I was conflicted recently hearing that “forgiveness is conditional”; that we are to forgive like God forgives, giving the scripture 1 John 1:9; that it would be unfair to Christ to forgive without the offending person repenting. Is forgiveness conditional?
Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Colossians 3:13 says, “bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so must you do also.” God has forgiven us, so we are to forgive others unconditionally.
Often, the offending person may not repent and ask for forgiveness. So do we hold on to that hurt? No, we lay it down again and again. We’ve all experienced injustice in our lives, but we can’t sit around and wait for an apology to forgive and move on. Corrie ten Boom said, “Forgiveness is setting the prisoner free, only to find out that the prisoner was me.”
To let go of the hurt, injustice, damage, and even scars is not easy. Christ died to accomplish our forgiveness, but as sinful humans, we are incapable of forgiving someone in the flesh. Willpower alone cannot manifest forgiveness. The consequences of someone’s sin may leave lifelong scars.
We must keep in mind that we have also scarred others! That said, we pray for that person, ask for forgiveness from Christ, trust in 1 John 1:9, lean on His works, and ask for the Holy Spirit’s help. Yet, hurt can remain. If nothing else, it’s a potent medicine that we must ask others for forgiveness, precisely and clearly, lest they, too, suffer from the hurts we’ve inflicted.
With a verse like 1 John 1:9, we must look deeper at the word ‘if’ to understand the text properly. A better way to look at this verse is to see ‘if’ as ‘since.’ So the sentence becomes, “Since we confess our sins… He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Christ does say that if we hold sin against someone else, we are not forgiven
We must call out, “Christ, I need your help. I know I’m supposed to forgive because you forgave me. I know my sins are just as egregious, if not more, but Lord, I can’t let it go.” We live our Christian life before Christ, not man. While we were STILL God’s enemies, He moved toward us in forgiveness.
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