Shall I forgive Daniel Andrews for the unrepentant evil he has conducted for the past two years? Shall I forgive Scott Morrison for sitting idly by as the Australian people lost their jobs, were forced into medical procedures and barred from leaving the country? Shall I forgive my friends and family for abandoning me when I needed them most?
God does not forgive those who don’t repent, so why should I?
I simply can’t forgive them. I can’t forgive those who locked me out of society with no remorse and no regret. It’s abundantly clear that they will do it again at the drop of a Wuhan bat. But, as a Christian moving into the post-pandemic world, I have to ask, am I obliged to forgive them?
If you dare ask this question, you might not like the answer. Just know that the Lord doesn’t give us what we like, he gives us what we need.
Unfortunately for our emotional desires, the forgiveness of our enemies, close friends and family, is not a reaction to their repentance. It is not conditional upon their expression of regret.
When Jesus was hanging from the cross in Luke 23:34, he cried out: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Jesus forgave them before they asked for it. In fact, he forgave them as they were sinning against him in real-time.
It was not because God’s people were perfectly repentant that Jesus took up his cross, it was because they were not. He came for the sinners and, truth be told, we would be forever separated from God if he hadn’t offered forgiveness before we asked for it. For Jesus isn’t willing to forgive us, he has already forgiven us. We merely accept his grace with empty hands. We plead for what is already on offer.
Perhaps it’s useful to view forgiveness as a WIFI signal. The question then becomes ridiculous. “Should I give WIFI to computers who aren’t in range?”
Well, you give a WIFI signal twenty-four hours a day because that’s what you do as a modem. If you don’t, you’re not a modem, you’re broken (and that reflects very badly on your designer). Whether a computer is in range or not is completely irrelevant. The outpouring of your signal comes first or the computer would have little reason to seek you out.
It’s hard to think of a better way to reflect Christ’s love than to forgive our enemies. When Christ dragged his cross toward his death, on either side of him were perpetrators of the most hideous of sins. Yet, these were the people Christ was dying for. He didn’t stop walking and say, “Hey, I’m not taking another step until you appreciate what I’m doing here.”
How much more have we sinned against God than our peers have sinned against us? We murdered the Son of God, yet we can’t forgive our frightened, anxious ridden neighbours?
God doesn’t forgive those who don’t repent, so why should I? Well, put simply, I’m not God! “I’ll forgive them when they ask me”, puts me in the seat of judgment – and I have no right to be in that seat. That’s the Lord’s throne, not mine. My throne has the word ‘Gents’ written on the outside.
In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus tells the parable of the unforgiving servant where a king has mercy on a servant’s debts, but that very same servant shows no mercy to another man who owes him a debt! The king then throws the man in prison to be tortured until his debts are paid.
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” (Matt. 18:35)
Yet, despite this knowledge in my head, despite knowing that I must forgive my enemies, I simply can’t forgive.
At least, not on my own.
By leaning on Christ, I can. Christ is stronger than me and knows the deepest struggles of my heart. Only through Christ was I able to forgive the most evil of tyrants. The rest is in God’s hands.
In my hurt, I was looking for a loophole to hold a grudge. Yet, a man that keeps tabs on all the people who have sinned against him has a heart poisoned by sin.
The only remedy is to turn to Christ in humble obedience, forgive the sinners and trust that all men, sooner or later, will have to answer to God.