Summary: Part 5 continues to focus on unforgiveness.
The Schemes of the Devil Part 5: Un-forgiveness Part 2
In my message last week, I shared with you the fact that we are required to forgive if we want God to forgive us. Jesus taught that God will only forgive our sins (and forget about them) when we are willing to do the same for our brothers and sisters. When Jesus taught this, He did not teach this as a “possibility or a maybe” situation, He taught this as an absolute. So it is not enough to just say we forgive and “act” like it, we must do it and our subsequent actions towards the person who offended us must be genuine. This morning I want to focus on answering the question that many have asked, “Do I have to forgive someone who does not ask me to or who is not at all sorry they offended me?” I think you already know the answer to this question, but I want to make sure.
I. Ultimate Responsibility
If I offend you on purpose, whose responsibility is it to forgive? What if I offend you and never ask for forgiveness or say that I am sorry because I am not, whose responsibility is it to forgive? Of course, it is your responsibility. Likewise if you offend me, it is my responsibility to forgive you. So here is the real issue, many people believe that the only time you have to forgive someone is when they ask for it and are really sorry for whatever it was that they did. Is this scripturally correct? If someone offends you and never says they are sorry, must you really forgive them? Some base this belief on Luke 17:3-4 which says “Be on guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I repent’, forgive him.” Jesus does say that we are to forgive when asked, but He does not say that this is the only time that we must forgive. We must be willing to forgive regardless of the action of the one who offended us. When we have been offended it ceases to be about the one who offended us and becomes about you and I who was offended.
Consider the following Scripture found in Matthew 5:43-48: “You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even the pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
These verses of Scripture give us insight into the issue pertaining to forgiving someone who does not ask for it. Consider what happens when someone offends us willingly and without remorse. What is our response? We generally write them off and they become someone we no longer associate with. They become an enemy. Now according to the verse we just read, there is a response that we are supposed to have with our enemies, we are to love them. You need to understand that when Christ made this statement the prevailing thought was it was okay to hate your enemies. Verse 44 says “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you...” Jesus tells us that we are to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. Who are those who persecute us? It is not our family or friends who occasionally offend us. It is not the spouse that is getting on your last nerve (although in some cases it could be). It is not that stranger who is pulling out in front of you or is rude to you while you’re standing in line at the grocery story. The one who persecutes you according to this verse is someone who knows you, possibly understands you and is going out of their way to make your life miserable, every day. This individual has it in for you and you know it. Yet with this person, Jesus says that we are to love them and pray for them. Now here is something you must recognize. When Jesus says that we should pray for them, He was not talking about us praying that God would strike them down or that something bad would happen to them. His desire is that we should pray for their benefit, pray God’s blessings upon them and be sincere when we do it. God knows if you are praying because you are supposed to versus praying because you really want your enemy to be blessed. Look at verse 45.