The Essentials Of Forgiveness

Q. Today, I was having a conversation with a friend about what is required to obtain forgiveness when you commit a sin against someone (specifically, adultery). My friend feels that sincerely asking God for forgiveness and ceasing the sinful behavior is all that is required, especially when the former relationship (marriage) no longer exists and both parties have moved on with their lives.

Of course, I feel that it is a must that you ask God for forgiveness, but I feel that you must also ask the person that you wronged for forgiveness as well. I’ve searched the Bible for references on asking for/receiving forgiveness, but I’m still unclear. Can you share your perspective on this?

A. Matt. 5:23-24 says, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

To me this means that we can’t maintain our relationship with God while there’s any issue between us and another person that we haven’t done our best to resolve. Whether it’s asking for or granting forgiveness, failure to do our part violates the Lord’s commandment that we love one another as He loved us (John 15:12) and leaves us out of fellowship with God.

Since the Lord only holds us responsible for our side of the equation, we can extend forgiveness even if the other party hasn’t asked, and we can ask even if it isn’t granted, but so far as it depends on us, we’re to live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18). The other person’s unwillingness to ask doesn’t justify our failure to forgive, and our fear that they would refuse to forgive us doesn’t justify our failure to sincerely ask them anyway.

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