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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What Ever Happened to Forgiveness?

Matthew 6:14-15 (ESV)
14  For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,  15  but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Please tell me I am wrong. There is much less forgiveness the further we get from Christ. 

Don't get me wrong. Racial slurs, dog fighting, human trafficking and the like are abhorrent. They should be condemned. But does this mean that we simply refuse to accept apologies, give people time to repent or change? Why are we so quick to condemn? Are we afraid that forgiveness might reveal a secret tolerance we have toward these things?

I don't know the answer why but I do know what Jesus said on the subject. We are to forgive if we ever have nay hope of forgiving.  I must forgive those things which are so close to my own heart. 

I have hated abortion but I have listened to those who had abortions. They cry out for forgiveness which they can't give themselves. I tell them that they are forgiven. I tell them that they can again walk with their heads high. I tell them of Jesus' sacrifice that made this all possible. I hate abortion but I don't hate those who have had abortions. They come to me and I tell them that they are forgiven even though they can never see their babies until they get to heaven. 

But somehow people have gotten the idea that there are certain things which they will not forgive. They allow spouses to be forgiven for adultery. They allow someone who has killed to be fully forgiven. They cry out for tolerance. Then they deny forgiveness in their own political or socially acceptable groups. They deny forgiveness while demanding tolerance. Can anyone see a conflict here?

So, forgiveness is a great trait when it doesn't violate what a majority of people hate. To hell with the people who violate the standard of the majority. Can you see the danger in that?

I preach that identifying with Jesus is the only way to know God. I tell people that Jesus came so that that message could be preached. I tell them that it is their only hope. What happens when that is no longer tolerated. Forgiveness is part of toleration or have people missed that too? Forgiveness is part of patience. Forgiveness is a part of hope.

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog titled, "Michael Vick Doesn't Deserve Forgiveness." Some people misunderstood. I was saying that we should forgive Michael Vick. I was saying that none of us deserves forgiveness because forgiveness is a gift. I have since realized that forgiveness is a responsibility too.

But this doesn't appear to be the society we are in. We condemn for eternity without a trial.

In the end we will find that we, too, will be condemned.

Wrong is wrong. Our view of wrong shouldn't change. Justice is exacting a penalty for the wrong. We should be people of justice. Forgiveness is putting ultimate justice in God's hands. Forgiveness refuses to seek revenge and hopes for repentance.

What happens to a society which loses its forgiveness? I am afraid we will soon find out.


Craig Godfrey said...

The easiest way to rid ourselves of the complacency of unforgivess is to regard the reflection in the mirror as being the vilest sinner imaginable.
Then we should be able to view others in a totally different light.

Anthony Chia said...

Indeed we should be a people of justice. The Word has it (in Ps 89:14) that the foundation of God’s throne (and therefore, rule) is the twin pillars of justice and righteousness. And it added love and faithfulness (mercy and loving-kindness) [be allowed] to come before Him. And so, we should be indignant with all these horrendous crimes we hear and seen on the news (TVs, etc) all over the world. We should NOT numb our conscience to all of these, and then just regard all these as “it is like that-one-lah”. We read that Jesus was indignant before; He was indignant when He saw the Temple was used as a “den of robbers”.

Should we be tolerant of such wrongful acts or sins? I think a simple yes or no, is NOT the way to answer such issue, for different people have different idea of what tolerance is to include and mean.

The perspective from the Word I believe is this:

Sins we do NOT tolerate, meaning we should NOT just let these offences just continue on, unrestrained. It means we cannot apply caveat emptor into this and say, “Each to his own, you just watch out yourself; it is like that, “a dog-eat-dog world”. If you get mugged, too bad for you-lo, kinda of attitude.” No, that is the animal world; we are NOT animals. We are Man, NOT animals (No, I don’t believe we are/from monkeys!) Sin is to be hated, and NOT to be taken lightly. We don’t condone sins, or just ignore them, or excuse them.

