God, Must We Always Forgive Those Who Deny Wrongdoing?
by Mike Edwards
Victims can feel more victimized, and feel God must not understand their pain, when told to forgive their abuser no matter what. What is there to forgive when one denies wrongdoing? Easy forgiveness can allow a husband’s abusive behavior to continue. When a sexual abuser doesn’t acknowledge their actions, secret behaviors continue. Isn’t the whole point to do whatever helps control bitterness and stops more victimization, though forgiveness doesn’t wash away memories.
The Bible surprisingly says to not forgive sometimes.
Most would agree the Bible says to forgive. To one’s surprise the Bible can also be interpreted to suggest forgiveness requires regret. God is said to forgive if we forgive others (Mt. 6:14–15). Forgive if they repent (Lk. 17:3). God in the OT is often said to not forgive the rebellious (i.e. Josh. 24:19). God wouldn’t ask us to do something God doesn’t — forgive the unrepentant? It’s complicated!
The Bible isn’t a question and answer Book.
My point is not to insist one should or shouldn’t forgive in their circumstances. Usually, there are difference opinions on meaning and application of the same passage. The Bible was never meant to be a rules book; the Bible was meant for reflection in one’s circumstances. Who ridicules the example Jesus set? The Bible is valuable because it suggests not always handling our circumstances naturally, humanly-speaking. Bitterness or revenge can worsen a victim’s circumstances.
But Jesus said to turn the other cheek (Mt. 5:39).
Some scholars suggest Jesus advising to “turn the other cheek” (Mt 5:39) was illustrating how to respond to insults, not that we can never respond to violence against us or others. Other scholars have suggested a possible literal translation of Mt. 5:39 is “do not resist by evil means.” This doesn’t mean partners or soldiers can’t protect themselves and others. Jesus often used hyperbole for emphasis without stating exceptions.
When do we forgive?
For some forgiving can cause feelings of further victimization and bitterness; for others forgiveness can control bitterness and possible acts of revenge. Many may be haunted with thoughts whether they must forgive their violator at the urging of others. Not forgiving doesn’t mean you are full of bitterness or you wouldn’t forgive if one admits guilt and seeks to make amends. Whether a future relationship is possible depends. Seek the mind of God what actions in relationship difficulties lead to your best interest in the long-run in a world full of disappointments. God may not be as non-empathetic as thought. We are free to make the wisest choice we know without being guilted by others about God.