Two days ago, I posted about a young man who was shot and killed by a police officer. There was quite a stir in the sentencing phase of the officer’s trial, because one of the witnesses, the victim’s brother, asked the judge to give the convicted felon a hug. He felt that as a Christian, he should forgive his brother’s killer (even though she was unrepentant) and told her that he didn’t even want her to go to jail. The judge permitted the hug (which she shouldn’t have) and also did a little hugging of the felon of her own. The felon was given a fairly light sentence for the crime — 10 years in jail, eligible for parole in 5 years.
Many people applauded the hugs, exclaiming that it was the right, Christian thing to do. They saw it as evidence of love.
Many, like myself, were horrified. We did not applaud these actions as an accurate portrayal of what Christian forgiveness, love and justice actually are as laid out by the scriptures. Indeed, forgiving a person who is unrepentant is unjust, and puts everyone else in danger as it emboldens similar crimes by others. Thus, misapplied forgiveness isn’t love for the public.
Yesterday, sadly, my point was proven. The neighbor of the victim, one of the main witnesses against the felon, was brutally shot and killed in his mouth. Someone was emboldened to commit basically the exact same crime. Should we forgive this new murderer too?
This isn’t what forgiveness is for. This isn’t justice.
Let me explain:
Here’s FORGIVENESS 101:
There is NO FORGIVENESS outside of repentance and confession.
That’s found in 1 John 1 9-10. If we don’t confess our sins before God, if we don’t repent, he will NOT forgive us. Otherwise, we are calling God a liar because he says that he will judge the unrepentant to eternal damnation. Likewise, someone who has deliberately done evil to you who has not confessed or repented of it, IS NOT a candidate for your forgiveness.
We have an obligation, however to go the extra forgiveness mile for our BROTHERS and SISTERS IN CHRIST and, if needed...to forgive them seventy times seven. Read Matthew 18:21-22. That’s right read the scriptures it says brothers and sisters...the blood covered saints who are in covenant with us, if these “brothers and sisters” do us wrong, we are to bend over backwards to forgive them. They are people striving to do good and not to harm. And there must never be grudges in the church body. We are never to walk in unforgiveness with them. HOWEVER, flip over to Matthew 18:15-17 which are the scriptures where the Bible tells you what to do if your brother or sister continues to offend you. You bring them before 2 or 3 brothers or sisters and if they do not stop their offense, you are to see them as a gentile and tax collector...in other words, that person ain’t your brother or sister no more and does not deserve that unlimited forgiveness posture from you.
That’s forgiveness 101 in a nutshell.
So what do we do with the evil person out there? This person who shot this poor court witness in the mouth? Well, clearly this person ‘ain’t no “brother or sister”. They are the WICKED. WE CANNOT FORGIVE THE WICKED the same way we would forgive a brother. That’s not what the scriptures, read as a whole, say. Please, please let’s take our heads out of the “kumbayah love everybody” sand and study the whole counsel of God to show ourselves approved.
So then, what to do with this wicked shooter? We turn to the scriptures that help us deal with the wicked.
Here’s VENGEANCE 101:
“Vengeance” is that knee jerk reaction we all have to repay evil for evil. You step on my toe, I step on your toe. You spit on me, I spit on you. Vengeance from a spiritual perspective is a huge chain reaction that doesn’t stop. It’s the Hatfields and the McCoys. We BREAK THE CHAIN OF VENGEANCE by “turning the other cheek” to our enemies. We repay hate with love. This “turning the other cheek” doctrine has been abused by every wicked perp out there. It is an INTERNAL disposition. It’s what we probably do when we say in modern times that we “forgive” someone who has harmed us and hasn’t confessed. We internally are just breaking the chain of violence and putting ourselves on a higher standard than the wicked. We are prioritizing our spiritual lives more than that wicked person because we do not want to become just like them. For all the wicked know is vengeance and nothing more.
VENGEANCE belongs to God, for the simple reason that he reigns supreme and no creature can have vengeance on God. Therefore his vengeance breaks that chain of violence once and for all. The wicked are never to be let off the hook. We should be crying out to God, day and night for him to have vengeance against our enemies, the wicked. It’s OUR DUTY as believers to ask for it and to petition him relentlessly until he repays for the acts of the wicked. So, my prayer for this shooter would be that the Most High have will have swift vengeance on him. And based on my prayer, so long as this shooter isn’t covered by the blood of Christ, the death angel will be visiting his spiritual house. That’s spiritual warfare. Google “vengeance scriptures” and you will see that the Bible from beginning to end backs me up. Pray for vengeance and do no harm.
VENGEANCE however, even from God, does not bring peace. It does not stop the mindset that brought the senseless killing. JUSTICE brings peace.
Justice is firmly in our hands as believers. We are called to be just people and to ensure that JUSTICE rules the world. To “do justice” as stated Micah 6:8. To be people making sure we are fasting for justice by our very actions as said in Isaiah 58. Justice creates the framework by which whole civilizations become law abiding and do exactly what is needed to ensure that there is peace and safety for everyone.
This is why we have a justice system. It is to keep peace and safety.
When we unilaterally forgive people for their wickedness, we tie the hands of justice. It guts the justice lesson to the wicked. It’s like yelling at your kid and giving them a lollipop at the same time. It’s misapplied forgiveness. I did a whole article on misapplied forgiveness two days ago so I won’t repeat that here.
So as for me and my house, there would be no forgiveness for this shooter absent their confession and repentance. I will ask the Most High to rain vengeance upon his head and those unrepentant souls like him. And I will call for justice. I will ask for the maximum penalty when s/he is tried. I will donate to prison ministries to see if anyone can reach this person for Christ while they are alive and rotting in jail, so that they have multiple opportunities to confess and repent of their sins. If at that time this person confesses and honestly repents and asks the Most High for forgiveness of their sins, then and only then will I follow the Most High’s lead, welcoming them as brother or sister and forgiving them. (Yet the justice meted out to them remains the same. We must all deal with the consequences of our actions. The Most High does not take away those consequences just because they confessed and repented of.) But if they continue to maintain their innocence, I will hand them over to Satan’s camp for ultimate eternal destruction.
LOVE AND JUSTICE 101:
Justice is the other side of Love. It is how we demonstrate our love for everyone and everything in our biosphere. Justice is what love looks like to the public. Hugging the wicked and lessening their sentences is misapplied love. It’s self-centered, focusing on only your getting your emotional relief in that moment. But it does not show love to the public that is looking at your actions because the wicked are looking at your actions too. You are telling them that they can continue in their wickedness with nothing more than a slap on the wrist for punishment, you are absolving them of their emotional guilt, literally telling them they don’t need to confess or repent. You are emboldening other wicked people to commit the exact same crime. You are therefore putting your neighbor in grave danger. This is grossly misapplied love.
So love then, is much broader than what we do at home when we take care of our families, its bigger than how we move through our supermarkets and churches. It extends to every person who is seeing how we address the harmful people around us. Its a far reaching action that says I care about my neighbor so much that I will make sure that the wrongdoers around me are brought to justice and so that nobody else will dare do this same crime while I am here. This far reaching love is every Christian’s civic responsibility. Its what Jesus came to do, to make this planet safe for the righteous to dwell in and to remove the wicked from it. Its what we should be doing also.
Be at peace,