In focusing on the wrong motive to forgive in my last post Why I Can’t Let It Go: The Truth About Forgiveness, it dawned on me that I neglected to include the most powerful truth about forgiveness. This truth is at the heart of the gospel that makes reconciliation possible.
I’m remembering a conversation I had with a friend over coffee. I can’t recall how we arrived at the subject of forgiveness, but I can recall his sincere confession. He said, though clearly embarrassed, that he couldn’t forgive because he wanted the offenders to pay for what they had done. He was just being honest, but he had touched on the all important question of fairness, or better stated, the question of justice.
No Justice, No Forgiveness
He seemed surprised when I told him his need to make them pay was right, and that there can be no forgiveness where there is no justice. Justice demands that an offense be paid for, and I believe that sense of justice lives deep within each of us. I believe it’s God given. The best attempts at forgiveness fail where there is no peace for the soul.
I saw the concern and confusion in his eyes. He couldn’t tell if I was approving vengeance or the impossibility of forgiveness. But this is where the most powerful truth about forgiveness is found.
Romans 3:25–26 (NAS): 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Someone Has To Pay
If no one pays for the offense there can be no forgiveness because justice must be satisfied first. For God to be both just and the justifier of us, who have faith, someone had to pay. God did not ignore justice and simply forgive our sins. No, someone had to pay. And so Jesus did.
In the same way, God does not ask you to ignore justice and simply forgive. No, He points you to the one who paid for what they did to you.
Jesus Paid It All
Jesus was not only wounded for your transgressions, but for their transgressions against you. He was bruised for their iniquity, which caused you pain.Tweet
Jesus satisfied the wrath of God for us, so too our wrath for our offenders is satisfied by the cross of Christ. He thus establishes peace by His cross. It is wicked indeed to withhold forgiveness after Jesus Christ was wounded and bruised for what others did to you. If our offenders must also pay, then Christ died needlessly.
The hurt and the offense that happened to you did not go unpunished. Someone paid. The chastisement for our peace fell upon Him.