First let me say, I totally believe one must repent of sins before receiving grace, and metanoia, transformation. Totally. To change one’s mind and heart requires a willingness to admit you were wrong and to surrender, to submit to that truth and to place yourself in the Lord’s hands.
However, when it comes to our relationships with one another, we must be willing to extend grace and forgiveness without repentance. Often we must forgive before any repentance,change, or recognition of wrong doing. We need to forgive even when people are not sorry. That is because “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” His grace was given TO US even before we understood we needed it.
Also, if you wait for people to repent and be sorry, hell will freeze over first and you will spend a lifetime harboring unforgiveness which often just creates bitterness, offense, and a sense of perpetual and chronic injustice.
In marriage this is even more important. We need to be forgiving and merciful even if our spouse does not recognize the problem, repent, or mend their ways. There are some big issues, abuse, addiction, affairs, that must be dealt with, so those are times when your own safety must come first and forgiveness does not mean denial or ignoring the problem. Forgiveness is about setting your own spirit free.
I bumped into this guy on the internet, holding his wife in contempt, not trusting her, being unforgiving because of future imaginary scenarios and potential bad behavior that hasn’t even happened yet.
You know that is just my kind of crazy and IB is going to be all over that. I suggested he might need to repent of his stinking thinking and extend some grace and forgiveness towards his wife. The woman packs his lunch for goodness sake. I don’t even pack my husband’s lunch.
He said, I kid you not, “I’m not going to forgive her, she hasn’t repented yet.” He does not believe in forgiveness without repentance and apparently it has not yet occurred to him that demanding someone repent of imaginary things that have not even happened yet is unreasonable at best.
I’m not picking on this guy, in truth I was quite delighted to meet a fellow crazy. He did take it up a notch to a level I have not yet explored fully, but oh yeah, I could totally picture taking great offense at a future imaginary scenario and actually being mad at someone for starring in my totally made up dramatic narrative.
I did once have a bad dream and spent half the day scowling at my husband, so like I said, my kind of crazy.
Just the same, she is not the one who needs to repent, you are.
I wrote a post recently, Two Good Forgivers, how marriage goes ideally, how it goes when it goes well. It does NOT always go well. Sometimes, often even, there is going to be only one forgiver. Sometimes even, there is only one believer. Sometimes those roles can shift and change, ebb and flow. So for all intents and purposes, there is only one forgiver, one forgiver with their eyes on Christ. If you are basing your own behavior on your spouse or making your own forgiveness conditional on their repentance, you’re going to soon plunge into the world of crazy, like my new found friend above did.
There’s a harsh truth I’ve had to learn, nobody owes me repentance, nobody owes me an “I’m sorry.” They may well owe God such things, but not me. Repenting of wrong doing is a lovely thing, it can lead to great healing and restoration, but it is not owed, not required, nor is our own forgiveness and grace conditional upon it. With or without it, it is the Lord who restores what is stolen, tenfold, the Lord who hands us beauty for those ashes. The Lord who fixes everything, with or without our help.
My husband bless his heart, after a day of just telling me my face was going to get stuck that way, did repent of the bad dream I had, or rather embraced my crazy and extended his grace, sorry for his imaginary behavior in my imaginary dream.
For all his human flaws and imperfections, that man has taught me a great deal about what grace actually looks like, on this side of heaven anyway.