Matthew 18:21-22 / Luke 17:3-4…
Matthew 18:15-20 gives us an outline for the steps of church discipline. It starts out one on one, and if the other person repents, that’s the end of it. Peter’s question takes us back to vs.15. What about the person who seems to just be going through the motions? Are we supposed to just keep on going through the motions if someone keeps fouling up, even if it seems like it’s on purpose? How often are we supposed to forgive? Jesus tells us the answer is always.
But don’t miss something here. We are not to condemn the person, but we are to confront them with the offense. We must forgive those who are repentant, but we must give an opportunity to repent. This doesn’t mean that we only have to forgive them before God but that we can hold onto our unforgiveness until we see them come to us to repent, and if they never do we never forgive. No, if we are able we must go to them, rebuke them, and give them a chance to repent. If they do we give them the cleansing benefit of our forgiveness.
We should typically forgive some sins without necessarily even mentioning it (Proverbs 10:12, 19:11 / Matthew 7:1-5 / Colossians 3:13 / 1 Peter 4:8). We must be promoting an atmosphere of forbearing and forgiveness; it isn’t always required that I rebuke a brother who sins. Still there are times we should go to a person, and it takes courage to practice biblical forgiveness.
What about those who cannot be approached this way, like a dead relative, or you were taken advantage of in some anonymous way, or the incident was 20 years ago and you don’t know where the offender is? If you don’t have access to a person, you forgive them before God in your heart (Mark 11:25). You are always to do that in all situations anyway. We must be willing to forgive, because a biblically forgiving spirit is a faithful one.