Reader 'Anonymous' posted the following in the comments to my post just below regarding Dan Winkler's court comments indicating he has not forgiven his daughter-in-law for shooting his son:
I might suggest that it is impossible to forgive someone who has not genuingely sought such. "Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him" (Lk. 17:3). What if he does not seek forgiveness?
I think it is comparable to the fact that while God knows the things we need before we ask, he still expects us to ask. As James told some, "You have not, because you ask not" (Jas. 4:2).
While we should certainly not hold a vengeful disposition, being always ready to forgive any offense, it simply is impossible to forgive those who do not want it.
Does God forgive us without our asking? If not, are we more generous than God?
This is sort of a pet peeve of mine, so I wanted to address it more fully where it would be more widely seen by both of my readers.
Let me start out by saying that I am not addressing the issue of whether it would be easy for Dan Winkler to forgive Mary. I think it would be horrendously difficult in a way I cannot imagine. However, I would like to step back and look at the issue of personal forgiveness as objectively as possible.
I quoted the following verses in my post below; I believe it wise to refresh ourselves on them:
"For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions." (Matthew 6:14-15)
"For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you." (Matthew 7:2)
As we discuss the issue of forgiveness, we must remember there are two separate issues here. One is God's forgiveness of a sinner and the other is my forgiveness of another. They are not the same thing, but I believe that confusing the two is what often leads people down the wrong road in their understanding of personal forgiveness.
One problem is the idea that in order for God ever to forgive there must be a specific confession and repentance for each individual sin that I commit. If there is such a requirement then each of us is hopelessly lost. Such a position demands several things, first being a complete understanding of God's will followed by an objective understanding of my own actions and their motives. After I have all of that, I then must perfectly execute this law of specific confession and repentance for every sin. That's not grace, that's perfect lawkeeping, something the Old Law demonstrated we were not capable of (see Galatians). Jesus explained a way that is acceptable to God in Luke 18:13-14 using the tax collector: "But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!'
"I tell you, this man went to his house justified...."
What led to this justification? Confession of sinfulness? Yes. Repentance? Yes, I believe that certainly is implied here. A complete and detailed listing of every sin ever or recently committed by this publican? There's certainly no record of it, and Jesus pronounces him justified without it.
Does that mean that I do not need ever to pray to God for forgiveness of specific sins? I'm not saying that at all. I think David certainly prayed to God for forgiveness for his sin with Bathsheba and the sordid situation that developed. Do you think Peter prayed for specific forgiveness for denying His Lord? I sure do! Peter informed Simon the Sorcerer that he needed to pray for specific forgiveness when confronting him with his sin (Acts 8:21-22) I'm not talking about an excuse for obstinacy in the face of sin. That's not a penitent spirit at all. What I am saying is that I cannot possibly comprehend every way in which I fall short of God's expectations and disappoint Him. I am aware that I do fall short, I ask forgiveness for those failures, and ask for God's strength that I can lead a life more pleasing to Him.
Anonymous states that "it simply is impossible to forgive those who do not want it." My response is, that is most certainly not the case. Without question it is easier to forgive someone who wants forgiveness, but my personal forgiveness of another has nothing to do with him and everything to do with me. Forgiveness is a personal decision on my part. I have control over my own decision making and attitude. We could ask, is it impossible not to forgive someone who does want it? We all recognize that it is possible to refuse forgiveness. Someone could be embittered to the point of refusing forgiveness in the face of all pleading. We immediately think of the ungrateful slave who refused to forgive his fellow slave in Matthew 18:28-30: "But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, 'Pay back what you owe.' "So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you.' "But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed."
I believe one of the reasons people resist the idea of forgiving one who has not specifically asked them for forgiveness is the imagined idea that the offending person has somehow gotten away with it. But in this case we confuse our own position with that of God's. I need to remember that God's forgiveness of someone and my own forgiveness are two very distinct things. I am a fellow servant, a fellow sinner with this person. Do I dare claim the moral high ground with a fellow sinful servant? Isn't that exactly what the slave did whom Jesus condemned? When Jesus states "For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you," He is reminding me that my own gratitude for the grace that I have received (remember, grace is unmerited) is something that should overflow in me. I forgive others for my own spiritual benefit, not necessarily theirs.
My forgiveness of someone's actions has no bearing whatsoever on that person's relationship with God or his standing with God regarding that particular sin. But Jesus makes it clear that my forgiveness of someone else can have a great deal to do with my own standing before God, and that God will use my own standard of forgiveness on me. Therefore, for my own spiritual well-being it is incumbent upon me that I be as forgiving as possible with my fellow sinful slaves. I will allow God to take care of His business as it relates to His slaves. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. (Romans 14:4)
Finally, 'Anonymous' asks "are we more generous than God?" I will end by saying most certainly not! I could never be more generous than God, and would not presume to think so of myself. If anyone imagines that he is, then he is not aware at all of the spiritual blessings that flow by grace from our Heavenly Father.