Can I forgive those who have betrayed me if they are not repentant?

If we wait for those who have hurt us to repent first, we will almost certainly wait for a long, long time. We also give ourselves a justification to stay bitter the rest of our lives.

This cannot be right. Even non-Christian organizations are emerging to show the value of forgiveness; their premise is that the greatest benefit of forgiveness accrues not to the one who is forgiven, but to the one who forgives.

One of Jesus' main teachings was that we love our enemies, pray for them, and do good to those who have hurt us. It is curious how some of us read the Gospels over and again and miss this. We may get the theology, but not the graciousness that Jesus taught and exemplified.

How much repentance do you suppose there was at the Cross while Jesus hung there? There was not only an utter absence of repentance, but also total contempt. Jesus' reply: "Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).

Had Jesus adopted the position that he should wait until they repent, he would have shown himself to be as lost as those for whom he was dying. Furthermore, he did not shout at them, "I forgive you." He prayed, Father you forgive them.

Chances are high that those who hurt us don't even think they have done anything wrong. Nine out of ten people I have to forgive don't think they have done anything wrong to me (which suggests that I, too, have probably hurt people without knowing).

When I was minister of Westminster Chapel in London, the people who had betrayed me didn't think they had done one thing wrong. You could have hooked them up to a lie detector, and they would have passed with flying colors. ...

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Christianity Today
Forgiving the Unrepentant
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In the Magazine

March 2005

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