One of the things when dealing with forgiveness is the matter of justice. I am very mindful of the fact that if it were not for God’s mercy towards us, none of us would be forgiven, but all of us would remain under God’s wrath for our sin. Thankfully, God’s mercy and justice met in the person of His Son Jesus Christ and hence we, repenting and believing may be assured of our own forgiveness. Of course this is also true for those that sin against us, and especially so if they are Christians. Ultimate their sin is also paid for through the cross if they repent and believe in Jesus Christ.
However, how do we reconcile that as far as justice ‘here and now’ is concerned? It seems so easy to apologise and to say you’re sorry, and hopefully everyone moves on. But what if you have been terribly wronged by a person who claims to be a Christian? When some very serious sin has occurred, it seems rather cheap to say to someone that they should forgive and move on, because that person’s sin has also been paid for by Christ.
I certainly wish to state that if someone genuinely repents and asks for forgiveness, their sins are covered by the broken body and shed blood of Christ. The Apostle Paul speaks about ‘godly sorrow’ that leads to repentance and salvation (2 Cor 7:9-10). However, that doesn’t mean there are not consequences to our actions for the ‘here and now’.
For instance, if a Christian is found guilty of ‘putting their hands in the money till’ it would be foolish to place them in charge of the ‘purse’ from then on. In fact, if it is very serious, it would be appropriate that the police are called and they face the consequences of their crime in the courts. It’s not that this person isn’t forgiven, but it is just common sense, prudent, wise, smart, not to put that person in a position where they could easily offend again.
We could even take a more serious sin of sexual misconduct, whether it be child abuse, adultery, or some other sexual misconduct. If such a sin is committed by a Christian, then not only do we have a responsibility to notify the authorities, it would be extremely foolish to place such a person in a position where they can offend again. This doesn’t mean there is no forgiveness, it simply means there are consequences to our actions. Justice must not only be seen to have occurred, it must occur. King David was forgiven for his adultery and murder, but the consequences were devastating nonetheless.
So where does this leave the victim(s)? In the past I have been involved in cases where pressure has been exerted on the victims to ‘forgive and move on’. On occasions Mat 6:15 or Romans 12:17-19 are quoted as a further encouragement to forgive and even to forget.
Well, it is not always a question about whether someone has been forgiven and it’s certainly not a question about forgetting. Ultimately, forgiveness is between the perpetrator and their Lord (2 Sam 12:13). Sometimes our forgiveness of one another is a question of timing. When the offence is serious, it takes time to forgive and even to demand instant forgiveness at a horizontal level may be very unwise.
We are emotional human beings for that is the way the Lord has made us, and forgiveness and healing takes time. And just as it takes time to forgive and to heal it may even take a lot longer to move on. What we do need to do is to pray that the Lord will bring forgiveness into our hearts so that healing can take place in the lives that have been broken by sin. JZ
I once asked the question, “If you do not hold to the teaching of Scripture, what or who sets your moral and ethical standards?” I would suggest that whatever serves your self-interest is the answer to that question. And that self-interest takes all sorts of different forms. Most often it is about what gives you a financial advantage, but it can also include such things as feeling secure, or what gives the greater pleasure, or even what pleases or feels comfortable.
Now I acknowledge that on the surface it seems quite a simplistic answer, yet in some ways that is what we see happening in our society. We have just had a general election and the results show that the nation is split fairly evenly between two of the major parties. I suggest the reason in part for this is that neither major parties have a moral or ethical compass and hence their differences are minimal. Sure, their economic policies may differ a little, but morally and ethically, there is virtually no difference.
For instance, both accuse each other of not being truthful (which ironically is probably true). Neither party will say that ‘same-sex’ marriage is wrong. Neither party knows what to do with the ‘boat’ people. Both parties receive funding for their campaigns from sources with all sorts of strings attached. But this is what happens when political parties have no moral or ethical compass. The determining factor of policy and direction and funding and even new legislation, is not what is in keeping with God’s law, nor what is morally and ethically good for our country, or ‘boat’ people, but what will gain them the most votes and keep them in power with their lucrative salaries and perks.
Interestingly, the same moral and ethical compass has in a large part also disappeared from society in general, hence the need for various ‘watchdog’ committees.
