Should we forgive those who do not want forgiveness? Should we mourn God’s judgements on those who show no signs of repentance? The answer seems obvious, right?
David’s man, Joab, despite the King’s pleas not to harm him, kills Absalom, David’s rebellious son. Chapter 18 ends with David wailing uncontrollably for his lost son. Joab boldly confronts the King: “You have today covered with shame the faces of all your servants, who have this day saved your life…because you love those who hate you and hate those who love you.” (19:5-6) Joab is right.
David pleas for God to bring justice on his enemies throughout the Psalms. The closeness of this enemy leads to David’s clouded perspective. While we may mourn for the individual, we should never mourn that God’s justice and holiness are upheld in the punishment of the unrepentant sinner. Why? Because it is contrary to the heart of God.
Consider how God the Father dealt with God the Son, who became sin on our behalf, on the cross. Isaiah 53:10 (CSB) says, “Yet the LORD was pleased to crush Him severely.” The word translated “pleased” means “to delight in.” The Father delights to crush sin wherever it is found because it is an offense to His holiness.
Like God, the Christian is to be always ready to forgive and actively seeking the repentance of the sinner. However, like God, our forgiveness is to be conditioned on repentance. Luke 17:3 says, “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.”
This is not an excuse to have an unforgiving heart. Note David’s response to the repentance of Shimei in 19:16-23. Repentance was met with pardon.
When we forgive the unrepentant, we lead them to falsely conclude that their guilt before God is removed. When we fail to forgive the repentant, we tell the repentant sinner that God’s grace through Christ is not sufficient. Instead, let us seek to model the heart of God.