Must My Brother Repent Before I Forgive Him?

As a Bible teacher, I’ve heard this question many times: can a person actually forgive if the offender is not repentant? Should Sally wait for her husband to meekly ask for forgiveness before she forgives him? Can Ben go ahead and extend forgiveness to his boss who repeatedly disrespects him and often abuses his time and talent?

Does Jesus forgive only when a person repents?

Forgiveness differs from reconciliation. We sometimes confuse the two.

For instance, from the cross Jesus said, “Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” His statement did not result in reconciliation, but it did reveal His compassionate and forgiving heart towards His most bitter enemies.

Jesus also taught an assertive forgiveness. Check out Mark 11.25:

“Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.”

Jesus does not command us to hunt down our brother and demand an apology first. Just forgive. How? In this context, it seems we should have a heart–an attitude–of forgiveness. It’s not necessarily saying the words, “I forgive you,” to the person, but it’s a willingness to absorb the cost and the hurt, put it away, and let it go. Isn’t that what God does for us?

Also consider Luke 15.20 in the parable of the prodigal son:

“So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”

The father didn’t ask for a full confession. In fact, he acted so quickly the son didn’t have time to speak before his dad was crushing him in an embrace and kissing his face. He then tried to tell his dad how he would pay him back and how he didn’t deserve to be called a son, but again the father cut him off, reinstated him as a son, and totally accepted him back. Obviously, the father forgave his son even before his son demonstrated repentance!

Reconciliation is only possible when both parties act properly–one repents and the other forgives. Sometimes one person repents but the one who was wronged will not forgive. No reconciliation. In other cases, one person forgives from the heart but the other refuses to apologize and repent. No reconciliation.

But notice that forgiveness is not necessarily dependent upon the other person’s repentance. God expects us to forgive those who sin against us. Period. Just how we can do that is a subject for another article, but suffice it to say it’s simply not possible to forgive completely without an internal power that most humans don’t possess.

So don’t wait for your brother or sister to come crawling, contrite and crushed. They may never repent. God wants you to always have a heart of forgiveness, ready to accept back the moment your brother heads your way.

It’s difficult, yes. But it’s so freeing! Discipline yourself to forgive.

One Word to Answer: Why the Hate?

Why the hate? We can answer in a single word. In fact, it’s the same word I answered a frustrated brother last night when he asked, “Why are family relationships so complicated?”

This one word explains why the political left hates the right and the right hates the left. It explains why your child is bullied at school.

It explains why your spouse sometimes frustrates the living daylights out of you and why your children fight like two cats in a gunny sack.

Why did that 64-year-old accountant attempt to murder hundreds of people in Las Vegas?

Why do people question each others motives, attributing the absolute worst thoughts and intentions to those who do not agree with them?

Why do the Black Panthers, ANTIFA, and KKK exist? Why are white supremacy groups a real thing? Why do so many die each day in our world’s largest cities at the hands of gun- or knife- or club-wielding perpetrators?

You probably already know the one word answer:


Yes, blood-red, bold, abhorrent sin.

Wickedness exists. Evil exists. And it exists within the heart of man (Mark 7.20-23). No amount of legislation can fix this problem, because it’s not a political issue–it’s entirely moral.

The only way to stop the hate and violence is to change the hearts of the ones committing the violence. That really is the only way. Do not expect the government to fix this, because the government has not the power nor the understanding to deal with this. Only GOD can deal with this!

Folks, this is why we must constantly and consistently preach the gospel! Jesus Christ came to save sinners and to transform hateful people into those who LOVE. Jesus shows us what love looks like in His communication, His compassion, and His cross.

Jesus preached the remedy for sin, which also can be summed up in a single word:


As we study through Scripture, we find that God works the wonderful gift of repentance in the hearts of His people, as we come to Him in faith. We give ourselves to God, submit to Him, and He works in us to rebirth us, repair us, remake us into the image of His beloved Son, so that we renounce our own hate and become agents of love who stand in stark contrast against the hate in this world. Jesus told His followers to be lights in a dark world, like a city on a hill which cannot be hidden (Matt. 5.14-16).

What is my responsibility in the face of the hateful, wicked actions all around me? First, I must repent of my own wickedness and hate. Second, I must love my neighbor as myself. Third, I must share the good news of Jesus Christ with others in order to spread His Kingdom, and as His Kingdom grows, so will love in this world.

Sin must die. Love must reign.

Latest Sermons

We just updated the sermon archive to include the last two Sunday morning sermons:

How First Century Churches Used Collected Money (download)

What Is a Real Christian – Part 2: Complying with God’s Terms of Salvation (download)

Don’t Resist Change!

Dead EndWhile considering Kenpo (karate) this morning with my head instructor, a thought struck me. One reason I love my karate school so much is because they don’t remain stuck in “their way” of doing things. When higher-up instructors further detail a technique or form, they first seek to understand the change and then immediately incorporate it into their curriculum.

Sometimes upset members complain as the changes filter into the curriculum, mainly because they have been practicing the old way for so long they hate to teach their bodies new tricks. It’s human nature to resist change, especially when something has become well-grounded through many hours of practice.

On the other hand, continual resistance to change stifles forward movement and inhibits growth.

God calls spiritual change “repentance,” and He requires this change from all His children. Jesus requires repentance as a first step in the journey of faith, as illustrated in His instructions to His disciples in Luke 24.47, “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations.” To a heartbroken crowd, Peter proclaimed the good news, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2.38), and again, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out…” (Acts 4.19).

Because repentance is a change of course, we resist. After all, it is just easier to keep our old friends, walk our old paths, listen to our old music, watch our old shows, and use our old tongues.

Picture walking in the door after a long work day. Compare sitting on the couch (like normal) with walking your neighborhood for 20 minutes (like you feel you should). Isn’t building that new habit tough? Funny thing is, if you build the habit of walking every day, you will hate to change that habit!

Mandatory U-TurnYes, change is tough, so we require a powerful reason. Showing someone a black lung from the body of a cancer victim is often not enough for smokers to tackle their addictions. Many obese folks refuse to change their eating and exercising habits. In the same way, many sinners refuse to tackle their sins, even when they can see pain caused by those sins! Why must folks hit rock-bottom before they change course?

Also, many of us don’t have the proper tools with which to tackle sin. We hate it but don’t know what to do about it. Good news: God saturates our lives with spiritual gifts through His word and the church! If you don’t know how to tackle sin in your life, ask a spiritual brother or sister. Assuming they know God’s word, they will at least begin to point you in the right direction. Ask God to show you how to deal with your sin, and listen for His answers.

Don’t resist change in your life–God built you to live the right and best way. You must constantly adjust the trajectory of your life in order to keep lining up with Jesus Christ. Sometimes you won’t change enough…sometimes you will over-correct and must swing back a little. Enjoy the journey, and accept the changes God demands. Repentance leads to life!