Forgiving Tom, Dick and Harry

by Lonnie Lane 

 

The most emails I’ve received in response to my articles have had to do with the issue of forgiveness. One lady from India, for instance, wrote a while back asking how to forgive her Hindu mother-in-law for how she’s been treated by her. Her dilemma brought to the surface the overcoming forgiveness of Yeshua in comparison to other “religions.” Religions don’t bring you the love of God, only through Yeshua can one find saving release from sin or sinful attitudes.

Several more questions about forgiveness were posed in a fairly extensive email last week.

The first question was labeled: “The Problem of ‘Love Thy Neighbor.’” The writer went on to say, “…Although all souls belong to God, not all souls are reachable by (God’s) Goodness” … Should I forgive every Tom, Dick or Harry if Harry could be a genuine demon, Tom could be a kid killer or pedophile, or Dick could be an enemy of Christ's (anti-Christ). Surely I'm not supposed to love Every body walking the earth, am I?”

Here’s the way I see it. When Yeshua told Peter he was to forgive his brother seventy times seven, that is to say an unlimited number of times, it didn’t matter what the offense was or how bad it might have been. . It may bring up the questions, Who is my brother? Or, is a brother only a fellow believer in Yeshua? In which case forgiveness is granted by Yeshua and we extend what’s already been given to him. If it means any fellow human being and not just a believer, it still means that Yeshua forgave him. “He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). He may not have accepted His forgiveness yet. The love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13, says, “Love…. bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (:7). We’ve all heard enough testimonies to know that God takes the worst and reveals His saving power by transforming that person into someone Christ-like when they realize their sin and how much they need God’s forgiveness, and turn their lives over to Him. 

I was once called to jury duty on a case in which the defendant had already been found guilty of murder. This case was to decide if he was to be given life in prison or the electric chair. As the court wanted no one on the jury who was already biased one way or the other, but people who could hear the case for its own merits and make an unbiased decision. I could not swear to being neutral. I was called up to the judges bench where they attempted to get me to a neutral position, but my position was immovable that life and death is in the Hand of the Lord and so I would not vote for the man’s death. Needless to say, I was dismissed from serving on the jury. 

When you look at it this way, whatever horrible atrocity he or she may have committed, if I am to honor the Lord’s death for all persons, then I cannot draw a line at what I personally deem unforgivable. Do I have any right to withhold forgiveness from anyone when God through His Son’s atoning death has already forgiven him? That would mean I had set my standard higher than God’s. That unforgiveness puts me in a very precarious place with God! If I’ve not believed that person was worthy of the forgiveness God offers, then I am taking the place of an unbeliever because I had not believed that Yeshua’s blood was sufficient to cover that person’s sin. My position would be contrary to what the Word of God says.

There is the story of one particularly well-known man of God who has either been to heaven numerous times or has had visions of things God wanted Him to know of things in heaven. His writings have impacted thousands on related topics. While in heaven, he met a man whom he said was the last man in the world he would ever have expected to find in heaven. He asked him how it is that he was allowed into heaven, shocked that he of all persons was there. The man replied that at the end of his life he realized the depth of his sin against God and repented, crying out for mercy. The mercy was extended to him by the Great Grace of God. I have speculated on who would be the very last person he would have expected to be there? The top two on my list would be Hitler and Judas. Who would be your guess? Whoever it was, how different his eternity would have been without the grace of God’s forgiving mercy. If you have any concept of how horrendous hell is, you wouldn’t want anyone – I mean anyone – to go there.

As for forgiving “an enemy of Christ,” or someone with an anti-Christ spirit, the bible is quite clear that, “while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10). Before God drew us to Yeshua, by His grace (always by His grace), we too were of an anti-Christ mentality, not honoring Him as we do now, not obeying Him, not giving glory to Him. Yeshua said, “He who is not with Me is against Me” (Matt.12:30; Luke 11:23). Yet He offers forgiveness to those who realize they were against Him. And again, who is to know at what point someone will come to that realization. We should look at all persons we don’t know the Lord (yet) as pre-saved fellow believers who need to know of His forgiveness. It’ll change how you relate to people and they’ll feel it. And so will you. Where would we each be today if someone had not offered His forgiveness to us?

