Judgement & Forgiveness (2 of 2)

Here is the response I sent to an excellent e-mail I received after preaching on forgiveness.  You can listen to the sermon here.  You can read the first part of the post here.
Thank you for your feedback.  You bring up some very good points.  While the verses you've cited raise interesting points about the nature of judgement and forgiveness, I don't think they negate the fact that we may indeed forgive regardless of whether a person repents/apologizes.  You are correct that God requires repentance before we can be forgiven of our sins.  However, the Bible states that we were made "alive in Christ, even when we were dead in our transgressions"(Ephesians 2:5).  Our repentance is only made possible through Christ's regeneration.

In no way do I suggest that wrongs go unpunished, particularly those that clearly break the law.  Luke 17:3-4, as you mentioned, tells us that "if your brother sins, rebuke him."  However, it is possible that we can forgive others even as they continue to hurt us or go unpunished.   My understanding of the nature of human forgiveness is informed by the following:

-Ephesians 2:1-10 God demonstrates "great love," "mercy," and "grace" while we are "dead." (v. 1, 4-5)
-In Matthew 18:21-22. Jesus reveals that forgiveness is not dependent on apology. Forgiveness may stand alone.
-In Matthew 5:44-45 Jesus commands us to love our enemies even though they continue to persecute us.
-Luke 6:36-38 Jesus commands us to be merciful and to forgive.  We are to let God be the judge through his Word and in eternity.

But what of verses throughout the bible that call for God's judgement?  The Imprecatory Psalms are a prime example (see 69 & 109 for instance).  Many refer to these as examples of righteous anger or hatred.  You'll note, however that even in the midst of asking God for judgement, we can be forgiving and loving here on earth: (Psalm 69:10-12; 109:4-5) I'd suggest that the example from Scripture is summed up by Jon Piper, who writes, "We would do well to leave such final assessments to God, and realize our own corrupt inability to hate as we ought...We are told to love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us, and return good for evil (as David did). This is our vocation by faith. Let us tremble and trust God, lest we fail, and find ourselves on the other side of the curse."

I hope you'll be able to join us on Sunday, as we'll be discussing other steps of conflict, including apology and restitution.


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