Must I forgive those who refuse forgiveness?

This article is from Hank Hanegraaff, The Complete Bible Answer Book—Collector’s Edition (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008)
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Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). Does that mean we have to forgive someone even when they refuse reconciliation?

First, the debts we owe one another are small change compared to the infinite debt we owe our heavenly Father. Because we have been forgiven an infinite debt, it is a horrendous evil to even consider withholding forgiveness from those who seek it. Thus, we must always manifest the kind of love that is willing to forgive those who wrong us.

Furthermore, forgiveness is by definition a two-way street leading to the restoration of fellowship. It requires someone who is willing to forgive, and someone who is wanting to be forgiven. If you are to forgive me, I must be repentant; otherwise, there can be no restoration of fellowship (i.e., forgiveness).

Finally, we must never suppose that our standard of forgiveness is higher than God’s standard. He objectively offers us forgiveness and the restoration of fellowship. His forgiveness is not subjectively realized, however, until we repent (Luke 6:37–38).

In part adapted from The Prayer of Jesus

For further study, see Hank Hanegraaff, The Prayer of Jesus: Secrets to Real Intimacy with God (Nashville:W. Publishing Group, 2001).


“Therefore, if you are offering your gift
at the altar and there remember that your brother has
something against you, leave your gift there in front of
the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother;
then come and offer your gift.”

Matthew 5:23–24

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