over theatrical hypothetical to make a point:
A man I know and have trusted my whole life walks into my house, rapes my wife, murders her and takes a plane to Mexico never to be heard of again.
I find out, am racked with sadness and despair. How could this happen? Why did this happen? Sadness turns to blame. This is my fault, this is Gods fault, this is the states fault, this is everyone’s fault. Blame turns into vengeance. Well, if the state isn’t going to find him, then I will try find him and destroy him. A life for a life. Every martial arts movie is based on this premise. I then train, buy up weapons, and search the world. Bitterness, violence, jealousy, blame shifting. These all well up inside of me destroying most of the good parts of me. I turn into a man that my dead wife wouldn’t be caught dead standing next to.
The power of forgiving.
Vengeance sometimes robs us of real mourning. Unforgiveness imprisons us and steals our lives. This man not only would steal my wife, but would steal the rest of my life. Would steal my trust of people – as he was a trusted friend, I would therefore find it hard to trust anyone again. As the state could do nothing I would cease trusting the state, possibly to a large rebellious extent, making me a criminal in my own right – steal my liberty. Having not mourned my wife properly, my emotional make up is destroyed also, if I had kids, my relationship to them is also destroyed.
Rewind to the moment of finding out what had happened. The hardest thing in the world for a human man to do would be to speak out forgiveness. To speak out a release of any right to vengeance, any right to bitterness or distrust. Freed to mourn – which is not easy in any case, now, I get to focus on celebrating the life of the one I love, comforting my children, and getting comfort from God. Forgiveness also gets us out of Gods way. ‘Vengeance is mine says the lord’ – God, as he is perfect and just and loving, knows better then us what vengeance is. Forgiveness also frees and softens our hearts to let him in.
‘But what about the man? Do we let him get away with such horrible crimes? Thats unfair. We deserve recompense, we deserve justice’ – our hearts cry.
There is a difference between forgiveness and pardon.
Under law in most countries on the planet, rape and murder is looked down upon. The justice systems have punishments in place for those who choose to break said laws. As a justice department they have the authority and the systems in place to decide judgement or pardon. Pardon is the responsibility of communal authority. The state, the courts, the elders. And then ultimately God. God is the ultimate authority of pardon and judgement.
Forgiveness is personal. Forgiveness is between us and those who have wronged us and God calls us to forgive everyone so that He can forgive us. But God doesn’t call us to pardon sin. That’s his job. We can trust his judgement because it is perfect and eternal.
Forgive all. Pardon Some. Love eternal.
Our hearts have enough to process with disappointments, brokeness and jealousies from every day life to attempt to add decisions that are ordained for higher authority or God Himself.