In recent weeks our series through Matthew’s Gospel has brought us to chapter 18 where Jesus commands church members to restore believers who have been stuck in sin. Jesus commands us to call the offender to repent and to forgive them when they do. Several have asked heavy-hearted questions about what they are to do when the one who has offended them refuses to repent or confess. Here is a brief look at instruction from scripture on this. It is recommended that those in this situation should seek wise counsel from a pastor or LIFE Group leader. We are to forgive others in the same way God forgives us.
Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. When the offender confesses, we are to forgive. Matthew 18:15,21-22 If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” If there is no confession, forgiveness is not given but the offender is removed from the church. (There are certainly offenses not significant enough for this action to be taken.) Matthew 18:16-17 “But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Though forgiveness is not given, the offended is commanded no longer to hate but love, pray for, greet, do good to, and bless his enemy. In other words, the offended is ready to forgive the offender but since there’s no confession and forgiveness isn’t expressed, the offender is treated lovingly. The heart of the offended no longer has malice and vengeance toward the offender. Matthew 5:43-47 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” Luke 6:27-28 But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Clarification: this doesn’t mean, however, that the offender, refusing to confess and change, must be trusted at the same level as before. The murder, thief, rapist doesn’t get to leave prison, baby-sit my kids, date my daughter, or work in the bank vault, etc.