How do I forgive someone who refuses to say sorry?

Chris —  May 24, 2017

Watch the below video with Dr. Jeremy Pierre. If I ever issue a revised copy of Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Wounds I’m going to pay my own gas money to buy Dr. Pierre lunch so we can talk biblical forgiveness. He interacts with hard questions in a way that is both pastorally sensitive and biblically responsible. 

“How do I forgive someone who refuses to say sorry?” Much of the reason I wrote Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Wounds was to interact with this question. There are at least two extremes to avoid.

  • On the one hand, Christians should always follow Christ’s example and proactively show love (Romans 5:8, Romans 12:21). Using the word picture of gift giving, we should always wrap the package of forgiveness and offer it to those who hurt us. 
  • Yet, Christians must also avoid diminishing evil that is done nor should they be help captive by unrepentant offenders (Romans 12:19, 2 Thess 1:6-10, 2 Tim 4:14). If the offending party is unwilling to repent and unwrap the package, then we can trust God for justice.

See also:

The Forgiveness Quiz – This will get you started thinking about forgiveness.

Didn’t Jesus Forgive Unconditionally on the Cross? – One of the first questions that comes up when we talk about the truth that Christians should not always forgive.

Others on Unconditional Forgiveness – This is a collection of quotes from others who interact with the subject of conditional forgiveness.

5 Problems With Unconditional Forgiveness – Numerous problems arise when we encourage cheap grace. Here are 5 examples

Should I confront an offender or just get over it? – What should be confronted? What should be let go? This post will help you work through the question of when to confront.

How can I stop thinking about it? – The “mental gerbil wheel” is one of the most difficult aspects of deep offenses.

How can I forgive myself? – This is another forgiveness question people often raise.

Chris Brauns Review of Totally Forgiving God by R.T. Kendall – Is it okay for Christians to forgive God. Some authors argue there are times it is appropriate. In this review for The Gospel Coalition I interact with R.T. Kendall’s book.

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5 responses to How do I forgive someone who refuses to say sorry?

  1. Awesome on the part on How do I forgive someone when someone who refuses to say sorry (or repent)? Thank you for this short video on that topic. That did help me a lot. Yes, it is easy to forgive someone who repented or say I am sorry than those who continue to do things wrong when they know better. I have learned to forgive them, but I don’t trust them.

  2. Thanks for your feedback Marguerite!

  3. Wayne Winquist May 25, 2017 at 8:20 am

    Thanks for sharing the video. It is a great explanation of the internal and external aspects of the way we are to forgive and to approach forgiveness. I also appreciated the explanation of the role of grief in the desire to forgive if true forgiveness is not understood, sought or desired.

  4. Jay R. Walker May 25, 2017 at 7:08 pm

    This problem though is that Jeremy says that we do forgive (internally). And Biblically, he is correct (Mark 11:25). I’ve read your book and unless I’ve missed it, you do not allow for such.

  5. Hi Jay. I say it in (slightly) different way. I say that we ought always to have an attitude of forgiveness whereas Jeremy calls this internal forgiveness. My word picture is that one ought always to wrap the package and extend grace — but if the other party doesn’t accept the gift, then forgiveness has not fully taken place.