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."