I am finding it so hard to forgive!

How many times do I hear this!?

I am contacted via my Christian Agony Aunt, on the topic of forgiveness, more than on any other. It seems that some people who’ve been badly wronged find it hard to forgive, asking how to, knowing they should, and feel it’s ruining their relationship with the Lord.

And throughout our ministry, my husband and I, have met many Christians who are struggling with forgiving someone, and the burden they carry because of keeping on trying.

When someone has been terribly wronged, they can frequently be told by well-meaning Christians… ‘Well, as a Christian, you just have to forgive them. To me, this not only sounds flippant, and unemphatic, it isn’t Scriptural to ‘just forgive.’ It makes me sad every time I hear it, because forgiveness is so misunderstood.

There are conditions for the receiving of your forgiveness!

The one who needs forgiving – has to REPENT of the wrong first, “If your brother sins (against you), rebuke him; and IF he repents, forgive him., (Luke 17).

This repentance is vital, and is for a reason, or that scripture wouldn’t be there…

*Repentance discourages repeated bad behaviour.

*Repentance teaches to think twice before doing the same to someone else.

*Repentance learns they can lose friends if they don’t.

*Repentance is an acknowledgement of wrong doing.

*Repentance can be humiliating. But true repentance changes behaviour. “Produce fruits that are consistent with repentance, (Luke 3:8).

You may say: ‘Well the one who wronged me won’t admit, confess, or repent’. Of course, there’ll always be those who won’t feel they’ve done anything to repent of, or be ‘forgiven for’. So they certainly won’t appreciate you saying ‘I forgive you’, and it could cause indignation, and they could hurt you even deeper than the first time!

So what do you do about non-repenters because we know the Lord’s prayer says: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us”

My answer is: You still DO forgive them – but in your heart, “…if each of you does not forgive from your heart” (Matthew 18).

God will see your heart, that you have forgiven someone who hasn’t shown remorse or taken note of the Lord’s advice of properly sorting an issue. The person doesn’t need to know you have forgiven them when there’s been no regret or remorse, and who could revel in the words ‘I forgive you’ as if you’d been harbouring some resentment, shifting blame from them, making you seem the guilty one. This is harming them.

I believe in accountability – as does scripture, “If we confess our sins , he is faithful and just and will forgive us” (1 John 1:9).

I feel for hurting people who keep being told, they have to forgive when there has been no accountability for what someone has done to them

“If your brother sins, rebuke him; and IF he repents, forgive him.  And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’  you should forgive him. (Luke 17:1-6).

This speaks of real friendship, as everyone makes mistakes, and some have the grace and humility to admit having done so!

Verbal forgiveness, without any repentance/admittance/confession… is damaging them!

*It is teaching them, that bad behaviour is fine.

*It is teaching them, that wrong is right.

*It gives them, a green light to do it to others

“If your brother or sister – indicating this is between Christians – sins against you, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. IF they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ IF they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector”‘ (Matthew 18:15-20).

Harsh words? They are the words of Jesus. He knew what would work to save someone from their own self! He knew what kind of love could ‘restore’ a person back into the fold. And He knew what would give them that chance!

I know a Pastor who so followed through these words of Jesus, that he built a huge church on ‘restored’ people who would never have been restored otherwise.

If all scripture were followed through regarding those that hurt others, there would be far less trouble-makers or rude people, with more of them being restored and changed’. And there would also be less nice and loving people, struggling with guilt about forgiveness.

God bless you,


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By Christine Smith