We still love the sinner! Does the Word prescribe that? I believe so. How does it work; hate the sin but NOT the sinner? It cannot make sense until you and I identify with God. I repeat you can be hating sin and loving the sinner only when you are identified with God. In this respect, identification with God, means “That is what God, in His holiness and love, would like to see happening, and we agree to it, subscribe to it, and give effect to it, we having been a recipient of it.”

Justice and righteousness is the foundation of God’s throne; we can see it said in Ps 89:14 (as mentioned above), and we can also see it repeated in Ps 97:2. This means God actually have all the right to “do sinners in” immediately, so to speak. He has allowed love and faithfulness [mercy and lovingkindness] to come before Him.

What does the second part of Ps 89:14 about love and faithfulness to go before Him, mean? It means in His administration of His rule with justice and righteousness as the pillars, He allows love and faithfulnesss [mercy and lovingkindness] a voice – to speak for the offender or mediate, so to speak. (Having said this, still, it is NOT the foundation of God’s rule is love and faithfulness; that would be wrong. The foundation of God’s rule is still justice and righteousness, which is repeated in Ps 97:2). And so, God, in His mercy has often refrained from punishing immediate (letting out His wrath) (Still, it does NOT mean He has given up His right to punish or chastise, immediate).

The overall counsel of the Word tells us that God in His love, wants to give people opportunities to turn from the wrongs or sins, or to repent. God is a holy God, and accordingly, justice and righteousness is foundation of His rule and Kingdom. It is NOT His desire that we be destroyed from His holiness (demand); rather it is His desire that we be forgiven, so much so that He gave His own Son, Jesus, to be the atonement for our sins. We have been a recipient of such love and faithfulness of God, haven’t we? Yes, we have; otherwise, we would have been “dead-meat” a long time ago!

How do we go from here? I perceive this: “We do NOT administer justice ourselves”. What do I mean by that? One, we are NOT to administer justice according to our own righteousness and justice. The justice and righteousness are those of God, NOT our own. Two, we do NOT administer justice ourselves in that we do NOT administer justice for our own case.


Anthony Chia said...

cont. from above

Then, there is no justice? No, God deals with the justice on our behalf; and it is we have to let God deals with the justice as He wishes. But why? Because He is your master! We turn to the metaphor of a slave-master relationship or we can look at a child-father relationship, in our attempt to understand this proposition. Because of space, I will try to be brief and use the child-father relationship.

Now, suppose a child of yours [A] (and so, you are the father) bullied another child of yours [B], who incidentally, has previously bullied his younger sister(!); how should this be handled? Is B to administer his own justice, in that B is going to take matters into his own hand? The answer is no. Is B to administer his own justice, in that, according to his own sense of justice and righteousness, he would do A in, so to speak, like maybe get a friend to push A off a tall building! It is a no, too. B is NOT to take things into his own hands, and he also cannot apply his own justice.

What would you, the father, say to B? What is the thing that B is to do? B has to tell himself this: “I will tell daddy (you, the father), and let daddy deal with A, that A have bullied me”. B has to remind himself that he, too, previously has done wrong – he did bully his younger sister prior to this.

Now, you, the father, do you tell B this, “You should hate your brother, A; he has done your injustice!”? Or do you tell B NOT to hate or bear grudge or harbour resentment and bitterness against A?

You, the father may say this to B, “My son, remember, the last time you bullied your sister, I forgave you, should you NOT also forgive your brother, A? Son, you should just forgive him, A; and let me deal with him.” A word to sum this, is “deference”. (Believers are slaves to Christ Jesus, the Master; slaves don’t administer their own justice; they defer it to their master, and it is up to their master to deal as the master deems fit – same idea).

We can see, it is NOT bullying is NOT wrong, but it is that B is to forgive A; it is that B has no longer the right to matter of forgiveness, he (B) is to forgive; the right to forgive or NOT to forgive, lies with the father.

We have wronged God and wronged other people, but God has forgiven us, by grace. We, as a believer, no longer has the right to “NOT forgive”; we are to forgive, and defer justice for wrongs done to us, to God, for Him to deal with, as He knows fit. Scripture said vengeance belongs to God (and so, NOT to us [no longer, to us]).

