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The Conditions of Forgiveness

The Conditions of Forgiveness

Who are the people in your life that you find the easiest to forgive?

For those of you with toddlers – I bet there are times when your 2 year old does something that really upsets you. But then the next thing they do is so cute that you’re really quick to forgive them. They draw you a picture or they come to give you a hug right after they’ve colored all over the wall in their bedroom or they say a new word and you’re just like, “I completely forgive you.”

Or maybe it’s someone who works for you. They drop the ball on this huge project, but they bring you back a nice gift from the vacation they just went on (that actually caused them to not do their work) and you’re like, “We’re good with each other.”

Who are the people in your life that you find the hardest to forgive?

It tends to be narrowed to two categories: the people who have hurt you the most or the people who have never expressed sorrow for what they have done to you.

Here’s the question we’re after today, in part 2 of our Time To Make Up series:

What are the conditions of forgiveness?

In other words, who is worthy of our forgiveness? And what all should we be willing to forgive?

We have two main texts for today and here’s why: They seem to be teaching opposite things about the conditions necessary for forgiveness. And the reason that’s especially a problem for us today is that both teachings come straight from the lips of Jesus. Did Jesus change his mind between the first one and the second one? Or is there something else going on here?

Luke 17:3-4 So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. 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.”

Mark 11:25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.

So, what conditions must be present for forgiveness to take place? In Luke 17:3, Jesus says, “If your brother or sister repents of their sin against you, forgive them.” In verse 4, he adds, “even if they sin against you seven times in a day and they repent, forgive them.” I do think it’s funny that the next verse says from the disciples to Jesus, “Increase our faith!”. They’re like, “Seven times in the same day, Jesus?” He says, “yes”, and they’re like, “Increase our faith!”

Is repentance from your offender necessary for you to forgive them?

Jesus seems to say so. But in Mark 11:25 he says, “If you have anything against anyone, forgive them.” There is no mention of repentance, but there is still an expectation of forgiveness. Why? What does Jesus tie it to?

The example Jesus gives is for when you are praying. In prayer, we are seeking communion with God. We don’t want anything to block that relationship.

Forgiveness clears the path for communion with God.

Jesus says to forgive so that you will be forgiven. What we said last week is still true and will always be true: We don’t forgive others and then God decides to forgive us. But when we genuinely receive God’s forgiveness, we will genuinely offer forgiveness to others.

Forgiveness does something to your heart, even if the offender keeps a hard heart.

Repentance isn’t necessary for forgiveness, but it must be present for reconciliation.

Who should we be willing to forgive and what should we be willing to forgive?

Jesus said, If you have anything against anyone:


How do you usually respond when someone sins against you?

Most of us have one of two default responses. Some of us feel like the hurt is so deep that we will never forgive the other person, no matter what they do. This is one of the two primary default responses. The rest of us just dismiss the offense and sweep it under the rug like it’s no big deal. Jesus wants to confront both of these default responses with the following phrase:

Rebuke AND Forgive

Rebuke means to confront. This is your first responsibility. Stop dismissing or minimizing the wrong someone has done to you. This is where we say to the person who hurt us, “I want you to know that I was hurt by what you did to me.” Tell them what they did and why it hurt you. That’s your first responsibility.

But your second responsibility is to forgive them.

“The reality of human temperament is that few can sustain such a balance without the help of the Holy Spirit. People are prone to be either more ready to confront and challenge than to forgive or more ready to forgive and forget than to challenge.” Tim Keller, Forgive

“Vengeance is all about you – not about the honor of God or the good of the victims or the offender. But on the other hand, complete withdrawal is about you as well. Many people, when they’re wronged, say, “I don’t want to deal with that person. I just don’t want to talk to them. I don’t want to have anything to do with them.” Tim Keller, Forgive

Let me tell you a little about my own journey with these default responses. In my early days of leadership, I drove myself and others too hard. I was all about confronting, but I’d also hold onto grudges. Over the last several years, my default has become to dismiss what people have done to me. If I’m honest, I probably haven’t confronted enough people over the last few years over what they have done to me.

I still find these to be the easiest responses for myself: blow up or be silent. What should be our go-to response on how we deal with this?

Galatians 6:1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you may also be tempted.

Our goal in rebuking and forgiving: our own freedom and their growth.

Ephesians 4:15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.

Growth for you and them comes from speaking the truth, in love.

Forgiveness does not mean we start trusting the other person again.

“But until a person shows evidence of true change, we should not trust the person.” Tim Keller, Forgive

How can we possibly offer forgiveness when it’s the last thing we feel like doing?

We must forgive before we feel like forgiving.

“Members of the Christian community, whether it is in marriage or friendship or larger communities, can stay together if they can confess and forgive as a way of life. Do not wait until you feel better about things. No! You should do it precisely when you don’t feel better. Act ahead of the feelings. Do not let emotions decide what you are going to do.” Henri Nouwen, Following Jesus

It's never just as simple as doing this once and never wrestling with it again.

“Forgiveness is both a decision and a process.” Lysa Terkeurst, Forgiving What You Can’t Forget

Who do you need to rebuke?

• Speak the truth in love

• Correct with gentleness

Who do you need to forgive?

• Yes, for their sake…but also for yours.

How does Jesus do this to us?

• You have sinned.

• I forgive you.

• If you repent, you can be reconciled to God.

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