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Mar 07

When Someone Refuses to Forgive

Posted by: Steve Marr

Tagged in: Untagged 

From time to time someone will point out where they believe we have fallen short. When we are offended or hurt someone else, Christians are called to use the principles outlined by the Lord:

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (18:15-17, ESV)

When someone brings our shortcomings to our attention, we need to take the next steps to confess, apologize, and make restitution when appropriate. If my dog gets out of my yard and makes a pile on the neighbor’s yard, I should do the cleanup and not just ignore it. Sometimes when we take steps to make things right, the offended person refuses to accept our confession or apology and blocks our ability to make restitution.

Consider this example. “Tom” ordered a book from my website back when I fulfilled requests myself. However, I failed to mail the book at book rate for a week. A week later the book had not arrived. I received a scathing e-mail going on and on about how I failed to deliver the book within a reasonable time. I responded with an apology and said I would send out a replacement by overnight mail at my expense. I also offered to refund the cost of the book and allowed him to keep the second book when it arrived.

Tom was unhappy and responded with another angry tirade. I answered by repeating my apology, restated the steps I took to make restitution, and asked if there was another step I could take to make the situation right. Tom responded with another sharp e-mail and no constructive request. I deleted his e-mail and moved on.

In another instance, I wrote an article for publication where I made an error that “Sean” believed damaged his credibility. I apologized and offered several steps as restitution including arranging for a correction to be printed in the next publication. I called Sean a week later to ask if these steps had restored our relationship. He responded with an angry rant. I asked if Sean wanted me to take any additional steps to make the needed restitution.  Sean made it clear that nothing would be acceptable.

In both of these instances, the offended party rejected every step I offered to make things right. John wrote, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, ESV) The Lord also said, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12, ESV)

When we fall short we need to confess and offer to make things right. The other party has a responsibility to offer forgiveness, just as we do when we have been offended.

In situations like these I give the biblical basis for offering forgiveness. However, if someone fails to accept it; I walk away. Then, the problem to restoration lies with them and not me.


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