Forgiveness or Judgement
Sometimes, we need a paradigm shift because we have been looking at the same thing for most of our life, and then one day, our perspective shifts and we see it in a different way.
I was reading Luke 23:34. “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” In the TPT, it says while they were nailing Jesus to the cross, He said over and over again, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.”
Truly, they didn’t know they were crucifying the Son of God, or they never would have done it.
Then, I went to the story of Stephen being stoned, and he lifted his head to heaven and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father. He too said with his dying breath, “Forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.” Acts 7:58
As I read these, the Lord began speaking to me. He wasn’t just talking about the Roman solider who nailed Him to the cross, and Stephen wasn’t just talking to the Jewish leaders who were hurling the stones at them.
Some people insist that for forgiveness to be offered, the one needing it must ask for it. Yet, in both of these very dramatic cases, forgiveness was not only offered to those who didn’t ask for it, but it was offered and even was a plead for the ones who were abusing, who were actively murdering them.
When the US pulled out of Afghanistan and the Taliban rushed in, I was a mess. I felt the abandonment and the extreme anger against our government for leaving people stranded and for the Taliban who have taken over. I knew that it meant the massacre of thousands of believers.
I was so upset that I was making myself sick.
The Lord drew me away to spend time with. As I did, I immediately, saw Jesus standing by a lake tossing rocks into it. I thought to myself, “How can you calmly be doing that Lord, when your children are suffering and dying?”
He turned to face me with that compassion flooding through His eyes, and said, “Daughter, I never abandon my children.”
Then, he proceeded to motion me closer, “Come with me.”
For the next day and half, all I could see in my minds eye was the same thing. I saw myself standing in the middle of room with these precious Afghans as they huddled in corners. I saw a glory light all around us with Jesus standing in the middle, and I saw each person with an angel in front of them that was holding them. From the other side of the bubble, I could hear the door bust through, feet shuffle, the clicks of guns being cocked, and the sound of machine guns being fired into the room. As each believer took their last breath, the angel flew them away. It was intense.
Then I heard Jesus say, “Listen.”
With their last breath, I heard, “Forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.”
Could that have just been my overactive imagination? Maybe. But at the end of the second day, I heard, “Enough,” and the vision lifted.
What I believe the Lord was showing me regarding this is that when Jesus willingly laid His life down at the cross He made a way for forgiveness to be given.
Up until that time, mankind’s sins had been appeased. That’s what the animal sacrificial system was all about – temporarily placing the sins or evil of mankind on an innocent animal to appease the just, righteous, holy God until Jesus could come to be that permanent sacrifice.
When Jesus fulfilled that sacrifice, forgiveness is now already given for anyone who accepts the Son’s sacrifice. We then also get to appropriate that forgiveness to others, making a way for them to come.
Following Jesus’s resurrection, He said in John 20:22, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of anyone, they are retained.”
It’s still their choice whether they receive what the Lord has already done, but it is already a finished work, once and for all, we are forgiven.
So, Stephen when he pronounced the same thing, I believe in a way he was acting like Christ, and making a way for Saul to become Paul.
The Afghan believers in their suffering and spilling of their blood are also acting as Christ, being that same example. I believe it will potentially make a difference in some of the Taliban receiving Christ.
Here’s the thing though. Jesus wasn’t just dismissing the evil being done to Him. He wasn’t just looking the other way. He acknowledged what was done. But He chose to take our place and carry our sins, evils, and make the way for forgiveness to happen, or we would never be able to be reconciled to God.
We also can partner with Jesus in this when we are unjustly suffering and choose to offer the gift of forgiveness just as we have accepted that gift. Perhaps we will make a way for others as well to receive that forgiveness as well.
We act as His agents on earth to bring the kingdom here. We are His representatives, and we can forgive or not forgive others sins.
If I love my enemies, then I want them to also be able to receive the free gift of salvation as well. I want them also to receive forgiveness.
Do they have to ask for it? Well, I believe for them to receive it, then yes, but I have already given it in my heart.
