Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. — Matthew 18:21-22
Forgiveness is one of the most critically important tasks in the life of a Christian. It has always been understood in this manner, to the degree that when Jesus once taught His disciples about the subject, their response was “Increase our faith.”
For those of you who might be unfamiliar with that discourse (and for everyone’s convenience), here’s that passage for your review. Luke 17:1-5 reads as follows:Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come! It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him. And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.
Interesting, isn’t it?!? During this discourse, several elements are mentioned. Let’s list them:
- Offences are a part of life. In other words, people (someone) will always do something that crosses us or rubs us the wrong way—from their heart, mind you. Jesus pronounces a woe, however, against those who do such things, to the extent that suffering a painfully slow and helpless death by drowning is better than what God will do to a person who labors in offence.
- Jesus presents a warning, also, to the faithful (remember, discipline-oriented commandments are only given to the sheep). We are instructed to take heed to ourselves (i.e., be aware of the tendencies and frailties of the flesh and don’t make provision for its lusts to be fulfilled). Why? Because issues associated with unforgiveness can blind, corrupt, and destroy us. Therefore, to avoid being “poisoned by bitterness”, drowning in strife, and being drawn into other acts of hatred, Jesus instructs us to be proactive by using the way of escape that has been provided—seeking peace and conflict resolution through confrontation.Now this confrontation is not the way of the world. It consists of rebuke. When someone trespasses against us, by rebuking them, we express our displeasure with their actions and are, basically, requesting restoration of the previous state.
- Once a person has been rebuked (implying that we must have just cause to confront), the only proper response is repentance. IF a person repents, we are instructed to forgive him or her.
- There is no limit to the number of times that we must forgive someone. In Luke, Jesus mentions seven times per day, but in Matthew 18, He shows how forbearing and patient we must be by instructing us to forgive someone 490 times in a day, if necessary.
In the midst of these points, two critical elements usually get overlooked:
- Forgiveness is contingent upon REAL repentance. Just saying “I’m sorry”, something we’re taught to do (hypocritically) as children isn’t enough. If a person don’t genuinely repent, God still holds them responsible for their trespass.
- By specifying the number of times a person must/can be forgiven in one day, the foolishness of “blanket repentance” is exposed. In Jesus’ statement, each act of repentance and forgiveness is unique and/or isolated.
What is “blanket repentance”? Well, the operative word is “blanket”. For many, hearing the word “blanket” brings bedding to mind—an article used to cover oneself when in bed. It also means “to cover”. Neither of those words are applicable here. In today’s exhortation, the word “blanket” refers to “all-inclusiveness”. In other words, the word “blanket” refers to “covering everything without being specific”.
Blanket repentance is a common practice in Christendom. Sadly, when many people are in the position of “the rebukee”, they avoid discussing the topic of the rebuke by listening intently (at least appearing to), usually being oblivious of what they’re being rebuked about, and attempting to settle the situation by asking for forgiveness without having any real idea of what they’re being confronted about. Such an act is demonic. The person doing such a thing is avoiding the responsibility of dealing with the issue-at-hand and has not truly repented, because true repentance requires knowledge of what you’re repenting of.
In addition of the requirement to be fully aware in order for repentance to be genuine, we must also remember that there is such a thing as the “fruit meet for repentance” (Matthew 3:8). Interestingly, a listing of such fruit can be found in 2 Corinthians 7:10-11. The pertinent passage reads as follows:For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, whatcarefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.
People who truly repent, developing a greater sense of carefulness. We strive to clear ourselves (validate a genuine state of innocence via proof). Those who truly repent manifest indignation—(Greek: developing a state of strong opposition against that which is wrong). One’s level of fear (Greek: terror and fright), which happens to be a deterrent to sin. A penitent/repentant person, through correction/rebuke, develops a vehement desire (i.e., a strong passion for being righteous concerning the situation-at-hand), not wanting to be guilty again. The level of zeal (Greek: a deeply devoted and earnestly concerned attitude) becomes stronger. One’s passion for a healthy and godly sense of revenge (Greek: vindication and retribution) becomes steady. Again, only those who truly repent manifest these fruit.
Wanna hear something really sad (and I hope you’re not guilty). Some people sin against others and NEVER obtain knowledge of the fact that they have sinned. This is a dangerously frightening tell-tale sign. A sign of what? Well, Hebrews 12:6-8 says:
For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.
Some of the chastisement that comes in our lives comes through the rebuke of others; but while rebuke/chastisement comes directly from God or for others, many are void of such correction. This means, quite frankly, that that individual is an imposter. You see, God DOES NOT allow sin to go unchecked in the life of a true believer. We ALWAYS and EVENTUALLY come into knowledge of our erroneous ways and validate the state of our hearts via our response to the correction. Those who are not corrected are not in covenant with God, so He is not obligated to correct them—validating their bastardized status (e.g., In Greek that means that they have “no rights”). If you have to be told when you sin, there is a void in your life. I suggest you seek the Lord and get it filled.
The bottom line for today: DO NOT PRACTICE “BLANKET REPENTANCE”. If you have been practicing it, renounce it. Learn how to deal with your error (or someone else’s) on a case-by-case basis. Ask God to help you to be sharp in your discernment and for wisdom to deal with sin when it is present in your life.
Oh, yes. I almost forgot to mention. Beware of people who ask for your forgiveness, but have no idea why they’re doing it. They are over 99% more likely to repeat their offense and put you in harm’s way, because repeatedly forgiving someone for the same sin becomes harder each time (or each few times) we do it. Pray for yourself and pray for them. Unforgiveness can keep you out of the kingdom of God.
Until next time, keep the word and be blessed.