As a young teen raised in the Christian religion, I asked my mother deep questions in my understanding of life. I remember asking her if one should forgive a person who does not ask for forgiveness. Her response was quick, and replied that Jesus instructed us to forgive others not seven times, but seventy times seven.
I understood the hyperbole, but it didn’t answer my question. It was clear the message was to forgive others every time they ask for forgiveness, but what about those who harm others without guilt, remorse, or conscience? Should they be forgiven?
As an adult, I have yet to find any scripture that directly answers this. The word, “forgive” along with its other forms are sprinkled many times in the old and new Testaments. More than any other well-known spiritual leaders, Jesus seems to be the one most focused on the concept of forgiveness. However, my question still remained unanswered:
Should you forgive those who are not sorry?
I try not to hold grudges, and it is easy for me to forgive anyone who sincerely tells me they are sorry. What about those who honestly do not care if they harm you?
I had to decide this for myself. In Luke 23:34, as Jesus was dying on the cross, he said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Surely “them” were those who did not have guilt, remorse, or conscience. According to this verse, Jesus was saying those who were not sorry should still be forgiven.
In Matthew 5:44, Jesus said, “…love your enemies…” and later, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?” Maybe the message was clear- not only should we love those who do not return love, but we should also forgive those who do not ask for forgiveness.
Should you forgive those who don’t ask for forgiveness?