Now most Christians would agree that we should forgive others as one of the fundamental points of Christianity. Some of the key verses that most people will quote is Matt 6:14-15
"For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions".For years I have heard people say if someone wrongs you must forgive them, regardless if they seek forgiveness. But the more I read God's Word the more I see this is in fact not found in the scriptures. Clearly Matt Chapt 18 is a key parable on the concept of Christian or biblical forgiveness. First, let me say that we are to forgive others just as our Father forgives us. Most don't care to really think about what all this entails. The first order of business before God ever forgives us is what?? Repentance! Does God just freely forgive sinners, does God go around in His kingdom throwing pardons to the wind and say all has been forgiven? Clearly not. God in his wisdom knows that prior to forgiving someone the guilty party must first have a repentful & broken heart over their actions and seek forgiveness or provide restitution to the victim.
As we look at Matthew 18:21-35 we begin to see a clear idea of how forgiveness is to be extended and under what conditions. The first thing we see is we have a servant who owes a tremendous debt to the king. Note that the king has not made some broad proclamation of forgiveness, but rather is now seeking to reclaim that which is rightfully his from his debtors. Next we see the servant coming before the king and is pleading and broken over his debt and seeks mercy from the king. Friends, this is an example of repentance - a broken condition whereby we fall before the Lord and seek mercy and forgiveness of our moral debt we have incurred against our good king. The king being good and merciful forgives the servant of his debt. No where do we see in this parable that the king was going to forgive the servant prior to him coming before his court, instead the verses states,
"........the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slavesWhen he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25"But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made"
Clearly the king was going to rightly administer justice against this servant in order to settle the debt that had been incurred. In todays' church we have such a distortion of forgiveness. As in the case of the Arvada YWAM and New Life Church murders, this is by no means a situation that warrants a blanket of forgiveness to be extended to the murderer who took four innocent lives. First, we see this man was by no means repentant of his actions - as a matter of fact he was very rebellious and sinister. Secondly, would it be right for this murderer to stand before God on judgment day and God say "OK all is forgiven, you can enter in well done good and faithful servant? " Of course not! God's character would instantly be under suspicion for forgiving such a criminal into his kingdom. We see further in the parable that once the servant had been forgiven and he had failed to show mercy just as the king had shown him, his debt was placed back in full upon him and he was forced to repay all that he had owed the king.
When Christ says that we should forgive someone, this is in reference to the other person coming before us and asking for our hand of forgiveness. If we as believers fail to forgive someone once they have come before us and asked us to forgive them, then this is when we are in jeopardy of sinning ourselves. Luke 17:2-4 is a good example of this whereby Jesus says:
"Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him."
In the case of this murderer in Colorado, the church first can not speak on behalf of the victims and extend forgiveness on their behalf. Secondly, it would be unjust if we would extend forgiveness to this unrepentant murderer as clearly he was neither filled with regret or repentance for his actions. As Christians, let us be on guard how we portray biblical or Christ-like forgiveness. Clearly, before we were forgiven by God we must exhibit true and genuine sorrow for what we have done to the heart of God.