The love and mercy and forgiveness that God offers us through Jesus Christ is so great, so wonderful, that we can’t really fully understand it! We certainly don’t deserve it! None of us are “good” enough to deserve forgiveness of sins and His gift of Eternal Life to us, yet it is ours for the asking if we will only believe on Him, repent (regret, feel sorry and turn away) from our selfish, wrong ways and ask His forgiveness. – Such love!
This love and forgiveness that He has extended to us, Jesus commands us to show it to others. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven you.” Jesus, in the Lord’s Prayer, instructed us to pray: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” He then added, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Heavenly Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:12,14,15). Jesus said we are even to love and forgive our enemies. – That is, providing they are sorry! The Bible does not instruct us to forgive people who are not sorry and who don’t repent. After all, God does not even forgive us our sins unless we are sorry for them and repent of them, yet some people have the mistaken picture of God as a “soft” over-indulgent Father who automatically forgives everyone on Earth for their sins, even if they hate Christ and never repent of their evil deeds!
There are conditions to God’s forgiveness: As Isaiah 55:7 says, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his (evil) thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and let him return to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” God will have mercy and abundantly pardon, but first the wicked must forsake his evil thoughts and deeds, repent and ask to be forgiven! Jesus said, “Love your enemies and do good to them that persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44) But how far are you to go in loving and forgiving those who are vicious enemies who hate you and want to rob, enslave or even slaughter you and your loved ones? Look at the example God Himself sets with His enemies: At first, He gives them time to repent, He shows them Love, He shows them the right way and gives them time to change and see the Truth, but after a certain time limit, His patience runs out and He says, “My Spirit will not always strive with Man” (Genesis 6:3). And eventually He slaughters His enemies if they keep on being rebellious and doing evil as He did in the great worldwide Flood when all of mankind was drowned except Noah and his family! There are countless examples of this all the way through the Bible.
So we are to give our enemies time, we are to be patient, show them love and forgiveness, that we’re ready to forgive them if they will repent, but God Himself does not forgive people who don’t repent. It is naïve to believe that we are to love and forgive enemies who do not repent and who insist on continuing to do evil and harm to us and our loved ones and our nation! As Christians, yes, we are obligated to show love even to our enemies but that does not rule out the fact that we are to defend ourselves from their cruel attacks, it does not even rule out us attacking them to stop them from killing innocent people! We must not be so “forgiving” that we lose all moral values and lose all sense of right and wrong and by standing back and doing nothing to stop them, condone them in their evil deeds! We may show love to try to win them over, but we must not in any way condone their evil deeds! And, if necessary, we should not hesitate to stop them if their evil, violent actions threaten our lives or the lives of others and we certainly should not forgive them for criminal acts of murder, terror, intimidation or the torture of innocent victims!
When Jesus was dying a painful death on the cross, He showed great forgiveness and love even to those who crucified Him, and said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). Who was He asking God to pardon? – The hypocritical Pharisees and high priests, the religious leaders who had condemned Him to death? – No! They knew exactly what they were doing in crucifying Jesus! Jesus was praying for the poor, ignorant Roman soldiers who were simply carrying out their orders, and who really didn’t know what was happening. Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Jesus wanted to forgive even His wicked religious enemies! He wanted to, but they refused Him! Jesus had wept over Jerusalem and said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone to death those who are sent to you, how often I would have gathered you, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and ye would not.” Therefore, because His bitter religious enemies rejected His love and forgiveness, Jesus said to them, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You serpents, you generation of vipers! How can you possibly escape the damnation of hell? You are children of hell, and shall receive great damnation!” Matthew 23:37, 29,33,14,15. Clearly, Jesus did not forgive such wicked enemies!
Some people will ask, what about the verse of Scripture that says you should forgive your enemies “seventy times seven”? Matthew 18:22. Well, that’s not what Jesus said at all! Sad to say, a lot of people misquote that verse. What it actually says is: “Then came Peter to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Until seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I say not until seven times, but until seventy times seven.” In this passage, Peter and Christ were talking about offences committed by a brother, a fellow Christian, in other words, not a bitter enemy who is trying to rob you, kill you or violate your wife! In the case of a Christian brother, the offence would not usually be something as bad as that, it would normally be some minor offence, because certainly true Christians wouldn’t normally do any major harm to each other. So when Peter asked, “If my brother comes to me and says he’s sorry, how many times should I forgive him?” The Lord as good as said it’s unlimited! Providing he is sorry and asks for forgiveness!
As you will note that even in the case of a brother, if the offence is serious enough and not just some little thing that you should be able to overlook and forgive and let pass, that you are not obligated to just automatically forgive them. Let us look at Luke 17:3, where Jesus instructed His Disciples, “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against you, rebuke him; and, if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn to you, saying, I repent, you shall forgive him.” In other words, if he comes to you and says he’s sorry and repents, you are to forgive him. But you are not expected to automatically overlook (and do nothing to try to rectify) serious offences or actual crimes! Not even if it’s a brother who committed them. And you are certainly not expected to meekly “forgive” a devil-inspired, antichrist enemy who is trying to violently overthrow and enslave your country!
So let us not be naïve in our concept of the forgiveness and mercy of God, especially in relation to Christ-hating, anti-God enemies! This passage of Scripture from Isaiah 1:18-20 can very well apply to such anti-Christ forces: “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” He promises a complete pardon, but them warns: “If you be willing and obedient, you shall eat of the good of the land: but, if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured with the sword! The mouth of the Lord has spoken it!” Repent or perish! – which will it be?