Further limitations on Forgiveness

3 Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. 4 And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.”

Luke 17:3-4, NRSV

I think that Jesus’ point, from the verses used in the past two days, is to live as a person ready and willing to forgive. Does that (or can that) happen under any and all circumstances? Of course not. But it is my opinion that we’re being pointed towards a disposition (readiness to forgive) rather than a strict formula (rebuke -> repentance -> forgiveness). We would be missing the point to treat this as a formula or to analyze the exact number of times we are obligated to offer forgiveness. Jesus’ goal is for his disciples to become forgiving types of people. It is assumed that forgiveness is the regular, daily fare of God’s followers and it is that mentality we chase.

Keep in mind, though, that we’ve been given at least two potential boundaries here: 1. community and 2. repentance. And, to be even more limiting, the repentance, in this context, refers to an “in community” person being the one doing the repenting. It does not say you’re obligated to forgive any repenter whatsoever. We are trying to become forgiving types of people, of course, and I believe the willingness to forgive can potentially apply to anyone. But, when it comes to life’s biggest hurts, we tend to be dealing with “outsiders” who are unrepentant. This can stretch us beyond what we can bear and, in so doing, may make forgiveness extremely difficult, if not impossible. There is no need to shame ourselves for that as those situations are simply not being covered by Jesus’ instruction here.

What do we do with those scenarios? Stay tuned- we'll address that in a future day.