To Err is Human;
To Forgive is Divine
Choosing your Punishment
This series of webpages is about feeling forgiven, not about forgiving others. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to insert this small page here because when people share their hearts with me I keep finding that the two types of forgiveness are inseparably linked. Like spitting into the wind, not forgiving others flies back and hits us. Until we learn to forgive others we will most likely suffer serious problems believing that God has forgiven us.
In some countries, it is enshrined by national law that people of native ancestry choose by their lifestyle whether they are regarded as part of native society – and hence judged by tribal law – or whether they will be subject to judgments imposed by national courts, should they commit certain offences. For lawbreakers of aboriginal descent, the difference might mean being speared in the leg versus imprisonment. In other cases it has meant being severely punished for breaking tribal law versus going unpunished.
Spiritually, we find ourselves with a similar, though more serious, choice. The lifestyle we choose determines whether we will be judged according to divine grace, or by a more primitive judgment akin to what humans usually prefer to inflict on each other.
You have heard it said that to err is human; to forgive is divine. Human justice says, if you do the crime, you receive the punishment. Divine grace says, if you do the crime, God’s only Son receives the punishment. Most of us would like both to be judged by grace and to judge others by harsher standards. But that’s hypocrisy. Humanity’s Judge must be perfect. Despite his overwhelming love for you, he must not corrupt himself by being partner to such a scheme. There must be total consistency between the way we judge others and the way we are eternally judged.
By choosing a lifestyle of graciously forgiving everyone who ever offends us we choose to be judged by divine grace. By electing not to forgive someone, however, we choose to be eternally judged by the method that humans prefer to administer, but don’t want to receive – the way that knows no forgiveness.
As fallen humans, we find ourselves suspended between acting like animals and acting like God. Our calling – God’s mind-blowing invitation – is to rise from living like beasts to living like God. Our “mission impossible,” should we choose to accept it, is to rise from living by the law of the jungle to living by grace.
The choice is ours. We can be too proud to forgive or too proud to let Jesus be punished for our offenses, but that leaves us with no option than to bear the punishment ourselves. On the other hand, we can choose to be one with Jesus. The only way to do this is by both accepting his punishment for our sins and by joining him in saying, “Father, forgive them,” to people so despicable that they were torturing to death an innocent person. By this we choose God’s mercy.
Justice demands that we be punished forever. For us to escape the horrific demands of justice, we must quit demanding justice. By wanting someone to suffer as he or she deserves, we are refusing to live in the realm of grace. By wanting any wrongdoer to get what he or she deserves, we are forcing God to give us what we deserve. We couldn’t make a worse decision, given the reality that we each deserve hell.
A staggering number of people foolishly presume that they can reject God’s mercy, and yet expect God to still be merciful. We can’t have it both ways. As we have seen, a perfect judge cannot be partner to hypocrisy. By refusing God’s mercy – either by ignoring Jesus’ offer to be punished for us or by refusing to let mercy rule the way we treat others – we leave God with no option than to bring upon us the full, terrifying, eternal punishment our sins deserve. The appropriate punishment is more horrific than we can even conceive. Being sinners, and surrounded by sinners every day of our lives, has made us too callous to grasp how atrocious our offences really are. Those who ignore the way of grace are making the worse mistake anyone could ever make.
Forgiving others is not about earning God’s approval. It simply allows God to do what he longs to do – to lift us to a higher level in which we are judged by entirely different standards to what we would otherwise be subjected. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. . . . Forgive, and you will be forgiven,” said Jesus (Luke 6:37). How we judge – with mercy or with a desire to punish – determines how we will be judged.
It is not the things we have done – they can all be forgiven – that determines whether we are judged by divine mercy or by eternal justice. All that matters is our heart attitude – whether we are forgiving or judgmental – and whether our faith is in the forgiving power of Jesus’ sacrifice or in our ability to bear our own punishment.
The Lord of all longs for us to enter the realm of grace where he showers upon us the blessings that Jesus deserves, instead of the judgment that we deserve.
You might be so conscious that to forgive is divine that you conclude it is humanly impossible. That’s okay. The God of the impossible is so eager for you to enter the divine that he’ll do all that is needed to ensure that you dwell in the divine realm of forgiving and being forgiven. All God requires is your willingness to let him perform the miracle. Then hold on to your hat as you commence life’s most exciting adventure, soaring beyond human limitations, as the Almighty empowers you to forgive as fully as he longs to forgive you.
If you refuse to forgive others, God will refuse to forgive you. Forgiving others, however, is a long journey. If you are wanting to forgive but find it almost impossible, you have already made good progress. If you have reached that point, I believe God can forgive you, though you will still suffer much anguish doubting that God has forgiven you. The more you progress with forgiving others, the more you will be able to believe that God has forgiven you and the more you will be able to forgive yourself. On the other hand, the more you are sure that God has forgiven you, the easier it will be to forgive yourself and to forgive others. The three aspects of forgiveness are part of the one package and progress with one helps the others, while a refusal to progress with one holds back the others.
So at this point, the web series divides. Some readers will need to progress with the issue of forgiving others before proceeding with more help in believing that they are forgiven. These readers should bookmark this page or note the web address, go to Forgive Us Our Sins As We Forgive, and from there follow links to still other pages about forgiving others. After completing those pages they should then return here to continue with this series about learning how to be sure they are forgiven and how to enjoy their forgiveness.
Next: Two Options
1. More About Getting Rid of Guilt Feelings
Supernaturally Confirmed Unforgivable or Damned by dreams, Visions & Miracles?
(This is most encouraging webpage, even though the title seems scary.
It proves that one need not fear supposed revelations from God
that one is damned, unforgivable, apostate or whatever.)
2. More About Forgiving Others
Forgive Us Our Sins As We Forgive
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Scripture quotations are from the New International Version © Copyright, 1978 by New York International Bible Society
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