I was doing my Bible study this morning, in my Hebrews LABS, and found some of the comments very interesting. They led me off in a slightly different direction from where the study was going. So I wrote down a few quick comments. Now I am coming back to them. This quote started the thought-process:
Forgiveness costs. In order to forgive, our anger must be set aside, and a sacrifice must be made. But we who are hurt must make the sacrifice, not the one who hurts us. If we forgive a debt, it costs us money. If we forgive a wrong, it costs us the satisfaction of seeing justice served. The cost of sin is high.
Now, I have from time-to-time heard people say that God had no “right” to forgive. That the idea of vicarious sacrifice made no sense, that it wasn’t just, that it was contradictory to a just God, etc. The funny thing, in retrospect, is these people want to create a world with a dichotomy that is irreconcilable. They want justice. But personally, they want to be forgiven. We can’t have both without a cost to someone!
The world tells us we should be forgiving, and never tells us how we should do that against a backdrop of justice. I guess it speaks to our desire to be forgiven, but also to find “satisfaction” when we are wronged. We don’t necessarily want to forgive. We certainly don’t want to be the one to pay the penalty when we have wronged someone, to provide them the “satisfaction”.
So we are told to forgive. No reason, and no cost. Just forgive. And my response to that is: it is quite an unjust way to think about it. God didn’t just forgive at no cost. It cost him dearly. We want the forgiveness we offer to cost us nothing – we want the one who wronged us to be the one to pay for it. That isn’t forgiveness the way God envisions it.
Cheap forgiveness is not really forgiveness. If we are to really forgive, we must release the one who has hurt us from our condemnation. That is costly to us as individuals. But it is absolutely necessary as a follower of Christ. The person who suggests that we should just forgive – rape, murder, theft, ingratitude, jealousy, anger, etc. – and never reflects on the cost is a trickster. Absolutely, in every way that we are wronged, we are to forgive. But this is not arbitrary. It is not some flight of fancy. It is an act of submission to God, it is a costly transaction where we refuse to be “human” the way we have always known it. At the cost of forgiveness is the reward of being transformed. And in being transformed, we have the potential to transform everyone around us.
So, God took the initiative as the injured party and forgave at the cost of living as the least of us and dying as one of us. To one who condemns this as unjust or illogical, I can only offer that there then can be no justice if we are to find forgiveness and mercy; there then can be no forgiveness and mercy if we are to be just. Apart from this truth, forgiveness is a worthless endeavor that begs the weak to give in to the powerful and the injured to give in to the aggressor. But this is not forgiveness. It is not a denial of guilt, not just forgetting or ignoring our pain. It is following God’s example and trusting in the power of Christ’s sacrifice. It is restoring relationships, creating life and peace where there is none. And it is worth the cost.