Luke 17:3-4 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. (4) And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.
The Christian life begins with forgiveness. We who were undeniably guilty were forgiven solely on the merits of Jesus Christ and our faith in Him. To be saved, we repented toward God and received His pardon by faith. God forgave us freely “for Christ’s sake,” and commands us to do the same – “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). This brought reconciliation. The Christian life therefore begins with forgiveness, is based on forgiveness, and must practice forgiveness towards others.
However, it is a sad trend that people want and expect forgiveness and reconciliation without any repentance on their part. I believe we should examine the above passage from the perspective of the one who has done the offense. Yes, the Christian has a responsibility to forgive. But does not the offending brother have a responsibility to say, “I repent?” Is there no responsibility on that brother’s part to sincerely acknowledge his error, own up to his action, and admit that he was wrong?
We teach our children to say “I’m sorry” to their little playmates; yet how often do we as adults remain silent when we should acknowledge our faults? This expectation of forgiveness without repentance hurts marriages, parent/child relationships, friendships, and relationships within the church. Some husbands never acknowledge their wrongs, and it hurts their marriages. Some wives do the same. Some parents could be reconciled to their adult children if they would say, “I’m sorry, I was wrong;” some adult kids could enjoy a restored relationship with the same words. Sooner or later we have to start taking responsibility for our actions – and take our responsibility for our part in reconciliation.
The Lord is “good, and ready to forgive” (Ps. 86:5), but doesn’t He also tell us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9)?
Now, this view of Luke 17:3-4 does NOT justify unforgiveness on the part of the offended. Forgive for your sake and move on in life. There’s no sense holding a grudge or becoming bitter over things in the past. And there are many things we can “pass over” in our daily relationships that shouldn’t require a tear-filled apology and a hug (Prov. 19:11). However, reconciliation between two people is going to require more than quoting scripture at them and telling them they should be more forgiving when you’ve never bothered to say, “I repent.”
It’s time that Christians grow up and act like little children. A little kid knows to say “I’m sorry,” the other kid says, “That’s OK,” and they go right on with life. Let us learn to say, “I’m sorry” again – or, to be more Biblical, “I repent.”
Thank you for reading. God bless.