It recently came to my attention that the opposite topic of judgment and condemnation—forgiveness and pardon—is perhaps as confused and misunderstood as the former.
I've explained elsewhere before (not sure whether on this blog), as have others the right understanding on judgment. If you already understand this, feel free to skip down to the bolded "Forgiveness" after the first line of asterisks. I'm not about to go into depth on it now, deeply quoting scripture, but summarily:
Many twist the meaning of the scriptures and ignore much scripture on the topic of judgment and/or simply do not understand. People say you should not judge anyone for their sinful behavior, "...because Jesus said not to." The fact of the matter is that our Lord and Christ said to take heed and be careful with our judgment, because with the same measure of judgment we apply to others, our Father God will apply to us (Matt. 7:2). Basically, it was a message of not being a hypocrite and a lesson on God's righteous judgment toward us being what we apply to others.
When you read other scriptures, it becomes clear that Christians are expected to be able to judge righteously. Christ told us to "judge righteous judgement," and "not according to appearance" (John 7:24). Paul rebuked the Corinthians for taking brethren to the judges of men, saying, "Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?" (I Cor. 6:3).
If we lacked good judgment, how would it be that we could choose not to engage in sin like those around us? If we did not judge that dishonoring God, idolatry, blasphemy, sabbath-breaking, dishonoring parents, murdering, adultery, stealing, lying, coveting, and such are sin, we are sinning!
So you say, "Oh, but you should judge the sin, not the sinner." But the scriptures say a different thing than what you say. Oh, sure, the scriptures do say that we should not judge those without, meaning not DECIDING (one meaning of judging) whether the person is doing what is right or wrong, but meaning that we can't go PENALIZING those without. Paul said to the Corinthians, "But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother
if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler,
or a drunkard, or a swindler-- not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove that wicked man from among yourselves" (I Cor. 5:11-13).
But then on the other hand, the scriptures teach us to rebuke the wicked: "Yet if you have warned the wicked and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered yourself" (Ezek. 3:19)
Basically we are to JUDGE what is right and wrong and walk in that, as Christ walked, not going against our conscience. We are to not be hypocritical with our JUDGMENTS, making sure if we JUDGE our neighbor or brother in something, we are not guilty of the same. We can penalize a sinning brother or sister by casting them from a church group or from not associating with them, if they choose not to repent, but we cannot penalize those without. We are going to be around sinners in this world, and we are to be lights (but not choose those people as our closest buddies). We can judge them by DECIDING what they are doing is wrong and by REBUKING them, just NOT PENALIZING.
If a person is an unrepentant and practicing liar, whore or whoremonger, or thief, is it wrong to judge by saying the person is a liar, whore or whoremonger, or thief? Of course not! What nonsense! It's called the truth, and some people just hate the truth, and so they misquote scripture.
Okay, now on to FORGIVENESS.
First we know that we must be willing to forgive others if we want God to forgive us:
And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses (Mark 11:25).
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors…For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Matt. 6:12, 14-15).
So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses (Matt. 18:35). This is the conclusion of the story of the wicked servant, which I'll write more about shortly.
We have all sinned and done horrible things. It's easy for us to look at others and judge what they've done as worse than what we've done, but have you considered that in many cases you may be wrong? Have you considered that you're judging by appearance, rather than righteous judgment? Remember, God judges the heart. Have you considered that most of the persons you are judging as being worse than you started with a genetically worse sin inheritance to struggle against and grew up in a worse sin-saturated environment to also struggle against? Have you ever stopped to consider that those persons hate their sins, too, and struggle badly against them? Have you ever meditated on whether you might actually be worse in God's eyes than some of those persons, because He is looking at the heart, and even though those other persons stumble and fall with worse outward sins that appear to man to be more horrible, that person is more repentant at heart and is trying harder not to commit those sins of heart and outwardly than you are with your lesser outside sins?
We have all sinned and fall short of God's glory child, the Perfect and Righteous Firstborn, Salvation the Lord (Rom. 3:23). We are all filthy compared to my Beloved Salvation. Since it's hard to read the hearts of some, and we know also that some judge us wrongly, because they don't know our hearts and how we may struggle greatly with certain things, we need to focus on our Lord and be so grateful He chose us and died for us so that Father will forgive us, if we repent of our sins.
Since we're so grateful for Father and Salvation (Jesus/Yeshua), we need to be just as forgiving as they are.
A Maskil of David. Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered (Psalm 32:1). This was repeated by Paul in Romans 4:7.
And rend your heart and not your garments." Now return to the ETERNAL your God, For He is gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness And relenting of evil (Joel 2:13).
Now, indeed there are those who have repented and have been forgiven by God, but the scriptures also make clear that there are those who God has not and will not forgive, because they have not repented. God plans punishment for those who are sinning, but IF they repent, He forgives.