Why all over the world (thank God, it is still so!), do we find, we do NOT take the law into our own hands? When wrong is done to us, we don’t take the law into our own hands, someone, the authority (police, judge, etc), administers justice for the case. And these “magistrates”, they are under-magistrates to the Great Magistrate (God). “Under-“ means there are matters which we may have to defer to the one above (this idea, also applies to under-shepherds; we are under-shepherds; the Lord is the Great Shepherd). We can understand, the man-magistrate, he does NOT deal with the (personal) forgiveness matter; and rightly, it is so, for the forgiveness matter is a matter between the offender and the victim. And so, our forgiveness for another who offended us, is independent of legal proceedings of a court. Forgiveness is NOT “if or when I get the damages the court is going to award to me, I will forgive him-lo!” (there is no forgiveness!)


Anthony Chia said...

cont. from above

In this sense, a court does NOT damn a criminal to Hell, directly; the only case of it “helping” one to Hell is when there is immediate capital punishment, where the unrepentant offender is summarily executed, leaving the death-convict little or no time to repent. As a side, so my view on capital punishment is that it should be reserved for extremely bad cases, if at all, we do NOT want to do away with it; and when there is capital punishment, actual execution should NOT be soon, to give time and opportunity for the death-convict to come to the Lord, and/or repent (I know it still costs money to keep a death-row convict in prison; but I still say, “So what!”).

Ps Prentis is right to say “We should be [a] people of justice. Forgiveness is putting ultimate justice in God's hands. Forgiveness refuses to seek revenge and hopes for repentance.”

I just want to add a little to “forgiveness hopes for repentance”. We are to forgive, by grace, for Col 3:13 said that we are to forgive as God forgave us, meaning forgiving in the same way God forgave us, meaning, we, too have to forgive by grace. By grace, means the offender does NOT need to provide any merit; and so, I was NOT wrong to say we no longer have the right to “NOT forgive” another. We are to forgive, rightaway.

What if the offender is NOT repentant at all, even still deviant?! We are still to forgive, rightaway, in our heart! A distinction needs to made between forgiving (in our heart, we forgive or have forgiven) and releasing forgiveness.

To forgive, we have to, rightaway. You forgive first, and then you hope for repentance on the part of the offender, and so, it is forgiveness hopes for repentance. If you have forgiven NOT, there is no forgiveness, and so, there is NOT the “forgiveness hopes for repentance”. It is NOT the other way round, as far as what you (the one who has been wronged) are required to do; you don’t wait until the offender has repented before you forgive! If it were the case, it wouldn’t be “forgiveness hopes for repentance”.

It is only in the releasing of the forgiveness, already wrought in our heart, to the person (offender), we look for prima facie repentance. When there is no prima facie evidence of repentance, you hold back the releasing of forgiveness to the person (BUT NOT the forgiveness of the person in your heart). Why we do it this way, the RELEASING of forgiveness, is due to the doctrine of, we are our brother’s keeper, which much emphasizes that we must NOT mislead a brother. If you release forgiveness to the offender, before any (prima facie) evidence of repentance, you could be signalling to him (and it is wrong) that it is alright to have done what he/she had done (the wrong or sin).

Now, a test of you have NOT already forgiven another (in your heart) [which you must do], is when the person shows repentance, even just prima facie evidence (like he/she says, “I am sorry”), and is before you waiting for the releasing of forgiveness by you, to him/her, you will NOT give it. So, do NOT deceive yourself, ask yourself, this question, “If the person is before me, now, and ask for my forgiveness, will I be able to release the forgiveness?” If you cannot, you have NOT forgiven the person in and from your heart; which you must do.

You don’t want to forgive! Then how are you going to deal with Matt 6:14-15, Ps Prentis has given in as the opening scripture text? Or are you going to say, “My overly grace preacher/leader tells us that we don’t need to ask God for forgiveness anymore, once we have become a believer; and so, I can ignore that text!” Listen to me, we have to continue to ask God for forgiveness, because we do sin. Stop kidding yourself!

Anthony Chia, high.expressions
PS: I know I am far from arrived. And so, even as I know, I still have a long way to go, in living out the truths and ways of God.