Time and again the question comes up, “Should I forgive someone who has not asked for it?” In other words, are we supposed to automatically forgive another? As with other questions, Scripture has the answer (2 Pet. 1:3).
The Bible teaches us to forgive as Christ forgave (Eph. 4:32). He forgives when men repent and seek His mercy; not before. Yes, Jesus did pray that those who crucified Him would be forgiven (Lk. 23:34). However, none of these were forgiven until they repented and obeyed the gospel; some did so in Acts 2.
God requires repentance of the sinner (Lk. 13:3, 5; Acts 3:19; 8:18-24). If He did not, then all men would be forgiven.
Jesus instructed Peter,
“Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him” (Lk. 17:4).
Thus, in matters where sin has been committed, repentance is required. We should seek to bring the person to repentance, especially a brother (Matt. 18:15-17). There is no Scripture that requires forgiveness apart from repentance.
If we are to forgive automatically, without repentance, then church discipline is meaningless (1 Cor. 5:9-11). It is our duty to enforce discipline and not ignore the sin. We still admonish the wayward as a brother, not counting him as an enemy…but we still admonish—repent of your sin (2 Thes. 3:14, 15).
In non-sinful matters, it is a different issue. We are sometimes “offended” by others. They may say something that hurts our feelings or goes against our way of thinking. In times like this, the wise man said, “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression” (Prov. 19:11).
Forgiveness of sin without repentance? No. Overlooking an insignificant insult? Yes.