I am not going to attempt to answer this question with Bible verses. Most would agree the Bible says to forgive. To one’s surprise the Bible can also be interpreted to suggest forgiveness requires regret. It isn’t too presumptuous to imagine what a loving God is like though our moral intuitions, our consciences. We aren’t always certain how to best love, but most sense that we or a Creator ought to love others as we want to be loved.
Why it matters whether to tell others to forgive or not
Victims can feel more victimized, and feel God must not understand their pain, when told to forgive their abuser no matter what. What is there to forgive when one denies wrongdoing? Easy forgiveness can allow a husband’s abusive behavior to continue. When a sexual abuser doesn’t acknowledge their actions, secret behaviors continue. Isn’t the whole point to do whatever helps control bitterness and stop more victimization, though forgiveness doesn’t wash away memories.
The Bible surprisingly says to not forgive sometimes
One may be surprised to see the Bible can also be read to suggest forgiveness requires regret thus admission. The implication is we don’t necessarily have to forgive those who lie about their actions. God is said to forgive if we forgive others (Mt. 6:14-15). Forgive if they repent (Lk. 17:3). God in the OT is often said to not forgive the rebellious (i.e. Josh. 24:19). It’s hard to defend a loving Creator would ask us to do something God doesn’t – forgive the unrepentant.
The Bible isn’t a question-and-answer Book
My point is not to insist one should or shouldn’t forgive in their circumstances. Usually, there are different opinions on meaning and application of the same passage. The Bible was never meant to be a rules book but for reflection in one’s circumstances. “Turning the other cheek” doesn’t mean a women should accept abuse at the hands of her husband. The Bible is valuable because it suggests not always handling certain circumstances naturally, humanly-speaking. Bitterness or revenge can worsen a victim’s circumstances.
But Jesus said to turn the other cheek (Mt. 5:39)
Some scholars suggest Jesus advising to “turn the other cheek” (Mt 5:39) was illustrating how to respond to insults, not that we can never respond to violence against us or others. Other scholars have suggested a possible literal translation of Mt. 5:39 is “do not resist by evil means.” This doesn’t mean nations can’t defend against evil dictators. Jesus often used hyperbole for emphasis without stating exceptions. It seems best to neither seek vengeance nor to ignore possible justice. If one is truly sorry, shouldn’t they readily admit their guilt?
When do we forgive?
For some forgiving can cause feelings of further victimization and bitterness; for others forgiving can control bitterness and possible acts of revenge. Many may be haunted with thoughts whether they must forgive their violator at the urging of others. We are free to make the wisest choice we know without being guilted by others about God. God may not be as non-empathetic as thought. Consider forgiveness if one admits guilt and seeks to make amends. Whether a future relationship is possible depends. Seek the mind of God what actions in relationship difficulties lead to your best interest in the long-run in a world full of disappointments.
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