…if it’s the wrong kind.


Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

2 Corinthians 7:10


I’m sorry to bring you such a heavy topic today. But I felt I must. There’s a lot of false teaching occurring which I believe is harmful to those who are misled by it. Is this being taught in your church? Please bear with me as I try to give my point of view.  (Among the sources I’ve drawn from is Unpacking Forgiveness, by Chris Brauns. It’s an excellent book on the topic.)


When a person hurts you and you offer forgiveness, hoping to make it right, how would you feel if it was refused? What if this person didn’t want to confess or say she was sorry. Not willing to repent and change her ways. Ultimately not wanting to have a relationship with you.

The main goal of forgiving another is reconciliation. Restoring a peaceful relationship should, at least to some extent, be the aim. This would be impossible unless there is repentance and forgiveness between the two. If there is to be a restored relationship, both parties have to be willing to see it happen.

This, more clearly than ever before, helps me see how a relationship without repentance or remorse is impossible. Not with God, nor with man. God might love us, but if we don’t repent and show our need and desire to be forgiven for our sins, we cannot have a relationship with him.

The idea of unconditional forgiveness, only weakly supported here and there by the Bible, is a dangerous one. It assumes that Christians ought to be forgiven without having to worry about repenting. Automatically forgiven by God. Some believe that unconditional forgiveness goes hand in hand with unconditional love. In truth, though, God can love us and yet not overlook the wrongs we do.

The tragedy is that churches are making congregations believe they’re Christians when they’re not. Jesus commands us to repent. To ask for his forgiveness. Only then are we saved.

Churches that preach unconditional forgiveness, only want to give “feel-good” messages. They’re reluctant to identify the truths of what believing in Jesus means. They avoid talking about the truths of sin and evil.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, author of Cost of Discipleship, was a theologian who was hung by the Nazis in 1945 at the young age of 39. He spoke of unconditional forgiveness as “cheap grace,” an undermining of the gospel. It’s easy for people to accept it because it promises forgiveness without having to change their lives—without repentance. He argued that it was because of this “cheap grace” that German Christians did so little to stand up against Nazism. Yes, this is an example of how faulty theology can be harmful if we take it to heart.

From Bonhoeffer: “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

In brief: If a person will not accept your offer of forgiveness, it’s probably because he doesn’t want a relationship with you. In the same way, if we refuse Christ’s offer of forgiveness, we’re refusing a relationship with him.