Posted October 7, 2004
Forgiving Without An Apology
(# 4 On Forgiveness)
By D. B. Martin

What do you do when someone offends you and does not apologize? Get even, right? Wrong!

Jesus said “…love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,” (Matthew 5:44 NKJV).

Sure, it’s easier to forgive offenders who apologize, but suppose they don’t? How long will you let your hard feelings hinder your prayers and make you miserable? You may be punishing yourself and God more than you punish the offender.

Jesus commands us to forgive them unilaterally without waiting for an apology. Unilateral means “one sided.” A unilateral cease-fire in time of war means one side stops shooting and sues for peace. Unilateral forgiveness is forgiving an offender without waiting for him to apologize or change.

It amazes me how many people think they should not forgive until the offender apologizes. They assume that unilateral forgiveness is analogous to salvation, i.e. God does not forgive until we repent, therefore we don't forgive until offenders apologize. It is not the same.

The first words of Jesus from the cross were “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Jesus was expressing a forgiving attitude of unconditional love even toward those who crucified him. This did not mean they were saved, unless they received Him as the repentant thief did.

Also, there is a difference between expressing a forgiving attitude toward an offender and restoring the relationship. Unilateral forgiveness does not condone the sins of the offender, nor does it necessarily restore a broken relationship. It simply expresses unconditional love, which has the best potential for effecting reconciliation. We will discuss this more in detail in a later message.

You may be saying, “Jesus can forgive unilaterally but we can’t.” You are right. We cannot do that in our strength, but when Jesus comes into our hearts, He can do it in us. What about Stephen, one of the first deacons and the first Christian martyr?

Acts 7:55 describes his stoning, “But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God.” Then while he was being stoned to death Stephen “…cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin…’” (Vs. 60). I think Jesus stood in honor of Stephen’s forgiving attitude.

Larry Christenson described this scene in his book, THE RENEWED MIND: “Picture the Lord, standing up, looking over the parapet of heaven, saying, ‘who is this that my servant is forgiving? I must go to that man.’ Yes, and go to that man He did –to the ringleader of that band, Saul of Tarsus (Acts 7:58). He met him because Stephen had unilaterally forgiven him and opened the gateway for an encounter with Jesus.”

Saul of Tarsus was converted on the road to Damascus (Acts 9) and became the great missionary apostle Paul. Have you ever wondered who won Paul to Christ? It was Stephen’s sermon and especially his forgiving attitude toward those who were stoning him, including Paul.

A lost world does not believe God will forgive them because Christians do not practice forgiveness. Has someone hurt you that you have not forgiven? If so, you have lost your joy and peace. Also, your prayers are hindered. Don’t blame the offenders. Forgive them unilaterally for Jesus’ sake and ask God to forgive you and restore your joy. He will and He may use you to win your offenders…perhaps another Paul? Amen.

© 2004 D. B. Martin.

Note From Editor: I am a retired Southern Baptist Pastor living in Virginia Beach, VA. This website and email bulletin is simply my way to continue my ministry in retirement. This goes out to more than 700 addresses. I hope it is a blessing to you. Feel free to forward or use them as God leads. For other messages, click on Suggestions, comments or questions are welcome. If you know of someone else who would like to receive these bulletins, please email us. They are free. Also, if you would like your name removed from our email list, let us know and it will be done.

God bless you, D. B. Martin.