"Perhaps the house of Judah will hear all the calamity which I plan to bring on them, in order that every man will turn from his evil way; then I will forgive their iniquity and their sin" (Jer. 36:3).
Repentance is required for forgiveness of God. A few more references: Acts 8:22; Hosea 14:2; Ezekiel chapter 18 (highly recommended read). Quoted from my book God's Law of Love, the Perfect Law of Liberty: Jehovah's Law Still Applies Today, pg. 30:
Those who do not keep God’s law will not inherit eternal
life (Romans 2:6-13; 6:16, 23; 8:9; I Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians
5:19-21; Ephesians 5:3-6; II Thessalonians 1:7-9; Hebrews 5:9; 6:4-6;
10:26-31, 38-39; James 5:19-20, II Peter 2:20-22; 3:9-18; Revelation
3:5; 21:7-8; 22:12-15; Exodus 32:33; Psalm 1:6; 5:5-6; 15:1-2; 34:16;
37:9, 20, 22, 27-31, 38; 119:155; Proverbs 2:21-22; 10:30; Isaiah 24:5-
6; 66:24; Ezekiel 18:4, 20-21, 23, 26-28, 3.—32; Hosea 4:6; Malachi
4:1-6; Matthew 4:17; 5:7-20; 7:21-23; 19:17; 24:12-13; Mark 1:15; Luke
10:25-28; 13:3; Acts 2:38; Acts 5:32; Acts 17:30
In other words, those who don't repent will not be forgiven, as you must be forgiven in order to inherit eternal life.
If God does not forgive those who do not repent, does that mean we should not forgive? This is where a lot of people are very confused. That is the reason for my strange title. The answer is both yes and no. I will explain in depth. The answer is in the scriptures.
Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and IF he repent, forgive him (Luke 17:3).
Does it say, "And whether or not your brother repents or not, forgive him?" No, it doesn't. BUT, it also does not say you should seek revenge or harbor bitterness in your heart. In other words, you should possess a FORGIVING SPIRIT. You do not know whether that person will later repent. You are to REBUKE the person (in kindness of spirit, of course) and possess a forgiving spirit. IF the person repents, forgive him (or her).
Again, except this time it is not for a brother in the Royal Family, but for the "wicked":
"Yet if you have warned the wicked and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered yourself" (Ezek. 3:19).
The following details the same conversation quoted above from Luke, recorded from Matthew, and explains what to do if your brother (or sister) does NOT repent:
Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican (Matt. 18:15-17).
So, rebuke the transgressing brother, and if he doesn't listen, then take one or two more with you to confront him again, and then if he still doesn't listen, take it to the whole local church community, and THEN if he or she still doesn't listen, it says you should regard your brother or sister as a HEATHEN. You should regard the person as one of the wicked, one of the ones "without" the church. In other words, the person is NOT FORGIVEN, until the person REPENTS. Does that mean you harbor hate and bitterness toward the person? NO! You should maintain a FORGIVING SPIRIT and LEAVE IT TO GOD. In the end, if that person returns to the world and is overcome with wickedness and never turns from his or her ways, God will avenge you for his or her transgression(s) against you.
Before the story of the wicked servant:
Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven (Matt. 18:21-22).
The above scripture is after the one I posted right before it, but it's before the one I posted that concluded the story of the "wicked servant." So, it's in the context of a REPENTANT person, who after rebuked, repents. Soooo...you should forgive your brother or sister who has sinned against you, but how many times? What if the person transgresses multiple times? Should you forgive each count? When Salvation said not seven times but seventy times seven, he meant that you should be willing to keep forgiving, as long as you can detect the person is truly repentant at heart and is sorrowful about what he or she is doing against you.
A good example of this is the spouse who struggles with substance abuse. Say one partner has an alcohol addiction or tobacco addiction. That person is not just affecting him- or herself. This kind of sin affects the spouse and other family members. An addiction like this can be very hard to overcome. For those who struggle with such an addiction or are married to a spouse who struggles with it, you know over the course of many years that the person can quit for periods of time and relapse over and over again. It's difficult! But you know he or she is trying, else the person wouldn't bother trying so hard to quit and wouldn't be so sorrowful over it and the problems it causes. So forgive, forgive, forgive. There are other examples, too, like the person who stands you up over and over, forgetting your meeting, or a spouse or friend who keeps slipping up with an Internet pornography addiction.
So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow (2 Cor. 2:7).
Again, this refers to a repentant person, someone in sorrow. It's bad enough for the repentant, sorrowful individual to cope with his or her own sin. It's just too much for that person to also bear the sorrow of friends and family (and especially members of the Royal Family) rejecting and not forgiving him or her.
Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots (Luke 23:34).
Christ said the people who were dividing up his clothing and mocking and saying ugly things about him when he was on the cross knew not what they were doing. They didn't realize who he was and that he was innocent. They must have thought he was receiving just punishment, that he was a blasphemous troublemaker. Notice Christ did NOT say, "Father, whether or not they know what they're doing, forgive them." Of course not! What was the point of Christ's coming to earth and dying for the transgressions of mankind if God is willing to forgive everyone, regardless of what they do?
Now, sometimes it can be difficult to get to a place of forgiveness toward someone, while in other cases it's relatively easy. If you've done the same sin and understand it, you might find it very easy to POSSESS A FORGIVING SPIRIT toward the transgressor, unless you are hypocritical, like Salvation said of those who judge without removing their own sin first.
In the last two or three years I've had to change my debit card number twice, due to fraudulent use. I do a lot of my purchasing online, so I memorize my card number. It's irritating to me, more than anything, whenever I have to get a new card and to file a report for unauthorized charges on my account. NEVER have I cursed the persons who have done this to me, NEVER have I possessed an unforgiving spirit toward the transgressors, and it's quite easy for me, because my husband and I were guilty of the same many years ago (before conversion). We transgressed against around 70 different people for an amount of $30k to $35k, fraudulent use of a credit card across interstate lines, when I was seventeen years of age. I understand why people are driven to do such things.
Do I know whether the people who have transgressed against me have repented of their deeds? I do not know. Have I forgiven them? I hold a FORGIVING SPIRIT toward them. This means that I do not know whether they've repented, as I DO NOT KNOW THEM. It's between them and our Creator. It's up to God to forgive, IF they repent. I've done MY part. God knows I possess a forgiving spirit toward them. If they don't repent, then God will eventually punish them for their sin.
Now what about sins that we can't relate to and struggle with forgiving? What about forgiving adultery when you can't imagine doing something so atrocious, or how about the murder of your spouse, child, parent, sibling, other relative or one of your best friends?
Remember how we've all sinned and done horrible things? We've not all done the same things. We've not all committed adultery or murder. But remember the way God sees things differently than we do? Remember how some struggle with worse things? (And remember that the HEART is what God judges, and some people desire such horrible sins in the heart, but they fear consequences from man if they transgress outwardly.)
I used to be guilty of murder in my heart in my teens. I carefully premeditated different persons' murders. I know, it's awful. It's absolutely appalling to me now. I've since repented of my sin of murder. Did I actually physically kill someone? No. But I still was guilty of the sin of murder before God. I've repented and feel terrible about it. What if I'd have actually physically carried out a murder? And then, as I have in my real life, I later had terrible remorse and repented? Would I not seek for forgiveness from those whom against I trespassed? Would I not hope for forgiveness from the victim's family and friends?
Murder is a difficult thing to forgive, even for those who understand it, whether it's premeditated or whether it's a result of rage, and even more difficult if it's a child kidnapping-rape-murder. But we are basically all guilty of our Lord Brother's death, because of our sin. He was murdered for us. God expects for us to forgive even murder....IF the transgressor repents.
Of course there are unsolved murders and unknown adultery partners and unknown thieves. There are a lot of persons out there who have transgressed against us whom we don't even know! We can't rebuke them! Do we just forgive them? What if we struggle with forgiveness?
I think it helps to imagine the unknown person realizing before you that they've transgressed against you and apologizing in great sorrow to you. You can SEE in your MIND'S EYE that they are deeply sorrowful (even though they may never meet you). They feel absolutely awful for what they've done against you and are totally repentant. Is that not how you have felt before our Righteous and Good Father and our Beloved Lord Salvation? THAT is how you can then find that FORGIVING SPIRIT. That's ALL YOU NEED. If you do not know your transgressor, try this out! It HAS WORKED FOR ME before. I have unknown transgressors out there who committed horrible acts against me, and I hold NO BITTERNESS OR HATRED OR REVENGEFUL THOUGHTS against them. God knows my heart is filled with a FORGIVING SPIRIT toward those unknown persons. If they repent, God will FORGIVE them, and that pleases me. I will also say, on the other hand, if they do not repent, I know God will PUNISH them. He will AVENGE me for their transgressions against me, and that also pleases me.
This is perfectly holy, righteous, and good, no matter what anyone tells you. We do NOT have to sit around feeling that we must forgive unrepentant people who love wickedness and hate us. That is NOT what God expects of us. He expects for us to possess a FORGIVING SPIRIT, not a spirit that allows people to just run all over us. We are NOT to possess a REVENGEFUL, HATEFUL, BITTER SPIRIT.
