We sometimes hear well-meaning Christians say, "We have to forgive people unconditionally !" I think I know what they mean. But words do have meanings and the wrong use of a word can and does lead to erroneous thinking.
The word "unconditional" means exactly that: NO prior conditions have to be meet to have what is offered.
Now the question is: Does God forgive unconditionally? What does the Bible say?
If God forgives unconditionally then why was there any need for Christ Jesus to die for our sins? Of course, someone will say that it was because Christ Jesus died for our sins that God can forgive unconditionally.
But do you see the flaw in that arguement? There WAS a PRE-CONDITION, the sacrifice of the Lamb of God for our sins, and that means that there was at least ONE precondition on God's part.
Hence, His forgiveness of us IS conditional on His side of the equation of forgiveness. (It is needful to note that there is a difference between the GROUNDS of forgiveness and the CONDITIONS of forgiveness.
The GROUNDS of forgiveness is God's love and grace which is undeserved and unearned. If God wasn't willing to forgive, even if we fulfilled what is naturally the conditions of forgiveness, forgiveness would not be ours. The CONDITIONS of forgiveness must not be confused with "earning" forgiveness. If God says we must do something to be forgiven, the doing of that something is not "earning" but FULFILLING what is necessary as a response to His grace.)
"But",someone will say, "on our side of the equation His forgiveness is unconditional !" Really? What Bible are you reading? In the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament everywhere it is clear that there are TWO basic conditions for God to forgive us. 1. Repentance and 2. Faith.
As part of the first, honesty and contrition are essential: God will not forgive a person who refuses to acknowledge their sinfulness as well as their sins, who will not grieve over their sins, nor turn from them and desire to have Christ change their hearts.
As for the second condition, faith, it is more than just acknowledging that Jesus died upon the cross and rose again (i.e. just believing the facts); it really means fully entrusting our lives to Christ for life and eternity. So there ARE pre-conditions on our side of the forgiveness equation BEFORE God can justly and graciously forgive us.
"Yeah, well that may be so but when God forgives it is total!" Ah, is that what you mean when you say that God's forgiveness is unconditional? Then use the right words! It isn't just about "right words" but language is communication of ideas and thoughts and the wrong use of it leads to wrong ideas and thoughts!
Well, this is just "part one" of my thoughts on the whole issue of forgiveness and our response to evil and evil doers.