Jesus’ expectations for our forgiving fellow believers is succinctly stated by His words recorded in Luke 17:3-4:
Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents , forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ” I repent ,” forgive him (emphasis added)
How much clearer could it be? Jesus expects us to forgive fellow believers when they repent. When we pray, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors,” we’re asking God to do for us what we have done for others. We would never expect Him to forgive us unless we ask . So why would we think He expects us to forgive those who don’t ask?
Again, all of this does not give us the right to harbor a grudge against a brother or sister in Christ who has sinned against us. We are commanded to love one another. That is why we are commanded to confront a fellow believer who sins against us, so that there might be reconciliation with him, and that he might be reconciled to God against whom he has also sinned. That is what love would do. Yet too often, Christians say they forgive an offending fellow believer, but it is only an excuse to avoid confrontation. They actually don’t forgive, and it is clear by their actions. They avoid the offender at all costs and often speak of their hurt. There is no reconciliation.
When we sin, God confronts us by His Holy Spirit within us because He loves us and wants to forgive us. We should imitate Him, lovingly confronting fellow believers who sin against us so that there will be repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.
God has always expected His people to love one another with a genuine love, a love that allows for rebuke, but a love that does not allow for bearing a grudge. Contained within the Law of Moses is the commandment:
You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor , but shall not incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord (Lev. 19:17-18, emphasis added).