 14, 15; 18:21; Mark 11:25; Luke 6:37; 11:4; 17:3; John 20:23; 2 Cor. 2:7, 10; 2 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13).

Here is my attempt to set forth the principles I see in the NT regarding forgiveness of one another:

Flying as a banner over all interaction with those have offended us is Jesus’s command, “Love your enemies.

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27). “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you . . . for [God] is kind to the ungrateful and the evil” (Luke 6:35). “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink” (Rom. 12:20=Prov. 25:21).

Negatively phrased, we are to be free from hatred, bitterness, and vengeance at all times.

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31). “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled” (Heb. 12:15). “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19).

We are to forgive others as God in Christ has forgiven us.

Forgive one another, “as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32). “As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Col. 3:13).

Conversely, we ask God to forgive us as we have forgiven others.

“[Father] forgive us our debts, as we also have been forgiven our debtors” (Matt. 6:12). “[Father] forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us” (Luke 11:4).

If we forgive others, we will be forgiven; if we do not forgive others, we will not be forgiven.

“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 heavenly Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:12). “Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37). “Forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25). “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” (Matt. 6:12). “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you [punishment], if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matt. 18:35).

Horizontal forgiveness is not explicitly defined, though it is connected with vertical forgiveness (see above) and is connected with other commands.

We are to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other” (Eph. 4:32). We are to bear with one another and, “if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other” (Col. 3:13). In Luke 6:37, “to forgive” is listed in the same category as judge not and condemn not.

The Remaining Question

Based upon all that we’ve seen, this question remains in my mind: Is it possible for a Christian to remain fully obedient to Scripture, with kindness and tenderheartedness, loving his enemy as himself, and yet at the same time not granting forgiveness to an unrepentant offender?

From what I can discern from the evidence in the Bible, and from what the Westminster Confession of Faith calls “good and necessary consequence,” I’m persuaded that the answer is yes. “Love your enemies” is something that we should do at all times and in all places. It is modeled after God’s love for his enemies, whom he loves even when they are “unjust” and “evil” (Luke 6:35). At the same time, our forgiveness of others is likewise modeled upon God’s forgiveness of sinners, whom he forgives conditioned upon their repentance. God does not forgive apart from repentance; neither should we. In major offenses, we are not to forgive the unrepentant.

In the event of a tragedy that involves the loss of human life brought about by wanton human sin, it is therefore wrong for Christians to call upon immediate forgiveness in the absence of repentance. Such a call both cheapens and misunderstands the biblical doctrine of forgiveness.


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12 thoughts on “Is Forgiveness Always Right and Required?”

  1. Sojourner says:

    I am unpersuaded, however, that Sande’s first promise—that I will not think about this incident—is biblically required.

    I really appreciate your words in this post, as I have struggled to understand how God would have us behave in such situations as well. I believe that you are correct to say that absolute forgetfullness is not a requirement. I believe that it is not only impossible, but can impede the work of grace in our own hearts. That is, if I remember a sin committed against me, and I recall the repentance the offender has made, this teaches me about the grace of God in my own life. That is, the pain of the offense gives me an analogy for my own rebellion and offense against God.

  2. Steve Bagdanov says:

    My perspective about this has been influenced by Romans 12:14-21:

    Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. 20 “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

    The key is making the connection between verse 18 and 19. In order to understand it the way I think it should be understood, you should supply the words “if it is notpossible” in between the verses so that it reads as follows:

    If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. If it is not possible, Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God.

    The implication of this passage is that there is a possibility that peace with some will not be possible. That there will be some instances where peace is unattainable and forgiveness neither offered or received. In those instances, when hurt, frustration and anger are the only residue left – don’t fall into the fleshly desire for vengeance. Don’t take justice into your own hands but be people of God who trust Him to judge, vindicate, convict, punish or whatever He deems appropriate. All the while, be ready to forgive, because God may convict the person and desire a future forgiveness and restoration.

    If people “forgive” in these instances, and what I mean by forgive is a false and empty gesture which only keeps people in the pain and grip of sin, they generally do not ready themselves for peace. Rather, what is accomplished is not reconciliation, restoration but an attempt to “erase” the event and the person who is the object of pain. It doesn’t work, nor is it satisfying, none the less this methodology is perpetrated by the mythology of “we have to forgive everyone.”

    I just had someone in my office speaking of the horrible things that were done to a family member by another family member which has been kept quiet and hidden for years under the horrible umbrella of “we need to forgive.” Too often justice is undermined by the cheap forgiveness that is practiced, which in fact is no forgiveness at all.

