Does Forgiving Others Make Me a Doormat?

One Go Light your World reader asks what the bible says about forgiving others when they continue to be abusive. Such answers are difficult to provide in a 400-500 word blog post. But the bible is clear to provide guidance to us.

Matthew 6:7-15 instructs us to model our forgiveness by how God forgives us. Likewise, Ephesians 4:32 commands, “Forgive each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” In not forgiving others, when we ourselves have been granted such great forgiveness of our own wrongdoings, is to deny the presence of Jesus in our lives and to deny our trust in him. And denying Jesus is to miss heaven. Jesus tells the story in Matthew 18 of a man who was forgiven much but who then withheld forgiveness from someone who owed him little. Withholding the mercy that was shown to him, he was handed over to his tormentors. Such is our tortuous fate when we withhold mercy from others.

Forgiveness does not remove the negative consequences of the offense. I remember a man who asked the church for forgiveness for very serious offenses he had committed. I believe his repentance was most sincere, but he still had to do jail time for his crimes and in the process was separated from his church and his family. You can say, “I forgive you but I do not trust you, for your continued actions are indeed untrustworthy.” This is particularly true of an unrepentant person. Luke 17:3-4 says, “Be on your 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.” I’m not sure that full forgiveness without such repentance is actually possible or biblical. Even if you are able to forgive the person for their offense, the intimacy of the relationship will not be able to be completely restored until they repent. That same separation protects you from being a ‘doormat’ for continued abuse. And yet we are commanded still to love and pray for them, even if forgiveness is not possible.

And yet, unrepentance is not a complete barrier to forgiveness. On the cross (Luke 23:34), Jesus asked his father God to forgive those who knew not what they were doing. They hadn’t repented but still he forgave them. In the end forgiveness is a matter of the heart. The heart that is found in Christ, is able to forgive others in his power. It is able to pray for God’s best for that person and seeking his strengthening presence in your own life.

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