So why not let’s forgive everyone?

I once corresponded online with a Christian friend who felt he had no obligation to forgive an unbeliever who had been trash-talking him in an online discussion—a religion debate thread, no less—on a forum we both frequent. Some atheists in the debate had a tendency to defamatory slurs on Christianity in lieu of real arguments, and my friend complained of one such instance. The other guy said “sorry,” but with the semi-taunting remark that, being a Christian, that meant he’d have to forgive him, right? My friend replied that he wasn’t convinced of the sincerity of the apology, and would therefore postpone forgiveness.

My problem with this, and the reason I personally messaged him about it, is that even unbelievers often evidence better charity than this, comporting themselves with goodwill even in heated disagreements. But they act only out of an intangible sense of sporting or intellectual solidarity. To employ the classic how-much-more argument, shouldn’t we Christians be legendarily quick to forgive? I think the excuse often given, and the misconception I want to address, is that we don’t have to forgive someone unless, or until, they’re truly repentant.

To begin with, forgiveness is different than reconciliation, meaning that you don’t have to wait for them to ask before you forgive them. Some might place the distinction between being prepared to forgive, and actually forgiving (once the other party has sincerely asked forgiveness), but I submit that these are different ways of getting at the same thing. Being prepared to forgive someone really just means you’ve forgiven them, otherwise you’re still holding something against them, whereas you should love them enough to pursue reconciliation.

In the above scenario, I told my friend that it didn’t seem very Christ-like to withhold forgiveness, to which he responded that God doesn’t forgive us unless we truly repent. My best answer was that we’re not God, which I think is a valid point. But more than that, I think God deals with us in a more forgiving way, though repenting of our sins is essential to being in fellowship with God, and conviction is how God brings us back because we are His atoned-for children. But if I were to die suddenly with unrepented sins, I don’t think I’d be cast into utter darkness or serving time in purgatory. And, on a more basic level, “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  Simply put, if God didn’t forgive us before we deserved it, we’d be screwed.

I was recently inspired to consider this topic again by a sermon on handling conflict, the telos of which was that we are told to forgive as we’ve been forgiven, or else God will do to us as the unforgiving servant of Matthew 18. The man in the parable was forgiven an impossible debt; we likewise, who have been forgiven much, are called to forgive much in return. And this fits nicely with a Thanksgiving theme, since I technically still have half an hour of “Turkey Day.” We’ve been forgiven everything, so we have no excuse for ungratefulness. We’ve been forgiven everything, so why not let’s forgive everyone, everywhere, everything?

That last line and the following excerpt, which I’ll end with, are from the lyrics to “bullet to Binary (pt. two)” by mewithoutYou:

We all well know
We’re gonna reap what we sow
But grace, we all know
Can take the place of all we owe
So why not, let’s forgive everyone, everywhere, everything
All the time, everyone, everywhere, everything

All the time, everyone, everywhere, everything…

Hope you liked it. If so, maybe share it, comment, or link. Many thanks.

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