Q. Our pastor resigned Sunday due to what he stated was an “emotional” relationship with a woman other than his wife. Some are wondering, if he repents, couldn’t he come back according to the principle given us in Matthew 18? My thought so far is the standard God gave for a bishop or deacon of being blameless and that our pastor has compromised his ministry with this affair. Also, some believe we are to forgive those involved even if no repentance is evident; that it is our Biblical mandate. Others say that we do not hold anger and bitterness towards them, but we cannot forgive what is not confessed. I would appreciate any thoughts to help as we begin to deal with the fallout of a fallen pastor.
A. First let’s be clear that forgiveness is not conditional upon the other person seeking it. Forgiveness is a commandment. In Matt. 6:14-15 Jesus said, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
He wasn’t speaking of the forgiveness that brings salvation here, but of the forgiveness that purifies us from unrighteousness and maintains our close relationship with Him, as referenced in 1 John 1:9. Failure to forgive another is a sin that interrupts our fellowship with the Lord. The other person’s actions, or lack thereof, are irrelevant to that.
Also, forgiveness and restoration are two different matters. It’s not for me to say whether your pastor should be restored. But I can tell you that your church’s ability to heal from this event and move on will depend upon its willingness to forgive all the people involved.