  3. Robert Ivy says:

    My understanding, based on Matthew 18:21-22, and on a basic understanding of the gospel, is that we are always to forgive, that is, let go of any anger or grudge we harbor against a person, however, we are not always to reconcile. That is, we are not always to forget the sin and have a relationship just as if no sin had occurred.

    And I think this works if you define God’s forgiveness as the remittance of punishment that the we deserve. Then, realizing that punishment is the fruition of God’s wrath, and for man, it is commanded that our wrath not come to fruition (Romans 12:19), then it follows that man still holds wrath, although not punishment. Therefore a definition of horizontal forgiveness may be “remits all the wrath that another deserves”.

    This seems to conform with Matthew 5:22 and 6:15. In 5:22 Christ says “everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment” In 6:15 he says “if you do not forgive others… neither will your father forgive you”. If “liable to judgement” is the same as “neither will your father forgive you” then being angry is the same as not forgiving others.

    In summary (sorry if this sounded convoluted) I believe we are always to forgive in the sense of letting go of anger but even when we do that we still remember the wrong and deal with the person differently based on it.

  4. J. Gary Ellison says:

    I agree with you that it is a bit simplistic to suggest that we never again think about the wrongs that have been committed against us. How do you say, “Forgive and forget” to the survivors of concentration camps in Nazi German or today’s China or to Iranian or Somalian Christians? In 2002, I had the privilege of preaching to a church in Caplijna, Bosnia. You don’t tell people who have seen their wives and children violated and killed to just forget it. I noted signs up in Mostar, Bosnia that read: “Never forget.” What does Paul mean in Philippians 3:13 to “forget those things that are behind”? In the opening verses of that chapter, Paul goes into considerable detail about “those things that were behind”, things that he had not forgotten. Forgetting does not mean erasing them from our memory or refusing to think about them as though they had nothing to do with our identity. Throughout eternity, Christ will continue to bear the scars of our sins that nailed him to the cross, not as a reminder of our sins but of his abundant grace. Forgiveness brings healing, but it does not necessarily remove the scars.

    Forgetting can be a kind of denial. It sometimes fails to realize that the relationship needs to be rebuilt and redefined. And forgiveness is not the basis for trust; trust is built on faithfulness. Forgiving someone does not mean that I trust them. I may again trust them once the relationship has been rebuilt on a solid and trustworthy foundation.

    Donald W. Shriver, Jr. in An Ethic for Enemies gives and extensive and insightful exegesis on the story of Joseph who forgave his brothers, though he did not forget. Native Croatian and Yale professor Miroslav Volf’s book Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness and Reconciliation is a masterful treatment of the problem. A few quotes may entice you to purchase and work your way through this wonderful book:

    After we have repented and forgiven our enemies, after we have made space in ourselves for them and left the door open, our will to embrace them must allow the one final, and perhaps the most difficult act to take place, in the process of reconciliation is to be complete. It is the act of forgetting the evil suffered, a certain kind of forgetting I hasten to add. It is a forgetting that assumes that the matters of “truth” and “justice” have been taken care of (see Chapters V and VI), that perpetrators have been named, judged and (hopefully) transformed, that victims are safe and their wounds healed (see Chapter VII), a forgetting that can therefore ultimately take place only together with the creation of “all things new” (p. 131).

    “In a nutshell, my argument is this: since no final redemption is possible without the redemption of the past, and since every attempt to redeem the past through reflection must fail because no theodicy can succeed, the final redemption is unthinkable without a certain kind of forgetting. Put starkly, the alternative is: either heaven or the memory of horror. Either heaven will have no monuments to keep the memory of the horrors alive, or it will be closer to hell than we would like to think. For if heaven cannot rectify Auschwitz, then the memory of Auschwitz must undo the experience of heaven” (p. 135-136).

    “In conclusion, let me return briefly to divine “forgetting” and its relation to human forgetting. How can God forget the wrongdoings of human beings? Because at the center of God’s all-embracing memory there is a paradoxical monument to forgetting. It is the cross of Christ. God forgets humanity’s sins in the same way God forgives humanity’s sin: by taking sins away from humanity and placing them upon God-self [sic]. How will human beings be able to forget the horrors of history? Because at the center of the new world that will emerge after “the first things have passed away” there will stand a throne, and on the throne there will sit the Lamb who has “taken away the sin of the world” and erased their memory (Revelation 22:1-4; John 1:29)” (p. 139-140).

