Forgiving Without Being Asked

For a long time now, I have been of the opinion that God wants us to forgive those who have wronged us whether they ask for forgiveness or not; whether they say they are sorry or not. However I know that not everyone agrees with this.
When I first travelled along the path of forgiving someone who had deeply hurt me, I was greatly helped by Joseph’s story in Genesis. And there I believe he had already forgiven his brothers before they ever asked for forgiveness, even though they had sold him into slavery.

When they came to him after their father’s death, finally asking for forgiveness, he wept as he said, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” He knew that God was in control, and he had trusted God, and forgiven his brothers. If he had not forgiven them I don’t think he would have kissed them, wept over them and invited them to come and live with him while he provided for them.

Jesus also, on the cross, called out, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Those people who had given him up to be crucified had not said sorry, yet he asked God to forgive them.

I have just been reading a powerful book by Doris Van Stone on the hurt and healing of sexual abuse, called ‘No Place To Cry’. Thankfully I have never been through that, but I meet more and more people who have, which is why I originally bought this book – so I could lend it out, and maybe be better able to help people through reading it.

She has been through some horrendous things, and bears out what I believe about forgiveness: “We must be willing to release the bitterness we hold against those who have wronged us, whether they ask for it or not. Forgiveness is necessary for our own well-being; it is not something we do solely for the benefit of the offender”

I also think that since bitterness is not something that God wants us to keep in our hearts, we need to forgive in order to change our thoughts so that they honour God, not just for our own benefit.

She has some great advice on how to forgive:

  • If forgiveness seems to be impossible, let us remember that God helps us to do the impossible
  • We must see the offender as human
  • We can forgive without surrendering our desire for justice
  • Forgiveness is not an emotion but an act of the will
  • Forgiveness is not a one-time act but a process

There is much more ellaboration on these points, but I don’t want to take too much from the book! I would encourage you that if you have a real problem with forgiving someone, and especially if that has to do with abuse, to buy this book. It contains her story, as well as offering help towards healing the hurt.

I think we can also benefit from looking at Joseph, how trusting that God had a plan helped him to forgive his brothers. Also how Jesus wanted God to forgive the people who had put him on the cross because they didn’t know what they were doing. Often compassion for people, and attempting to understand where they are coming from, can help us to forgive.

Please note, I am not in any affiliate program and will not benefit in the slightest from you buying that book! I just love books and want to recommend those that will help others.

Linking up with Women Living Well

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6 Responses

  1. Gail Purath says:

    You’ve written some excellent points. Perhaps the word “forgiveness” can be understood differently in cases where there is repentance and in cases where there’s none.

    It seems like Scripture shows us that genuine forgiveness requires genuine repentance, but we still should/must “give up” all bitterness and desire for revenge whether our offender repents or not.

    However, unless the offenses are small and can be overlooked, I think “forgiving” an unrepentant offender rarely leads to complete restoration and trust in a relationship like forgiving a repentant offender.

    Joseph is such a stellar example and he treated his brothers kindly, but he still seemed to treat Benjamin with more favor than his unrepentant brothers.

    Also, just a side note: when Christ forgave from the Cross, wouldn’t you think that forgiveness only applied to those who would eventually repent? Scripture teaches no condemnation in Christ Jesus, but I think we are completely accountable for our sins if we don’t accept Christ.

    Just a couple of thoughts that aren’t as important as the points you make…bitterness eats us alive, and we need to give it up whether we use the word forgiveness or not.

  2. Rhoda says:

    Thanks for your comment Gail. When Christ asked God to forgive them from the cross, I think he was talking about the sin of crucifying him, rather than their sin in general. They would still have been responsible for the rest of the sin in their lives. And they would have been accountable for the sin of crucifying him too, but Jesus was interceding on their behalf. However, that is my opinion, and I know some disagree and think he was talking about forgiving all the sin of only those who would repent and believe in Him.

    But as you say, the wording is not as important as the point that we should put away bitterness.

  3. T.O. Geezer says:

    I’ve noticed that many Christians (myself included) often express forgiveness that is in words only. But true Christ like forgiveness only happens when God Himself gives us the grace to forgive others as He has forgiven us in Christ Jesus. God knows we can never do it on our own. Praise His Holy Name!

    God bless and have a Great Week! ๐Ÿ™‚

    BTW, thanks for your comment on my “Don’t Mess With Old People!” post. ~Ron

  4. Anita says:

    The Joseph story is one of the richest in the OT. It’s because he focused on God, who meant it for good, and not on his brothers that he was able to forgive. He saw that God orchestrated and used his snakes and ladders pit and dungeons experience to get him from being a shepherd to being a prince, that his brother’s perfidy was what God used to change a shepherd into the nation’s most powerful and gifted administrator.

  5. Rhoda says:

    Thank you for visiting and for the comment Ron. That is true that we need God to give us the grace to forgive. I know I have had to pray for help in that at a time when I thought I couldn’t forgive, and He helped me!

    Anita I have always loved the Joseph story once I saw how he realised that God had a plan through it all!

  6. Stephen says:

    Sometimes I’ve found that forgiveness can also be about perceptions. Example, I might think someone owes an apology for a long ago hurt, when the other person sees they never did anything wrong. The point being, it’s not about who is right and who is wrong, it’s about acquiring God’s Love and Life so that I could give it away. When I give that away to another In Christ through the Spirit of Truth, I was “impowered’ to transcend or go beyond the bitterness and see the other person differently. In one way, not to forgive was shown to me as a way of controlling. It’s a control issue, for ‘self’ protection from past hurts. Unfortunately, that also creates barriers between me and God, and separates me from Him (which is sin). Being forgiven by God is the Key and Knowing it within your Being is a major Key. Jesus didn’t say to go tell others “I foribe your”’s inside us..If they ask for forgiveness that is one thing, but how they process that forgiveness is another. Hopefully, they’ve already experienced forgiveness from God as well, otherwise, it could be another means of giving the person an excuse to repeat the behavior either with me or in accord with someone else.