In talks and retreats I have heard several times that we should unconditionally forgive others who cause us offence (trespass against us), whether they ask for forgiveness or not, whether they show remorse or repentance or not. Often quoted is Gordon Wilson whose daughter Marie was killed by the IRA bomb in Enniskillen (and was himself injured) and who immediately forgave the bombers.
Yet we are told that we must repent and ask God’s forgiveness before he will forgive us.
Why does God ask us to do something that he himself is not prepared to do?
In the gospels we hear how Jesus forgave the sins of the paralysed man who was let down from the roof. And although we do not the disposition of the man’s heart there was no apparent repentance. Indeed I would think the man had only two concerns at the time – to be healed, and not to be tipped of the mat as he was lowered down.
In the story of the prodigal son the father is just waiting for the son’s return, apparently having already forgiven him.
Again Jesus forgives the sins of the “good thief” although there is little evidence that he had repented of his many crimes (he may have recognised that his punishment was deserved, but that doesn’t mean he was sorry for what he had done, just that he had been caught). Jesus even asks the Father to forgive those who were crucifying him – again without any signs of repentance.
Then again, in the Lords Prayer that Jesus taught, we say “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us “ So Jesus told us to ask the father to forgive us in the same was as we forgive others (i.e. unconditionally, with no prior remorse of repentance). Why would Jesus tell us to do this if God expects us to ask for forgiveness and show repentance.
Can anyone explain this apparent contradiction? Its bugging me.