Now just imagine for a moment if our society acknowledged the moral and ethical values taught in Scripture and strived to uphold them. What a great blessing that would be. For instance, politicians would speak the truth and only introduce legislation that is in keeping with God’s word. Businesses would ensure that they are truthful in their marketing (Col 3:9) and would be careful to ensure their employees are treated equally and with respect, and are paid their wages and entitlements (Rom 4:4; Eph 6:9). Employees would give their best to an employer, doing their work as though serving the Lord Himself (Eph 6:5-8). Families would honour, love and care for each other (Eph 6:1-4). Courting couples would ensure that their behaviour is respectful and would not participate in immorality or awaken love until the proper time (SoS 2:7). Our teenagers would know that orgies and drunken parties are not for them but would rather be filled with the Holy Spirit (Rom 13:13; Gal 5:19; Eph 5:3, 18). Crude and course joking would be out and only what builds up would be in! (Eph 4:29). The list is endless!
The Psalmist prayed that God’s word would be a lamp to his feet and a light for his path (Psa 119:105 emphasis added). We should do no less, for when we accept God’s word as truth and instructive for daily living, our moral and ethical values will take a turn for the better. We will inevitably become ‘other-people’ centered. We will become unselfish rather than selfish, serving rather than always being served, giving rather than always taking. In fact, we will be obeying God’s law, to not only love Him above all, but also our neighbour as we love ourselves. JZ.
This past week has been pretty eventful. “Brexit” has occurred with the British nation deciding to withdraw from the European Union. What the full consequences of that decision means for England and other nations is something that is beyond me to fully comprehend.
We also have seen terrible television footage of another ISIS terrorist attack at a Turkey’s Ataturk airport, the third busiest one in all of Europe. It killed forty-one people and many more were injured. Sadly, many of the leaders of our nations seem to be at a loss what to do except to condemn the attacks.
And last but not least, we have had a federal election of which the outcome is not known at the time of this article. But whatever the outcome, our current Prime Minister when pressed on the issue of trustworthiness has said, “Some politicians tell terrible lies,” citing an opposition change on a certain policy.
Well, I don’t know about you, but I sometimes look at all this ‘stuff’ that happens in our ‘global economies’ and locally, and I just want to bury my head in the sand and let it all just pass me by. I am even having difficulty watching the news nowadays! Perhaps it’s an ‘age’ related thing. There is nothing new under the sun and although some of these events are not exactly the same, they have happened before and will probably again, so I don’t get all that worked up about any of it anymore.
However, having said that, perhaps it is not just an age related thing but a growth in spiritual maturity. We know as Christians that our God never slumbers or sleeps (Psa 121), and that He is working all things for the good of those who love him in order that we may become more Christ-like (Rom 8:28ff). Perhaps it’s the Holy Spirit working in us, reminding us that ‘Brexit’ doesn’t determine our future, nor does ISIS, nor for that matter does a new government, but our Heavenly Father.
Something tells me that becoming more Christ-like in this instance means learning to trust in my heavenly Father’s provision and care, even when the nations are shaking (economically) or busy airports are being unfairly targeted, or governments are elected which may not have been our first choice.
Scripture reminds us that we need not worry about our life, what we will eat or drink or even what we will wear. Our Father in heaven feeds the birds of the air and He tells us we are more valuable then them. In fact, we cannot even add a single second to our life without our heavenly Father’s will. If our Father in heaven causes the lilies to grow and to be clothed in more beautiful attire than Solomon in his hey day, even though the lily is only there for a day at best, He will most certainly clothe and feed us (Mat 6:25ff). More than that, Jesus has promised that we can never fall out of His hands, nor for that matter the Father’s hands (John 10:28ff cf Psa 31:5, 15).
So many people are living lives today that are restless, unsure, full of angst, not just about their own immediate future, but about the world at large with all these things that are happening. As God’s saved people in Jesus Christ, let us not put our heads in the sand and just let the world go by. Rather, of all people, because of God’s Word and Spirit in our lives and our wonderful salvation in Jesus Christ, we have more reason to be at peace and to continue trusting in our faithful God and Saviour. Indeed, let us pray that the Lord may use our restful and peaceful demeanour to comfort those who are anxious and in distress and use this as an opportunity to share our faith with them. JZ.
Pastor John Zuidema
Since 1997 Pastor John has been ministering to Churches across Australia and New Zealand.