The believer is to forgive anyone who comes to him for forgiveness — and whenever he comes to him for forgiveness (Lk. 17:3). Yet it is always easier to forgive someone who is repentant and broken for their sin.
But what does repentance look like? The apostle Paul commends the Corinthians for their repentance and identifies seven characteristics of their repentance (2 Cor. 7:11). These attributes serve as a model for our own repentance; this is what we should be doing when we repent of our sins. And these attributes also serve as a gauge to determine whether others who seek our forgiveness are repentant (note: this does not mean we have a right to refuse forgiveness if we believe they fall short on this scale, but turning these attributes to questions may assist us in helping them evaluate the genuineness of their repentance).
Since Paul also distinguishes between godly sorrow and repentance versus worldly sorrow and repentance (vv. 8-10), we can create a chart of contrasting characteristics in those two categories:
- Have you taken your sin seriously and are you eager to address it?
- Do you have a yearning to confess your sin and acknowledge your wrong?
- Are you angry about your sin and the offense you have caused?
- Do you have a righteous fear of God and His wrath and discipline?
- Do you long to restore the relationships you have broken by your sin?
- Are you now dedicated to holiness?
- Are you willing to make restitution for your sin?
- Is your life now marked by subsequent purity (and/or do you desire purity)?