Forgiveness is Hard: Part 3 - Does Forgiveness Mean Avoiding Punishment?

The primary concern that is expressed about forgiving others is that the wrongdoer will get away with something. The wronged wants the wrongdoer punished. It appears that a very general misconception about forgiving someone means that they escape punishment for their wrongdoing. The Bible does not teach this. Forgiveness is not about avoiding punishment; it is about restoring relationship. Simply stated, sin separates us from God. The Bible teaches us that,“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  (Romans 6:23, NKJV) The Bible teaches at Romans 6:23, that all sinners must die as their punishment for sin.  The Bible is clear that sin must be punished, and that punishment is death. It is also clear that Jesus, our intercessor, accepted the punishment for all the sins of the world, freeing every sinner from his just punishment and the wrath of God, provided the sinner accepts the free gift of salvation, forgiveness, from Jesus the Christ.

Before proceeding further it is important to clarify the meaning of the words ‘sin’ and ‘forgiveness,’ as used here. Sin is doing anything that God declares wrong. Sin is anything that separates us from God. Murder, which is a crime, is a sin in God’s eyes. Gossip, which is not a crime, is a sin in God’s eyes. Murder is a crime because it is not an acceptable sin in the eyes of man. Gossip is not a crime because it is an acceptable sin in man’s eyes. Murder and gossip are sin in God’s eyes. One purpose of this article is to help us view things from God’s eyes so that we may begin to approach life through God’s eyes.

Forgiveness is about restoring a relationship and genuinely has nothing to do with correction or punishment. Punishment may be excused through forgiveness but it does not have to be. Forgiveness is outlined in three examples set forth by Jesus in Luke 6:27-28 and Matthew 5:44-45.

The first is to do something good for the person who has sinned against you, Luke 6:27 and Matthew 5:44. For gossip, it may be nothing more than smiling at them when you encounter them on the street. For the murderer, it may be writing them in prison, letting them know that you are praying for them. Forgiveness does not mean that you have to develop a tight friendship with the gossip or even ask the court not to give the death penalty to the murderer. It simply means you do not wish evil on their lives, and help good come into their lives as opportunity presents itself to you.

The second is to say good things about the person who sinned against you. This is called blessing them in the Bible: Luke 6:28 and Matthew 5:44. This does not mean to create good things to say about them. It may mean saying nothing at all. “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”  (Proverbs 15:1, NKJV) Simply stated: stop the backbiting!

The third is to pray for the person who sinned against you. Many times people ask, why should I pray for him/her? He/she said horrible things about me. Why should I pray for that person, he murdered my family member? There is only one reason: it is pleasing to God! As Christians, we seek God’s order in our lives and ask that his kingdom be on earth as it is in heaven. As hard as it may be to comprehend, the gossip (mankind’s acceptable sin), who hurt you today, was forgiven at Calvary, over 2,000 years ago. If the gossip is a Christian brother or sister, it is important that you restore your relationship to promote harmony in the family of our Lord and Savior and to demonstrate that Jesus truly is Lord of your life. If the gossip is not a believer, the manner in which you express your forgiveness may bring the gossip to salvation. Very few of us will encounter a murder in our family, praise the Lord, so I have elected to explore forgiveness necessitated by a gossip because it is common in most communities, and considered an acceptable sin.

As Christians, Jesus instructed us to share the Gospel wherever we go. How can we share the Gospel, if we reject to forgive, a cornerstone principle of Christianity?


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