Some people may be wondering what to do when people seem to follow the steps or meet the conditions of forgiveness but it doesn’t seem genuine. It seems like they’re pretending just to make things right. Even then it’s only temporary because it’s only a matter of time before they do the very same thing again and the whole cycle continues: they sin, then say, “I repent,” you say, “I forgive you,” they sin again, feel bad and so they say, “I repent,” you say, “I forgive you,” and on and on it goes, ad infinitum. This can’t be right can it?
This kind of forgiveness reeks of “pretending” and seems disingenuous at best. I’m sure you know this, but Jesus knew that would happen and told us how to handle it.
1 Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. 2 It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. 3 So watch yourselves.
“If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4 If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”
5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
6 He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you. 7 “Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? 8 Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? 9 Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ “
Let me briefly explain this. Jesus said “if they repent” (talking about them simply confessing and saying they repent) then forgive them. And if they come back seven times a day BECAUSE THEIR ACTIONS DON’T MATCH THEIR WORDS, you’re still to forgive them. In other words, it’s not our role to judge whether or not someone is repentant….as Jesus goes on to explain, it’s our DUTY (v10) to forgive them when they repent by simply saying so.
I’ll admit that’s a tough teaching. Certainly, the disciples thought so too or they wouldn’t have responded with, “Increase our faith!” But even that’s not an excuse. Jesus said you don’t need a huge “Super Saint Sized” faith, but a faith as small as a mustard seed. In other words, it’s not dependent on more faith, it’s dependent upon our obedience – will we do what we’re supposed to (forgive) or will we find some way to justify our unforgiveness? Will you use some excuse like…’you keep saying you’re sorry but you keep doing it over and over again’, or something like “I just can’t do that” (i.e. I don’t have enough faith)? Try it, but I don’t think it will work….that option isn’t open for us.
When other people do their part to confess their sins and ask forgiveness, we have no choice. We are duty bound to offer and grant them forgiveness. If not, we are now the ones who are disobedient and in need of forgiveness from God our Master.