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Our forgiveness does not change the world’s justice, and it does not change God’s justice.  Forgiveness is laying down the right we think we have to judge the offender, and turning it over to God, letting Him be the Judge and letting Him deal with the other person.

Before we can explore the godly response to forgiving the unforgiveable, we have to understand God’s instruction for the worldly authority to deal with sin.  The real issue is who has the right and authority to judge the evil acts of man.

Romans 12:19  Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that the righteous anger of God.  For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD.

God makes it clear that He does not want people seeking personal retaliation and revenge.  He does not give us the right to take things into our own hands.  He has given us standards and ordained governing authorities to administer justice.  His intent is that those governing authorities provide impartial judgment according to God’s standards of law.

Romans 13:1, 4a  Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. … The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good.

Does this God ordained system ever fail?  Of course it does!  It is made up of sinful people, MANY of whom who completely reject God and His authority.  They are not following His ways or judging according to His standards, either because of ignorance, or because of willful denial of God’s authority.

However, those authorities are completely accountable to God, and He will deal with them in His way and in His time.  Thankfully, no matter who sits in authority, God is sovereign.  He is still completely and fully in control.  God will use their decisions for His purposes, and He promises to use them for the good of those who follow Jesus Christ.

Romans 8:28  And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Even when the authorities over us fail, God still commands us to respect and obey them.

Romans 13:2  So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.

God also instructs us to pray for them.

1 Timothy 2:1-2  I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.  Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. 

None of those affected by the Ohio school shooting had the right to personally take revenge on T.J. Lane for what he did.  A judge had the responsibility  of administering justice on behalf of the victims and their families.  T.J. Lane was found guilty for the crimes he committed, and he was sentenced to serve 3 life sentences in prison.  The legal system judged Lane, and he is now paying his debt.  According to the governing authorities, justice has been served.

LIE:  FORGIVENESS EXCUSES THE WRONG

It is easy to fall for the deception that forgiveness somehow excuses the wrong that was committed, and surrenders justice.

TRUTH:  FORGIVENESS DOES NOT EXCUSE THE SIN

Our forgiveness in NO WAY minimizes, excuses or condones the sin of the guilty person.  Forgiving someone doesn’t mean we must pretend that what they did never happened, or didn’t do terrible damage.  Our forgiveness does not eliminate their responsibility for their sin.  We do not have the authority to forgive SIN!  Only God does.

How did Jesus respond when He was treated unfairly?

1 Peter 2:23  He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when He was insulted, nor threaten revenge when He suffered. He left His case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.

Jesus didn’t retaliate when He was wrongly humiliated, tortured and crucified.  He left the judgment of the people who sinned against Him to God the Father.  He TRUSTED that God WOULD judge with perfect justice.

Not only that, Jesus prayed for God’s forgiveness of His enemies who tortured and crucified Him.

Luke 23:34a  Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

He pleaded for God’s mercy for them, and that is our example of how we are to live.

TRUTH:  NOTHING CAN PREVENT GOD’S PERFECT JUSTICE

Why is T.J. Lane’s lack of remorse over the evil that he did so offensive to us?  Because when someone breaks God’s laws, we understand that there is a debt to justice.  We want that debt to be paid and justice to be restored.

Hebrews 10:16  “This is the new covenant I will make with My people on that day, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”

The world’s version of justice sentenced Lane to life in prison.  But is that really enough?  Is justice really fully restored and complete?  What about the families of those who were killed?  What about Nick, who will never walk again?

The judgment of the world’s authorities is at best a flawed picture of the ultimate, perfect and divine justice of God.

The world’s judgment can and does fail.  If the legal system found Lane to be innocent, he would have been released.  From the world’s viewpoint, there would have been NO debt for him to pay.  But praise God, the world’s judgment is NOT the final authority!

Psalm 33:13  The LORD looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race.
Psalm 7:11  God is an honest judge.  He is angry with the wicked every day.
Job 34:12  Truly, God will not do wrong.  The Almighty will not twist justice.
Psalm 11:4-7  But the LORD is in His holy Temple; the LORD still rules from heaven. He watches everyone closely, examining every person on earth. The LORD examines both the righteous and the wicked. He hates those who love violence.  He will rain down blazing coals and burning sulfur on the wicked, punishing them with scorching winds.  For the righteous LORD loves justice. The virtuous will see His face.
Hebrews 4:13  Nothing in all creation is hidden from God.  Everything is naked and exposed before His eyes, and He is the One to whom we are all accountable.

ALL of the deeds of every individual person will be brought before a Holy God.  God’s own PERFECT justice WILL be administered, and it will never fail or fall short.

T.J. Lane will stand before a Holy and Righteous God, and the REAL and FINAL judgment will take place.  There will be no misinformation, no lies, no deceptions.  Nothing but facts.  Anything that has been hidden will be fully revealed.

Psalm 44:21b  …He knows the secrets of every heart.

There is no chance that God’s final judgment will be flawed or unfair in any way.  His judgment is perfect and His justice is complete.  T.J. Lane will be held fully accountable for his actions, and so will each one of us!

TRUTH:  THE DEBT WILL BE PAID

EVERY debt to God’s perfect justice WILL BE paid in full.  There are NO EXCEPTIONS.

There are only two options for payment for sin.

  • For those who don’t know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, they will pay their debt themselves by spending eternity in hell, forever separated from the God they have rejected.
  • For those who DO know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, He has ALREADY paid the debt, IN FULL, by His substitutionary death on the cross, dying in their place and satisfying the payment for their debt.

But either way, the debt WILL BE PAID IN FULL for each and every sin every committed.  God’s justice will be perfectly fulfilled.

Forgiveness is really trusting God’s promise that He will make everything right.  Forgiveness releases the offense and the offender into the hands of a Holy God.

Our forgiveness of others is a display of the GRACE of God to everyone who sees it.

Forgiveness is act of OBEDIENCE to God,
a display of TRUST in God,
and an act of SACRIFICE and WORSHIP to a Holy God.

T.J. Lane would have been arrested and tried in court, whether the victims forgave him or not.  He will live the rest of his life in prison and eventually die there, whether the victims forgave him or not.  He will stand before God for his final judgment, whether the victims forgave him or not.

Our forgiveness does not change the world’s justice, and it does not change God’s justice.  Forgiveness is laying down the right we think we have to judge the offender, and turning it over to God, letting Him be the Judge and letting Him deal with the other person.