Luke 17:3-4 “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”
An important issue that often arises when going through separation and divorce, especially when it involves abuse, is the issue of forgiveness. Aren’t we supposed to repeatedly forgive someone who continues to sin against us? The above passage does a great job of clarifying this issue if we examine it carefully and understand it correctly. Let’s break it down and have a closer look.
If someone sins against you,
- rebuke them — rebuke means to admonish, to warn or reprimand
- if they repent — to change one’s mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins
- forgive them — to let go of ie. the offense
To repent means to make a change, it means to experience remorse and to reform your ways. Most people in the process of making a serious change in their lives will struggle initially and slip back at times into a old pattern, especially if it was an habitual sin. Being gracious to a repentant sinner and having a forgiving attitude while the person is making changes makes sense. However, if a person is not showing signs of remorse and reform after you have admonished them for their sin against you, the situation is different. We are not required to accept an unrepentant person back into fellowship with us, in fact it is to their detriment, as well as our own, to do so. It can actually put us and our children in danger depending on the kind of abuses that may be going on. We then face a new problem of condoning and potentially even enabling another person’s continued sin! We also become responsible for the harm their sin is doing to us and our children. For many survivors that becomes a point of deep regret in retrospect.
Other translations say ‘forgive 70 times 7 times’. If that is a correct translation, does that mean after forgiving 490 times, even with evidence of change and remorse over sin, it’s ok to stop? Something to think about.