This is what I meant in the title by "two types/stages of forgiveness." There's the FORGIVING SPIRIT and there's actual forgiveness. And then there's manly forgiveness and Godly forgiveness. For example, a person may forgive someone for becoming an unrepentant practicing homosexual, but will God forgive it? No, He won't. God doesn't go by man's rules.
And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.” And some of the scribes said to themselves, “This fellow blasphemes.” And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk’? “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.” And he got up and went home. But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men (Matt. 9:2-7).
We can't forgive men the way God can. As you see above, the scribes realized that God is the only One Who can truly forgive as far as our spiritual standing is concerned. We may forgive things that we do not think are sin, but God is the ultimate Forgiver/Pardoner.
Moses had asked God to forgive Israel and to blot him out of God's book in their place, and the ETERNAL said:
"...Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book" (Exo. 32:33b).
Notice what these perfectly righteous Children of God of the scriptures said about UNREPENTANT SINNERS, when it comes to FORGIVENESS:
Jeremiah and Jeremiah Quoting the ETERNAL God:
Yet, ETERNAL ONE, thou knowest all their counsel against me to slay me: forgive not their iniquity, neither blot out their sin from thy sight, but let them be overthrown before thee; deal thus with them in the time of thine anger (Jer. 18:23).
Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct? No, they have no shame
at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the
fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them," says the ETERNAL (Jer. 6:15).
should I pardon you? Your sons have forsaken Me And sworn by those who
are not gods. When I had fed them to the full, They committed adultery
And trooped to the harlot's house. They were well-fed lusty horses, each
one neighing after his neighbor’s wife. Shall I not punish these
people," declares the ETERNAL,“And on a nation such as this shall I not
avenge Myself?" (Jer. 5:7-9)
This speaks of punishment rather than forgiveness, BECAUSE they would not repent after continual rebuke.
"We have sinned and rebelled and you have not forgiven" (Lam. 3:42).
Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders (Nehemiah 4:5).
You, ETERNAL God Almighty, you who are the God of Israel, rouse
yourself to punish all the nations; show no mercy to wicked traitors (Psalm 59:5).
May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the ETERNAL; may the sin of his mother never be blotted out (Psa. 109:14).
It is time for you to act, ETERNAL; your law is being broken (Psalm 119:126).
Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works (I Tim. 4:14).
I've said this a few times, and I know many righteous Christians pray this way. This is a very wise way to put it, because the Lord knows whether the person will repent. If Alexander the coppersmith repented (even if he never saw Paul again, he could have cried out to God and felt horribly sorrowful about what he'd done and wished he could take it back), then the reward for the work of repentance was forgiveness, but if he didn't repent in due time, he would have "gotten his," if you know what I'm saying.
So people will be brought low and everyone humbled-- do not forgive them (Isa. 2:9)
This last one is talking about the time of great wrath of God in the future, when he will have rejected his people Jacob. The context speaks of the land being full of materialism, idols (think of the Washington Monument phallic/penis obelisk and the sun god/goddess "Statue of Liberty"), tons of horses and chariots (think of all the fancy motor vehicles), and many fortune-tellers.
And finally, in Revelation, God's True Children symbolically cry out:
AND THEY CRIED WITH A LOUD VOICE, SAYING, "HOW LONG, O LORD, HOLY AND TRUE, DO YOU NOT JUDGE AND AVENGE OUR BLOOD ON THEM THAT DWELL ON THE EARTH?" (Rev. 6:10).
I have done as Jeremiah and the others have done toward certain ones on this earth. For example, one of my most-hated targets is the evil ones at the top of Monsanto and the evil ones in our governments and the evil ones at the top of other corporations who knowingly unleash evil upon the peoples of this earth and DO NOT CARE! Yes, I cry out to God, "WHEN will it be that you send my Beloved to PUNISH these evil ones?!"
It is PERFECTLY RIGHTEOUS to want vengeance on evil persons or people who sin against us who do not repent. BUT WE LEAVE THIS UP TO GOD TO DECIDE, because we simply DO NOT KNOW whether a person will repent, especially if our transgressors are unknown.
So again—and as summary and conclusion—we are to possess, as Children of the Most High God and brethren of the Lord Salvation the Perfect Firstborn, a FORGIVING SPIRIT without thoughts of hate, revenge, or bitterness against our transgressors but a RELAXED AND TRUSTING knowledge that IF the transgressors do not repent, we will be avenged by our Loving Father and Lord Salvation.
And if we truly TRUST God, and we are patient for that day of Christ's return, then it's not too difficult to possess that FORGIVING SPIRIT toward ANY transgressor, meaning we're willing to forgive anyone who repents. And for those who don't, we keep our pure spirit as not to defile ourselves and suffer with bitterness that will poison us, and we trust that God will avenge us.