    Thanks be unto God!

  5. DJP says:

    For whatever it’s worth to you, I agree about forgiving the unrepentant. I once did a post called Forgiveness, the Dixie Chicks, Christianity, setting out that thought — and caught some grief about it. The traditional, unexamined position dies hard here, as often.

  6. Greg says:

    That is a very fascinating piece of wrtining. I have struggled with this for years after I had lost my job and all my ‘friends’ including a couple of strong Christians abondoned me and my family. It’s only now 4 years after the fact that I am able to start putting it behind me. Forgiveness is neither easy nor quick much of the time, but it is worth the time and the effort.

  7. KC Armstrong says:

    It should be noted that the first promise of forgiveness set forth by Ken Sande has been updated to read: “I will not dwell on this incident.” (See the 3rd Edition which is Revised and Updated, 2004). Semantics for many, but I believe there to be a significant difference between “thinking” and “dwelling.” I agree, to say “I will not think” is almost an entirely impossible promise to uphold. I think we all can admit that we have some thoughts from time to time (sinful or not) that seem to simply “come out of nowhere” and it is as though we have no control over them. Having said this, however, we are responsible, as Paul exhorts us, to “take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor 10:5). Thus, the captivity of thoughts draws the line between thinking and dwelling. For if these “random” thoughts are left unbridled they tend to become an object of dwelling and wonderment and can lead to (especially along the lines of lustful thoughts) to fantasy and this is indeed sinful. Therefore, I am appreciative to Ken Sande for his revision to make this distinction clear.

    As for treating our brothers as gentiles and tax collectors, I believe that the Lord’s purpose in mind is that we should then treat them in a way as to woo them to redemption. Church discipline should always be done with the purpose of redemption and reconciliation in mind; never because I am simply annoyed at some petty quirk. Therefore, my duty is to be faithful to the Gospel by bringing sin to light and set forth the promise of forgiveness by the only One who is able to offer such a promise. We do not ignore sin, sweep it under the rug, or look for a quick fix – especially when the purity of the Bride of Christ is at stake. All the while, I am to ask for the Lord’s grace to be remain in a state of “positional forgiveness”, as Sande mentions, praying for the day that the Lord might bring this man to repentance.

    As for the man who’s daughter is murdered, at the outset let me say that these principles are easier said than done. True biblical peacemaking is an act of the Holy Spirit to bring people to recognize the wrongs that they have caused, seek the Lord’s forgiveness first, and then the forgiveness of the offended party(ies). True confession and subsequent forgiveness are then, therefore, reliant upon a true godly grief versus worldly grief (2 Cor 7:9-11). For arguments sake then, what are we to do when the murdered is experiencing biblical grief and has sought the forgiveness of the Lord and of the man whose daughter was just taken from him. Is it possible for the father to forgive this murderer? Absolutely. Easy? Hardly. Apart from a mighty move of the Holy Spirit of God it will be impossible. But should this father elect to never forgive – regardless of repentance or not – it will be to the father’s detriment – not the killers. Although the prisoner may be held behind bars in a small death row cell, the father will be the true prisoner, imprisoned by bitterness for the rest of his life.

    Think about Stephen who besought the Lord to “not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60). Saul, later Paul, is the only evidence that we are given from Scripture that any of these men were repentant of their actions. True, Stephen never says “I forgive you”, but I believe that we are sound ground assuming that he was desirous that the Lord impart the same grace upon his killers as the Lord had shown to himself. If I am honest about the depravity of my own heart apart from Christ, I am capable of what our judicial system would call the most grievous and heinous sins.

    As for the need to uphold the third promise Sande proposes, “I will not speak to others about this incident,” there is obviously a biblical mandate for believers to remain in obedience to the civil authorities that “have been instituted by God” (Rom 13:1ff). Therefore, if an offender has asked for your forgiveness, but the consequences of his sin require you to speak to governing authorities in an investigation or courtroom proceeding, I do not believe that you would be in violation of the principles of peacemaking to testify accordingly. Here again, the purpose behind this promise is to deter gossip that is never beneficial and edifying to the Church. Gossip and court sanctioned testimony are not to be considered equal. According to Sande, “To gossip means to betray confidence or to discuss unfavorable personal facts about another person with someone who is not part of the problem or its solution” (The Peacemaker. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004. 121). As Christians we are called to live in obedience to whatever laws govern the land where we reside until that law calls us to contradict the laws of God.