Many times, when someone asks me to forgive them for something they have done wrong, my answer is “I forgave that a long time ago.”
When I come to the Lord asking for forgiveness of my sins or those that I have authority over, like my family line, He has always given it because I believe it is already given. Yet, I still must appropriate it.
Yes, when I receive salvation all my sins have been placed under the blood of Jesus once and for all. That is true. It is also true that His blood is enough for all the sins of the world, and yet, Jesus says, “Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” This is something I don’t fully understand, because it seems to be a both/and situation.
Just as Jesus came to step into that place for others, I believe we can also partner with Him interceding or stepping in the gap for others, just like He does.
Having been a survivor of severe childhood abuse and trauma, I know very well all the emotions that seek to suck us down into a pit, and I’ve also suffered sorely from the results of others sins against me, and still suffer daily from them in some ways, but I’ve also learned that I can walk with an unoffended heart when I chose to allow God to take the offenses and be the final judge.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t ever experience offense, nor is it wrong for me to be get offended at evil. It’s totally right to be offended at evil, and it’s total right to take action against evil. I just don’t hold on to it. I turn it over to the Lord. I offer forgiveness to the person in my heart, but I still may need to hold them accountable for the wrong done.
For example, a couple of years ago, when my purse was stolen, I just didn’t say, “Oh, I forgive them. Let’s just forget that ever happened.” I called the police and filled a report against them. It is right for the full authority of the law to be applied and the thief held accountable.
Here’s where we can and have very much gone off in a wrong direction with this message of forgiveness.
It doesn’t mean I don’t acknowledge evil and look the other way. It doesn’t mean that I don’t hold accountable abusers. If we have the ability to speak up, and hold people accountable for their evil actions, I totally believe we should.
The reason evil was able to flood back into Afghanistan is because the force of good that was holding it back suddenly left. If we don’t act justly, and take action against those who are lawless and evil, then we are allowing that to come to our front door and to take us out.
I know this may sound like a paradox, but just follow me a little longer.
There is a big difference between having a forgiving, non-offended heart, which I think we should all have, while still holding people accountable for their evil actions verses carrying around a heart full of hatred and offense judging the hearts of others or passively sticking our head in the sand because we don’t want to offend anyone or get messy.
The church has done the latter two far too many times, protecting the abusers, while throwing the abused under the bus in the name of God. Many times, the abused are even told that they should just forgive and forget and bear their burden like a good Christian. This is completely against the heart of God.
He tells us to protect those who are unprotected, to care for the widows and the orphans which is what we are called to do – to act in justice, but love mercy, and walk humbly with God.
Instead in many cases, the church has covered up the nakedness of the abuser to protect their reputations, which have no character to back it up, while throwing the abused out the door.
And we wonder why and how our government and culture has become so corrupt.
We have pulled out the good that was keeping it back and not stood up for those who can’t.
This not only breaks the heart of God, but brings His judgment. And yes, He still judges, even though He has made the way for forgiveness. It’s both/and. Not one or the other.
I’m pretty sure Ananias and Sapphira were judged because they lied to the Holy Spirit, and the holy fear of God fell on the early church. Acts 5
The fierce justice and judgment of God is throughout the Bible. I believe even His judgment is from a place of love. If He didn’t have consequences to the evil that humanity has perpetuated, our race would never have made it to the redemption. We would have destroyed ourselves long ago. Yet, because of Jesus, we now stand in front of the mercy seat. Praise God.
When we truly receive the free gift of forgiveness through Jesus, we can now not only live with a heart set free of our sin nature, we can also be the door for others to be set free as well, by stepping into the position of Jesus and acting as He did.
Whether that is speaking up to the Pharisees to defend the defenseless, or if that’s caring for the wounded on the side of the road, or that’s offering forgiveness when we are suffering for someone else’s sins, we can follow the Holy Spirit’s leading and make a difference in this chaotic world by bringing His kingdom through us.