To be honest, I never thought I would be one to write an article like the one you are reading now. I don’t believe many of us fathom getting into situations where we’re the ones in the wrong. But nevertheless, at some point in all our lives, we will all end up doing things we aren’t the most proud of. For some, this will cost our reputation. For others, it may linger as the thing we most regret in our past.
As Christians, we know we can find forgiveness in Christ and be free from our sins. But what do we do when the person we’ve offended refuses to forgive us?
In Matthew 5, Jesus is teaching the crowds about morality, contrasting His teachings with passages from Old Testament law. Jesus is teaching the crowds that murder begins in a person’s heart. Verses 22 to 24 read: “But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You moron!’ will be subject to hellfire. So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
Jesus takes our anger against one another very seriously. In this case, He is saying that one must make amends with his brother before he can come before the Lord and give his offering. We know Christ was crucified and resurrected to save us from our sin, but we also know that even after salvation, Christians can still commit sins. This verse works as a guideline for how conflicts should be handled—and how, in an ideal world, it would work in resolving disputes.
I don’t know about your situation, but for me, I was denied this form of conflict resolution. No matter how hard I tried, the person I had offended would not come and talk through our conflict. Finally, after a long time of trying, I sent an apology message because I knew what had transpired between us was, in fact, my fault. I never received anything back—not a forgiving message or a rejection message, but absolutely nothing. To make matters worse, I had to deal with encountering this person on a regular basis. Every encounter was met with a condescending look that would just tear through my being. Even though I had already repented to the Lord and had been working on moving past what I had done, that look would always dump all the guilt I had felt right back on my heart. This person was a Christian, too, and very well respected as a spiritual leader. Because of that, I began to feel inadequate in my faith. I felt that if this person shared the same beliefs as me yet thought I was a horrible person, then I must be a hypocrite. It affected everything, and at times I felt inadequate before God, as if I somehow fooled myself into believing I was on the right path with God yet must have been bound for hell.
So, what do we do with this lack of forgiveness in our lives? Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t give us a clear answer to this question. The one thing that we can trust in is the security we have in Christ. Ephesians 1:7 says, “We have redemption in Him through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.” Ultimately, God is the forgiver of sins, not human beings. We need to take hold of that truth and be at peace with that.
As much as I still long for forgiveness from this person, I cannot be held captive by it. I did my part in trying to resolve our conflict, and I cannot be held accountable for the other person’s actions. God is our judge, and one day we will all stand before Him and give an account for all we’ve done on this Earth. We need to remain focused on bringing God glory with our lives and fulfilling His ultimate will for our lives. Disregard what others may say or think about you and put your eyes on the Lord; know that you are forgiven, and go be at peace.
K.L. Yeatman is a twentysomething college student with aspirations of becoming a professional writer and a love for all things creative.