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Sunday, May 02, 2010

Must we, can we, forgive someone who has not asked for it?

Can we truly forgive someone who hasn't asked for forgiveness? If so, must we do this?

My immediate reaction is that, since I have been forgiven so much, I should forgive anyone who needs it, or thinks that they need it, from me. But I don't know any scripture that bears on the question directly. So, good scholar that I am, I did a Google search for "Forgive someone who hasn't asked for forgiveness," as a search, not a search for that phrase.

The first two returns (which actually returned something, without duplication) were these:

Counseling Solutions did not answer, but referred to a previous post by him or herself, that does answer the question. That post agrees with me, but adds scripture references that are pertinent. I won't give the entire post, but will say that one Bible passage cited is 2 Timothy 2:24-26, which seems to indicate that being able to repent is a gift from God. I think that is true, and, as Counseling Solutions says, we should be deeply grateful for this gift. This implies that some people, for some reason, have not been given this gift, or perhaps not been given it about a particular situation.

Jon, of Stuff Christians Like, says that being told that you are forgiven when you didn't ask for it, and didn't know that you had done anything that should have been forgiven, is an unsettling experience for Christians. I can see that that might be true. For example, if someone came to me and said "you've had a bad attitude toward me for the last few weeks, but I forgive you," when I have been praying for the person, and am not aware that I have had any ill feelings toward her, it would be difficult to know what to say or how to react. I hadn't considered that possibility. We should be careful not to go around laying guilt trips on people. However, my original question was about cases where someone has done something knowingly and intentionally, but not asked for forgiveness, and this type of case doesn't relate to that.

The title question can be a serious question. I hope the answers above are serious. I don't have a definitive answer but would say that we should have the attitude that we forgive the person, even if they haven't asked for it, and should be glad that we are sensitive enough to God's direction to feel the need to repent, every now and then.

There's a related situation. What if someone does us wrong, and dies in the act, or shortly thereafter, so that there is no opportunity for that individual to ask for our forgiveness. It seems to me that we should tell God that we forgive the person, even if we can't do it directly to him or her.

Thanks for reading.


atlibertytosay said...

Many say that the Bible says that God forgives ALL sin ... however the 10 commandments say something slightly different:

KJV Exodus 20:7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

Other versions say you will "not be acquitted".

I think the "cast the first stone" and "judge that ye be not judged" also plays a role in this.

Weekend Fisher said...

I'm very much of the mind that we should forgive others whether we ask them or not, based on this: That God will forgive us as we have forgiven others. That's the kind of thing that makes me a prayer warrior for people who have wronged me.

My only misgiving about the discussion is what it risks leaving out: we're called to confront sinners too. I'm not saying we yell at them and accuse them; much the contrary, that we are told to show them their fault quietly just between the two of us. In our society, often "nice" is equated with "non-confrontational" -- for obvious reasons, it's so much easier to be nice when there are no confrontations to manage. But it's easy to congratulate ourselves for being spiritually advanced when we are, in fact, chickening out on a confrontation that needs to happen, and enabling a sin (e.g. dysfunctional situation) to continue. It's akin to co-dependence ...

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

Martin LaBar said...

I'd forgotten that aspect of the Ten Commandments. Thanks for the reminder.

Let's hope, AtLibertyToSay, that God will forgive taking His name in vain, because if He doesn't, a lot of people are in big trouble in our society, as in "Oh, my . .." But we need to ask for forgiveness, I think. Presumably we are not guiltless of murder, adultery, or coveting, either, unless a proper sacrifice for those sins is presented.

I agree, Weekend Fisher. There is a requirement to confront, at least in some cases. See Matthew 18. Thank you.

I guess one question I didn't deal with is "Does God forgive us before we ask?" or "Can God forgive us if we haven't asked?"

Weekend Fisher said...

And then there's the tricky question -- I don't imagine I have the answer exactly nailed down -- of how exactly repentance and forgiveness are related, & whether there is at some point an identity between them.

If "repentance" means where we, for ourselves and our own sin, hate the sin and want it gone ... where love of God and all that is good finally seems better to us again ...

Martin LaBar said...

That's a good operational definition for repentance, Weekend Fisher. Thanks.