If you have been unjustly treated by a person who does not know God, and who will not repent or acknowledge their sin, don’t forgive the person, but rather wait for the justice of God!
Yes, I know this sounds way out of sync with Scripture but I am convinced that it is not. As wisdom teaches us, there is a time for everything, including a time for forgiveness and a time for justice. I want to show you from Scripture what is the antidote to bitterness, anger, and pain that rises from the unjust treatment of the wicked. With all my heart I believe that there is a great misunderstanding on the subject of forgiveness, that is, that the Bible teaches us to forgive the unrepentant – this, I deny. It is one thing to desire, pray, and with readiness of heart anticipate the day when the unrepentant offender will repent so that you can forgive, so that healing can take place in the heart of the trespasser. But it is altogether another thing to actually “forgive” an unrepentant sinner who does not seek forgiveness of sins through repentance.
The Bible has much to say on the subject of forgiveness of sin. I believe that all sins were either punished on the cross of Christ or will be punished in Hell forever. Since God is absolutely Just and Holy not one sin will go unpunished. You can either confess, repent, turn away from, acknowledge, agree with God for the criminality of your sins, trusting Christ’s substitution on the cross for your sins, or you will pay for each and every one of them – forever in hell, for you will never get out from under the debt. My point is that if God does not forgive sin apart from repentance, and that no sin goes unpunished, either in Christ or in hell, why do we hear instruction from teachers and friends to forgive the unrepentant? Theologically, this is one of the problems with telling an unrepentant person that he is forgiven when in fact he is not, because, God never forgives apart from repentance and thus, is a misrepresentation of a Holy and Just God. Practically speaking, what disturbs me is the misguided, though well-intended, counsel that says to the abused regarding her unrepentant abuser: “You’ve got to forgive him for what he did to you. If you don’t forgive him God will not forgive you. You can’t allow this anger and bitterness to plague your mind every day. God forgave you, so you need to do the same.”
This is the popular Biblical instruction that is given to alleviate the pain in the victim’s life. The problem with this advice is that it is not Biblical and therefore, it should come as no surprise that the success rate of healing is low; this is not God’s medicine to heal the heart of its anger and satisfy the just desire for justice. The intention is admirable, that is, the healing of the wounded heart, but the prescription is wrong. The correct prescription for a wounded heart for which the abuser will not repent of nor acknowledge guilt, is to give God the place of vengeance! What the victim needs in order to dispel hate and love her unrepentant enemy is the assurance that God will deal justly in the end with her abuser; that his sin will not go unpunished frees her from seeking revenge all the days of her life. She is now free to pray for her enemies’ repentance as she waits for justice from her Righteous Judge.
Biblical Counsel sounds more like this:
If you have been hurt by the wicked, and you don’t want anger and bitterness to eat at your soul all the days of your life, then give your anger to God, let Him hold on to it for you, and then in the Judgment He will unleash His Righteous Wrath on the one who hurt you. If you will give God the place of vengeance this will do two things for you: First, it will be a soothing ointment for your soul. The anger that rises from your wound will no longer fuel your desire for vengeance – you have given the desire for justice over to God. Secondly, it will free your heart up to love your enemy who hurt you. The main cause of impoverished love to our enemy is unfulfilled justice. We can’t let go of the injustice that was committed against us. We feel that if we do not hang on to our anger, that the crime and the criminal will go unpunished. So we spend our days “punishing” the wicked with our resentful anger instead of loving the wicked.
But God is capable my friend to do for you that which is humanly impossible: God is able to heal your wound and deal justly with the unrepentant. The Judgment Seat is not yours to sit in. You are not righteous enough or loving enough to repay with equity. But God IS! Are you willing to wait upon the Lord by placing your trust in His Divine Courtroom? Will you look to the Cross and see the Justice of God poured out on Christ? Will you give up your pursuit for vengeance upon your tormenter, knowing that God is your avenger? Are you ready to pursue your enemy with love, not because he is forgiven, but because you are?! Do you believe that God is more capable than you to give men what they deserve? Do you really believe that you are more just than God is? God does not command you to forgive your unrepentant abuser. However, He does command you to give Him the place of vengeance and to be ready to forgive if God grants repentance to your assailant.
Here is a list of some of the passages of Scripture that will be used for our study:
Deuteronomy 32:35-43; 2 Samuel 22:47-51; Lamentations 3:46-66; Psalm 37
Psalm 94; Matthew 6:12-15; 18:15-35; Luke 17:1-5; 18:1-8; 23:34; Acts 5:31; 26:18
Romans 12:14-21;Ephesians 4:32; 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10; 2 Timothy 4:8, 14
Hebrews 10:26-39; Revelation 6:9-11
I hope and pray that the forthcoming posts to you will cause you to search the Scriptures, judging for yourself whether or not these things are true. I invite your responses for clarification and discussion along the way. My aim is to magnify the healing processes of the Lord for the wounded heart whose tormentor will not confess his sin. May the Judge of all the earth do right! (Genesis 18:25)
I will never forget the day a few years ago when you first explained this to me! It was like a ton of bricks being lifted off of me! You used the term, “Willy nilly forgiveness” and it has reallly stuck with me! Another term commonly used is “holier than thou”. Expecting someone to forgive another who is not sorry for the pain they caused is expecting that person to be “holier” than God Himself. So much easier to pray for an enemy knowing “the father’s wrath (will be) completely satisfied; Jesus, thankyou!” Thank you, Ivan!
Yes – that is exactly it Fiona. Too often we are unable to pray for our enemy, that he/she might know the same grace that we rest in, but cannot because we still feel the wound so deeply, even though “we have forgiven” the person. Grace and Peace to you today! ivan