The True Christian Forgives as Jesus Forgives – True, and False

This past week my wife and I were driving up the interstate when we saw a large billboard that said:

Real Christians Forgive Like Jesus

The sign also included a Scripture reference,

Luke 23:34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.

This is an example of not only misusing Scripture, but of dealing simplistically with a Bible doctrine that requires far more than a mere five words on a sign. And it is not harmless! Great damage is done by these kinds of foolish statements thrown out at people like cannon shots.

The pessimistic realist that I am, I suggest to you that I know what the message is that these sign preachers are throwing at us. “You don’t forgive like Jesus forgives. If you are a real Christian, then you must love your enemies (true). And this means that you must not seek justice for wrongs they have done you, you must strive to maintain relationship with them, and if you don’t do these things then you are not forgiving as Jesus forgives and it is doubtful you are a Christian at all.

Yes, Jesus prayed that His Father would forgive those who crucified Him. But a short time before He was put on the cross (see John 17) Jesus specifically said that He was praying for those the Father had given to Him, not for the whole world. Jesus knows His elect. And Jesus’ death on the cross at the hands of these people was an act of redemption and atonement for His own. Jesus, in other words, was unique. To make an across the board simplistic application of Jesus’ prayer for His enemies there on the cross to every single Christian in every single case subsequent to the cross is foolish.

But there is more.

How does Jesus forgive? Does He forgive everyone? Of course not. Check this out:

2Th 1:5-10 This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering– (6) since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, (7) and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels (8) in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (9) They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, (10) when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

We could go on and on. The Lord does not forgive everyone. And yet these signboard preachers throw distortions of Bible truth at car after car motoring up the freeway, insisting that a real Christian forgives everyone no matter what. Offers the worst of them warm hugs and kisses. I ask you, is this what we see Jesus doing in the Gospels? Is this what the Apostles preached and practiced as recorded in The Acts and the Epistles? Of course not.

One final point (though I could go on and on).

Unsaved people see signs like this and do you know what they conclude? I know unsaved people. I know lots of them. Many are my friends. I know what they would have said if they were in my car when I went past that sign. “Christians are idiots and fools.” And you know what? People who claim to be Christians but who distort and pervert the Word of God like this are fools indeed!

Christians, true Christians, really do forgive as Jesus did. And more. We pray for God’s holy wrath and justice to break out upon the wicked and destroy them for their oppression of the widow and orphan. Yep –

Psa 139:21-22 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? (22) I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.

Consider the End of the Wicked – Their Feet are “set” Upon Slippery Places

If we only look at this present time and fail to consider “the end,” then we can easily become bitter when we see the wicked apparently prospering at the expense of their victims.  The Psalmist said it:

Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning. If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed the generation of your children. But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end. Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. (Psa 73:12-18)

You can either read or listen to the sermon I preached on this very Scripture recently. As you will see, we all need a tune-up on our eyes of faith so that we set our minds on the promises of God and what He tells us about the true precarious position of the wicked and the sure, solid ground Christ’s people stand upon.

 

Let Me not be Put to Shame

1Pe 2:6-7 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” (7) So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”

One of the favorite weapons of the wicked is shame. Shaming its victims. Shame has a proper role (for the guilty who repent), but evil ones never use it properly. They, the ones who should be ashamed, work to shame the innocent. Reviling. Slandering. Accusing. Humiliating. They are of their father the devil who is known as the accuser of the brethren.

But Scripture affirms that the righteous will not be put to shame. Ultimately, on that Day when Christ comes in judgment, it will be the wicked who are shamed in front of all creation. Shamed for their shameful deeds. Shamed as they are exposed and judged for what they truly are. Any thread of honor and glory they may have enjoyed in this life will be taken away. We see a glimpse of it in this account given by Isaiah:

Isa 14:3-17 When the LORD has given you rest from your pain and turmoil and the hard service with which you were made to serve, (4) you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon: “How the oppressor has ceased, the insolent fury ceased!

(5) The LORD has broken the staff of the wicked, the scepter of rulers, (6) that struck the peoples in wrath with unceasing blows, that ruled the nations in anger with unrelenting persecution. (7) The whole earth is at rest and quiet; they break forth into singing. (8) The cypresses rejoice at you, the cedars of Lebanon, saying, ‘Since you were laid low, no woodcutter comes up against us.’

(9) Sheol beneath is stirred up to meet you when you come; it rouses the shades to greet you, all who were leaders of the earth; it raises from their thrones all who were kings of the nations. (10) All of them will answer and say to you: ‘You too have become as weak as we! You have become like us!’

(11) Your pomp is brought down to Sheol, the sound of your harps; maggots are laid as a bed beneath you, and worms are your covers. (12) “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!

(13) You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; (14) I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ (15) But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit. (16) Those who see you will stare at you and ponder over you: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, (17) who made the world like a desert and overthrew its cities, who did not let his prisoners go home?’

The prayer of the righteous, so often falsely shamed in this life by the wicked, will be answered in full:

Psa 25:1-3 Of David. To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. (2) O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. (3) Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

Surely, as our Lord has promised, the first shall be last, and the last first.