    I think that there is an underlying question that needs to be asked. Why are you unwilling to forgive? Is it purely based on a biblical conviction that you do not have to and in fact would be sinful to do so, or is it because there is a wound that has yet to heal? Is this issue inhibiting your worship of the risen Christ? Does it effect your ongoing relationships with others as it produces issues of mistrust or apprehensiveness of being vulnerable and transparent? Is it more edifying to the Church and glorifying to Christ to remain in a state of unforgiveness or to seek to have his grace work wonders through us and allow the conflict to be an opportunity to give testimony to the wonderful and undeserved grace of God as we (as Sande puts it) glorify God, serve others, and grow to be like Christ.

  8. Jerry Wall says:

    As Acting Director of Ministry Relations for Peacemaker Ministries, I had seen this post and had actually composed a response to Justin’s very gracious critique. However, in the interim, KC has posted his eloquent and biblical response…saying much of what I intended to say! Thanks, KC!

  9. DJP says:

    I think that there is an underlying question that needs to be asked. Why are you unwilling to forgive?

    Can’t really agree. A more fundamental question is, “What possible rational/Biblical sense does it make to ‘forgive’ someone who still embraces the sin?”

    Never, ever heard one that didn’t reek of doubletalk.

  10. Ben says:

    I’ve been thinking abou this recently and it all started on a chance conversation not too long ago. It seems to be my most (only?) popular subject to write about now so thanks! I look forward to, Lord willing, reading it tomorrow when it’s not 4:30am. :) God bless, and thanks for all your blogging.

  11. bwsmith says:

    A Can of worms: Forgiving with no repentance?

    You (you may or may not be a Christian) have offended me; I am a Christian and bring it to your attention. You are polite – maybe – but you do not repent. (Note: I am assuming I am in the right – time may prove me wrong)

    If it is not an offense the church needs to know about, what do I do?

    I think there are two steps to take – one is what I say to God, and the next is when you have come to me, seeking forgiveness and reconciliation.

    What I say to God is based on Matthew 18 – and the knowledge of how great is my debt to God.
    Whatever you have done to me – is nothing compared to what I have done to God –

    I also note Christ’s commands to forgive: Matthew 6:12-14; 11:25; Luke 11:4 –
    in none of these does HE say “Be willing” – He says do it. I rely on Matthew Henry’s commentary on Luke 11:1-13: We forgive our debtors, but in particular, “We profess to forgive every one that is indebted to us, without exception. We so forgive our debtors as not to bear malice or ill-will to any, but true love to all, without any exception whatsoever.” (from Matthew Henry’s Commentary )

    Well, what about Luke 17:3? It is an important verse – for its context addresses how to relate to one who continually sins and repents – Luke 17:1-10
    “Note, Christians should be of a forgiving spirit, willing to make the best of every body, and to make all about them easy; forward to extenuate faults, and not to aggravate them; and they should contrive as much to show that they have forgiven an injury as others to show that they resent it.” (from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible .)

    What I say to you, who have hurt me may be nothing. (Proverbs 19:11) – or I may take another run at trying to work things out – but these two quotes show me I can’t wait on you to say you are sorry for offending me:
    “Our forgiving others will not procure forgiveness for ourselves; but our not forgiving others proves that we ourselves are not forgiven.” (John Owen From _A Puritan Golden Treasury_, Puritan Paperbacks, I.D.E. Thomas, The Banner of Truth Trust.)

    “We need not climb into heaven to see whether our sins are forgiven; let us look into our hearts, and see if we can forgive others. If we can, we need not doubt but God has forgiven us” (Thomas Watson)

    “Thus, it follows that who in the parable is condemned? The man who didn’t forgive his fellow servant who showed forth repentance. God has said that we are to forgive as He forgave us. And how’s that? Grace, no doubt! And yet, we’re not forgiven until we repent. I would never deny that it’s the work of the Holy Spirit; I’m not sure where it was implied that I’d believe something other than that.”

    I have cited the whole of Matthew as a basis for a conversation I would have with GOD about dealing with an unrepentant offender. See please Matt 18:21-22 . My willingness before GOD to forgive the debt owed me flows from remembering what I owe God.

    I have cited Christ’s commands to forgive – so when speaking to Him about the one who offends, I will say Yes to Him – and trust Him to work repentance.

  12. Brian J. Mann says:

    This is a tough subject that has real significance in our day and in light of recent tragedies. Thanks for the thoughts.

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Justin Taylor, PhD


Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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