“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27).
These words of Jesus tell us how we are to treat those who reject and oppose us. Nobody would argue that this instruction only applies if our enemies first ask us to forgive them. No, we are to act this way even while they are behaving with contempt toward us. That’s what Jesus taught. The clear teaching on the subject confirms, “by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head” (Romans 12:20). So we are to love, and bless people whether they accept it or not. We aren’t to wait for people to ask for forgiveness before we extend it. We forgive because it’s who we are as those joined in union with Christ. Forgiveness is an expression of grace. It is an undeserved and unilateral experience.
If you accept that the Bible teaches we are to forgive people even before they ask, consider this question: Has Jesus already forgiven those who reject Him even though they haven’t asked? Or has He given us instructions to do something that He won’t even do? Of course, the answer is that He has forgiven everybody. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their sins against them.
Does that suggest that everybody enjoys that forgiveness and walks in harmony with Him? To answer that question, consider this one: If you forgive somebody who has done wrong to you but they still reject you, does that mean you haven’t really forgiven them? No, of course not. You have forgiven that person regardless of his response to it. However, unless he receives your forgiveness, that does prevent him from experiencing the benefits of your forgiveness. The same is true with mankind and God. We have all been forgiven but unless we receive it we won’t experientially know its benefits.
“But doesn’t suggesting that all are forgiven mean that everybody is going to heaven? No, it doesn’t. People don’t’ go to heaven because their sins are forgiven. They go to heaven because they trust Jesus Christ. Sin doesn’t keep people out of heaven. Sin has been dealt with in totality by the cross. Only rejecting Jesus Christ and His work on the cross can do that.
The proclamation of the gospel is the proclamation of the forgiveness of sin, not a promise of the potential for forgiveness based on us and what we do.
One thing is certain: Jesus didn’t tell us to love our enemies while He won’t love His own. He has loved and so we love. He has forgiven and so we forgive. Thank God, grace doesn’t require an invitation. Instead, it rushes right into the place where it is needed simply because of love.