Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came to Him and said, Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Until seven times?
Matthew 18:22 Jesus said to him, I do not say to you, Until seven times; but, Until seventy times seven.
Peter must have been an aggrieved brother to a perpetual offender or he was just imagining a future situation where this would happen and he would have to get back at this perpetual offender. But Jesus corrected the wrong in his imaginations.
Luke 17:3 Take heed to yourselves. If your brother trespasses against you, rebuke him. And if he repents, forgive him.
Luke 17:4 And if he trespasses against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turns again to you, saying, I repent, you shall forgive him.
Jesus Said You Should Not Forgive?
While Peter was so concerned about when to stop forgiving and getting his own back, he missed a vital point in the statement of Jesus. Sadly, so many people are still missing the same point and the enemy is constantly exploiting this loophole in the believer’s walk.
The question is: “If a person keeps offending me, I know I should forgive him, but must I relate with him as if he never sinned against me?”
The answer is yes and no.
Yes, because Jesus commands it, just as you have been forgiven your own numerous sins.
No, because Jesus said it and God deals with you the same way, too.
The first part has been explained in my previous article, “Father Forgive Them”.
Why is the answer no? Did Jesus ever say you should not forgive someone? Where exactly did He say so, if He ever did?
This matter gets much more serious when we consider the sensitivity of where the matter can crop up – marriage! You have a situation where a man keeps abusing his wife (or vice versa), must the woman keep forgiving as she remains on the receiving end?
Sadly, this is what is common among many believers, even so-called ministers. Someone has offended them and they conclude, “I forgive him, but….” But what? They have a long list of excuses and reasons. Most of their reasons are nothing but a display of ego!
They enter into malice, keeping their distance, claiming not wanting to be hurt again, even though the offender may be trying desperately to right all the wrongs they have committed.
So, how do you handle perpetual offenders?”
What did Jesus say? “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother trespasses against you, rebuke him. And if he repents, forgive him. And if he trespasses against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turns again to you, saying, I repent, you shall forgive him.”
He was quite clear and specific, but many miss His point or completely misinterpret what He said and then get hurt by the person whom they forgave repeatedly. “And if he repents, forgive him …. turns again to you, saying, I repent, you shall forgive him.”
There it is, IF HE REPENTS!
Wait a minute before you run off into error and start keeping malice, making your last state of ungodliness worse than the first when you were hurt.
Let us consider the matter from the perspective of the offender.
What is repentance? Repentance is turning away from a place or thing completely. A person walking or travelling toward the South can claim to have repented if he changes course and starts travelling towards the North.
Repentance is making a one hundred and eighty degrees turn from something or someone. It is the choosing of an action in the exact opposite of a previous action that has caused an ill to someone or self. The prodigal son changing his mind and returning home from the wasteful life; a sluggard changing his lifestyle of slothfulness into that of hard worker; a liar coming clean and telling the truth; a prostitute refusing to sell her body for untold riches. A complete change of act is what repentance is all about.
Wikipedia defines it like this: “Repentance is the activity of reviewing one’s actions and feeling contrition or regret for past wrongs. It generally involves a commitment to personal change and resolving to live a more responsible and humane life.”1
Penny Wise and Pound Foolish!
Repentance is not just a thought, it is not a feeling, and it is not just a confession, but an act or action that is undertaken and displayed as a proof that there is (or has been) a change.
As the person who is showing contrition and regret for the past wrongs and desiring to make right the wrongs, you should not be overly concerned about the person you are trying to prove yourself to, but to be steady and consistent in proving to yourself that you have actually changed.
If you have truly and actually changed, the offended will see, know and may approve that you have truly repented.
Now, let us see what Jesus said again: “And if he repents, forgive him …. turns again to you, saying, I repent, you shall forgive him.” [Luke 17:3-4].
That should leave you to ask as you are forgiving, “Has he repented?” If he SAYS he has repented, fine, but where are the fruits of repentance (Luke 3:8)? What is the PROOF?
This is where the devil has taken advantage of so many believers who genuinely forgive those who have offended them, but lack the wisdom of Jesus’ counsel on the matter; they forgive and pretend as if nothing really happened as if the offender has no part to play in the forgiveness. Yes, he does!
A man commits adultery with the wife of his best friend and apologises to his friend that it was the greatest mistake of his life. Okay, but what happens after that moment? He continues to secretly meet the woman in secret locations – has he repented? Is he truly sorry for the mistake?
Now, does this mean that if someone refuses to repent neither should you forgive him? No. You should forgive, but avoid relating with him until he repents and proves the contrition with fruits to show for it.
“Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” [Matthew 7:20]
Remember the case of the Prodigal’s Son’s Father? Almost as soon as the wayward son went his way, he forgave and kept a vigil for him. But he was also wise and self-disciplined; he never went running after the son. He allowed the son to REPENT – turn away from his sinfulness, not just talking about it in his wretchedness, but making his way back from the errors and misery.
The Father did not just forgive him when he turned up at the door, you could see it demonstrated that he was always looking forward to the day the wayward son would come home. He had forgiven almost at the moment tears ran down his cheeks as the thoughtless child took his inheritance and left home without looking back.
“And he arose, and came to his father. But when HE WAS YET A GREAT WAY OFF, HIS FATHER SAW HIM, AND HAD COMPASSION, AND RAN, AND FELL ON HIS NECK, and kissed him.” [Luke 15:20 emphasis added]
Lack of wisdom has left so many believers hurt beyond solace. They forgive and get foolish. Foolishness (lack of knowledge of God’s counsel) is what has robbed many believers a life of joy in the Presence of God. Yes, it is being penny wise and pound foolish! Wise enough to forgive and foolish enough to see non-repentance on the part of the offender.
You must realize that this is the way God deals with us, too. “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” [Luke 13:5 emphasis added]
“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.” [Luke 23:34]
Yes, God the Father forgave all those who betrayed, blasphemed, beat up, abused, condemned and cruelly crucified Jesus on the Cross, but that forgiveness is like a cheque that must be cashed to actualize it. The perpetrators must repent and ask for forgiveness.
Are you to forgive your offenders? Yes, and they must equally repent before you can trust them enough to relate with them. Anything less would be putting yourself at the risk of foolishness!
So, what happens when you have witnessed that the offender is now truly and sincerely repented? You are to accept him as if he never sinned in the first instance. You are to relate with him as if he never sinned. That is exactly the way God relates with you. If He would mark, constantly refer to our past transgressions, no one would qualify to stand in His Presence – not Abraham, Paul or Mary!
Be wise and remember, IF HE REPENTS….