Can I forgive those who have betrayed me if they are not repentant?
There has been much conversation of late on forgiveness in politics. If one where to watch and believe what is being said, one would think that true forgiveness is for a select few good men, not open to all that have sinned and fallen short. It does not require true repentance, but just an obligatory apology will suffice. There is no need to show remorse and certainly no requirement to ask God for forgiveness.
I am frankly at a loss because this is part of my Christian journey for which I have limited practice. I mean, I have learned to forgive myself. I apologize to God and to myself for my transgressions and I move forward with my life a better person, a transformed person. I deal with the consequences of my sin, but I know that God’s grace and mercy will help me endure. I find strength and courage in this knowledge.
But when faced with forgiving a person that has hurt me, betrayed me lied to me or about me – it is much different. It’s hard! I find it natural to initially want to reach out in some state of revenge and exact the same level of pain upon their lives that I have felt. I want immediate swift revenge, losing touch with my Christianity and having the need to exact every indecent thing I gleaned from my youthful days out in the street. However, my Christian upbringing says no, that I should turn the other cheek and forgive them: that any vengeance will be exacted by God.
“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”” – Romans 12:19.
Besides, most people don’t even know that they are the source of the pain, and so to wait for an apology might take an eternity. In the meantime, we walk around carrying the weight of the hurt and anger, filled with vengeful thoughts. It seethes and boils within, leaving us restless and anxious, unable to fully love and enjoy life. The result of it all is that I get stuck and I block God’s blessings in my life.
To unshackle myself from the chains of this affliction I always move to forgive. I don’t wait for the other person to apologize. I ask God to help me with this endeavor. I know that I too have been the source of betrayal or pain to someone. I know that I probably didn’t apologize either to the hurt person. But I at least acknowledge it and ask God for forgiveness. I feel lighter and find more joy and peace. It takes the burden off of me and places it squarely in God’s hands.
I can’t wait for the other person to grasp betrayal and offer an apology. I certainly do not want to waste time trying to seek revenge. I forgive them and keep it moving.
An article by R.T. Kendall in Christian Today ( March 9, 2005) answers the question of whether it’s possible to forgive without repentance.