Summary: This is the fourth and last in the forgiveness series and addresses as those sticky questions. Can I prosecute a criminal? Should repentant leaders in the church be reinstalled? etc..
orgiveness is Conditional, Part IV: Finale and Final Questions
Thus far in our series on forgiveness, I have attempted to answer these questions. Here they are, in review, with references.
1. Do I have to forgive someone who has not repented? Ed’s answer: No
2. How can I cope when I have ill feelings toward another? Ed’s answer: It is not wrong to have enemies (Mt.5:44), and our love for enemies is the love of duty (the Golden Rule); We should not take our revenge, but it is right to want God to take revenge and to find comfort in the fact He will (Rom.12:19-21) and even souls in heaven want revenge (Rev. 6:9-10), so the desire for justice is not sinful. Sometimes it just takes a quantity of time to get over something, as in the example of Jacob and Esau (Gen. 32:4-6, 33:1-5); take your bitterness to God in prayer, as David did in the Psalms. It’s tough, and there are no easy answers. Don’t lie to yourself and say you’ve forgiven people when you haven’t. Manipulating truth by word games and insincerity simply buries the feelings that you must work out. There is no short cut.
3. When I wrong someone, besides asking forgiveness of them and of God, what else can I do? If possible, make restitution (Luke 19:8, Rom.14:9).
4. Are wrongs done in ignorance different than wrongs done in knowledge? Yes. Jesus asked the Father to forgive His crucifiers for crucifying the Son of God because "they know not what they do." They were held accountable for crucifying an innocent man (see Acts 4), but not for crucifying the Son of God because they were ignorant of His true identity. We, too, are automatically cleansed from our sins of ignorance if we are walking with the Lord, but must confess the sins we are aware of (I John 1:7-9).
5. What about credibility? Do I have to trust someone once they apologize? No. Credibility can only be restored by faithfulness over time. Forgiveness gives that person a chance to begin re-establishing that credibility (Luke3:9, Acts 15;36-41 with 2 Tim. 4:11).
This morning, I would like to answer a few final questions about forgiving and forgiveness.
I. Can One Be in God’s Will and Still Prosecute A Criminal?
1. Justice on earth is only seen partially through government sometimes
Romans 13:1,4 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God...For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.
2. When offenses are illegal, it is right to prosecute
--situations between believers should first be referred to the elders (I Cor. 6:1-6)
3. Remember this principle: NIV Proverbs 17:15 "Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent-- the LORD detests them both."
4. Letting dangerous people go free can be a violation of Phil. 2:4 "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."
II. What is the Relationship Between Forgiving and Forgetting?
1. When God forgives, in a sense He _forgets___.
Micah 7:19 You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.
Psalms 103:12 ...as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
Hebrews 8:12 For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."
2. Yet God knows all, therefore forgetting means not calling it up to our conscious mind, not dwelling upon it...forgiveness carries with it a promise to not dwell on the offense...
III. What About Leadership Qualifications and Forgiveness?
1. First, look at the examples of the early church...
(1) Paul had been a persecutor
(2) Peter had denied Christ
(3) John Mark had deserted Paul & Barnabas...
(4) But all had established credibility
2. Second, God requires a strict standard for church leaders...
1 Timothy 3:2-7, " Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap."