Does Luke 17:3-4 suggest that if a person does not repent we do not have to forigive them?


Clarify Share Report Asked September 25 2017 Mini Robert Banks

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Mini Tim Maas Retired Quality Assurance Specialist with the U.S. Army
In the passage from Luke cited in the question, I think that Jesus' emphasis was on the forgiveness (which we can control), rather than the offender's repentance (which we cannot).

In another passage in the gospels (Matthew 18:21-22), Peter asked Jesus how often he should forgive a brother who sinned against him, with Peter suggesting seven times (which he apparently considered a generous number). Jesus told him, not seven times but seventy times seven (which I have understood to imply an unlimited number). There is no mention there of that forgiveness being conditioned upon repentance, or upon the circumstances of the offense.

And, if we are to so freely forgive fellow believers ("brothers") (who should have known better than to sin against us), we should be even more willing to extend that same forgiveness to those outside the faith (as Jesus did on the cross (Luke 23:34), despite there being no indication of repentance on the part of those who put Him to death).

However, I would also say that there is no obligation on the part of the forgiver to act as if the offense never happened, or to continue to be taken advantage of or mistreated by the offender. Jesus told His followers to be as innocent as doves, but also as wise as serpents (Matthew 10:16).

September 27 2017 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Dscf1720 Myron Robertson Seeking God's heart
To properly and fully understand God's demands on us regarding forgiveness requires much deep study and we cannot go into that here. In short,God's law requires forgiveness in one, and only one, condition - full restitution has been repaid. Here, it appears that Jesus is changing the law for Christians, and in a sense he is. 

Under the best known and understood statutes of the Old Testament we only see phileo love being demonstrated and this kind of love is a quid pro quo love. Jesus was trying to teach us to move up into agape love which is unconditional and is merciful. It is not that mercy and unconditional love did not exist in the law before. Grace and mercy are demanded by the law, but the priests and rabbis never taught those laws, or where they did they focused on other aspects of those laws and removed all grace and mercy from them, making them severe burdens on the people instead of sources of rest for the people.

The Sabbath laws are the laws of grace and mercy; these the priests made heavy burdens on the people focusing more on the "work" restrictions and heavily defining the "work" you cannot do on that day that it was almost impossible to keep their Sabbath joyfully by their traditions.

In these two verses Jesus demanded that those who used his name go beyond forgiving sins once restitution was paid in full to requiring that they forgive without any restitution at all. When we compare this passage with others we find that God would never require even Christians to always forgive without receiving some restitution. In Isa 26:9, 10 we see God's statement that we only learn righteousness by being disciplined and that when grace (full forgiveness regardless of whether restitution has been paid or not) is extended to the sinner he will continue in sin. 

If you are looking for excuses not to forgive someone Isaiah 26:10 gives you a much better and more explicit justification for that attitude without contradicting Luke 17:3, 4 in any way. 

Jesus purpose in this statement is to teach his followers to forgive and to trust even when the evidence does not support either of these actions, not to execute righteous judgment. Jesus said, "Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” 

The evidence in this situation shows that most likely this brother's "repentance" is not genuine or else that regardless of this brother's best intentions he is just too weak to do right (See Rom 7, and keep in mind Rom 5:12 which when properly translated says, Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, causing all to sin." It takes much practice and strength in living the law of life for the fleshly, mortal man not to sin.

So you are not to judge (condemn) this person for his sin, you are to learn mercy by forgiving him when he claims repentance whether is repentance is empty words being used to take advantage of you or is well intended by someone who is too weak to actually behave himself. 

Over the years as God has taught me righteous judgment and I have watched others learn it as well, I have found that God always teaches mercy as the first step in the process. In Matthew 23:23 Jesus tells the legalistic that judgment, mercy and faith are the weightiest matters in law. There is to be no judgment without mercy because God will judge you by the same standard of law and judgment against you that you use when you judge others (Matt 7:3, James 2:13). Therefore, you cannot begin to learn righteous judgment until you have learned mercy (forgiveness even without having received full restitution.)

There is one more thing Jesus is teaching us with this command. On the cross Jesus paid full restitution for all sins for all time. Christians find it very difficult to remember this. If full restitution has been paid forgiveness is mandatory no matter who paid. This is redemption.

September 29 2017 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

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