Forgiveness without Repentance?
I struggle with the idea of extending real “forgiveness” to one who does not repent and seek forgiveness (Lk. 17:3-5). Being “willing” to forgive and “seeking” to forgive is one thing, but actually forgiving any murderer until he repents is not likely for me at this point. When Jesus prayed “Father forgive them” (Lk. 23:34) were they forgiven at that point, or did they need to repent in order to be forgiven (Acts 2:36-38). I know that Jesus was willing to forgive them and wanted them forgiven, but could/did He actually forgive them without any sign of repentance? If He did forgive them on the cross, why were these same people still guilty of these same sins in Acts 2? If He actually forgives people without repentance why not both thieves be told they would be with Him “in paradise?” (Lk. 23:43).
Maybe that is the thing to do, but I am not there yet in my spiritual journey especially when it comes to murdering innocent victims in church, schools, theaters, clubs, or cutting up babies and selling their body parts, or murdering innocent people in France. In a sense, I admire those who are obviously more tenderhearted/spiritual or whatever you want to call it than me who say they can forgive those who show no signs of regret or remorse. But for me this is a real struggle if forgiving “unrepentant murderers” is the right thing to do. “If he repents” Jesus said, “forgive him!” (Lk. 17:3). If he does not repent, then is real “forgiveness” required or possible? Do we really forgive those who refuse to repent…something that God Himself evidently does not do? Shouldn’t a murderer at least say or indicate in some way that he’s sorry for what he’s done in order to be forgiven? If the apostles needed to pray “Lord, increase our faith” in order to forgive one who repeatedly repents (Lk. 17:5)…then I would need a huge increase in order to really forgive those who show no signs of repentance at all!
I understand that forgiveness is/can be for our benefit as well as theirs, and if we have a forgiving spirit we are always willing, wanting and waiting to forgive like Jesus was on the cross and Stephen in Acts 7. The struggle comes when we are taught/believe that to be like Jesus we must forgive a murderer who refuses to repent and who seemingly shows no signs of remorse. I did not know any of those believers who were murdered in SC or any of those beheaded by terrorists that I’ve seen on TV or those people massacred in France, or shot in our schools, but I have trouble saying we should forgive them for murdering these innocent people when they seek no forgiveness. Personally, at this point, I can honestly say, “I do not forgive them for murdering those innocent people.” I would like to be able to. I might really want to. I might even pray like Jesus did, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”–because I am ready/willing/wanting to forgive any and all of them at any time and I can continue to pray that they will come to realize “what they do,” but until then, they are still murderers at heart and unless that changes it is hard for me to change the way I believe or simply “let it go” (forgiveness).
We should forgive any murderer who repents and/or seeks forgiveness but must we/can we forgive a murderer while he is still murdering– either literally or in his heart?
I read where the Boston marathon bomber apologized for his crimes and seeks forgiveness. Therefore, I believe that he should be forgiven even though he will still suffer the consequences of his crimes for murdering innocent victims. But if he was already forgiven then this seems to be a waste of time and a useless apology. Why should he “seek forgiveness” if he already has it? If you can really simply forgive the terrorists who murdered the people in France, then you need to pray for me…because I can’t…unless/until they have a change of heart.