The next question had to do with demons: If I read the question right, it referred to forgiving demons. The writer of the email seems to mean that a person could be a “genuine demon.” Or they meant someone influenced by a demon. Should they have meant a person is a demon, this can’t be. People and demons are not the same kind of entity. People cannot be demons and demons cannot be people. The same thing is true for angels. I’ve known folks who have believed that people become angels when they die and go to heaven. That is not true. Angels are created beings just as humans are, and it appears in the Bible that angels, and therefore demons, were created before God created mankind. Unlike mankind, demons cannot repent. They once were in God’s presence and knew His authority, glory and power but rebelled against it. There is no forgiveness for demons. A person, on the other hand, can be influenced by a demon, most often because they have used their will to open themselves up to demons through sin, but they can be delivered by repentance, first of all, and by the power of the name of Yeshua by someone who knows how to use the authority of His name to cast out demons to set the person free.

People do horrible things without the knowledge of the consequences to themselves or others. Anyone acting under the influence of a demon is greatly deceived. While it is true that there are some people given over to evil, they too are deceived into thinking that this will get them something they think will be beneficial to them. No one ever benefits from evil. We do reap what we sow, and in the case of sin or evil, if there is true repentance God can turn the judgment to blessings. Remember, God loves everyone, not because of what we do, but because “God IS love” (1 John 4:8, my emphasis). There are some who have sowed demonic curses into their own lives by doing evil unto others, but if they are genuinely repentant, it can be said to them, “The LORD your God turned the curse into a blessing for you because the LORD your God loves you” (Deut 23:5).

The remaining question is a penetrating one: “What is forgiveness?” She writes, “A rabbi once told me, ‘Instant forgiveness can be pretty cheap.’ I believe him to be very right….. I don't think it is even biblical, scriptural, that we are to forgive or love. I'm thinking that as long as my pedophilic neighbor still walks the streets endangering little ones I am not in any hurry to offer them forgiveness - there's just something wrong about it.” Well, Yeshua made it clear we are to hate the sin, love the sinner. I guess the answer is that simple. The thoughts above still apply. There is always room for repentance by the sinner. Not holding bitterness against the person does not condone the sin by any means, but it does turn your demand for justice over to God for His judgment and justice to be done – not yours! One wise woman I know (my daughter) said it this way: “Forgiveness is the decision to take yourself out of the hurt equation.” So even if you’re not the one directly hurt, you still have to turn it over to God and get out of the triangle between you and the person(s) and God. Now, does that mean that we abdicate any responsibility for working toward righting wrongs, or fighting against injustice? No, of course not. For instance, we can forgive those who perpetrate abortions and work toward legislation to end their legality, and still ask God to forgive those who advocate abortion. We can hate persecution but pray for the persecutors. We can abhor different kinds of sins and crimes against humanity but still work tirelessly against them. Forgiveness doesn’t preclude efforts to right the wrongs by any means. Sometimes, forgiveness is the enabling factor to be able to accomplish righting that wrong.

As for what the rabbi had to say, forgiveness isn’t cheap, instant or otherwise. Our Beloved Savior bought it with His life. He paid a price that is more costly than any of us can ever even imagine. No forgiveness is cheap if it is done in His name. We offer it because He offered up Himself. We forgive because we honor Him, not because someone deserves it. In the same way we don’t withhold forgiveness from someone because their crime is, in our eyes, worse than another’s sin we consider worthy of being forgiven because that doesn’t offend us quite so much. All sin is against God, large or small, private or public. And Yeshua died to pay for them all.

One further thought: Some feel that we should not forgive the person until they repent, but Yeshua gave us a great responsibility to forgive. Just after He breathed upon the disciples after rising from the dead, Yeshua told them, “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained" (John 20:23). This is a powerful saying. It would seem that as persons who are filled with the HOLY Spirit of God, the first issue He would have us be aware of is a HOLY one, that of forgiveness. We have the power under the anointing of the Spirit of God to extend the forgiveness He paid for. If we neglect to extend that forgiveness to others, then how will they know they can be forgiven? The advancement of the Kingdom of God was entirely dependent upon those disciples upon whom Yeshua breathed and to whom He gave that commandment. Had they not heeded it, there would be no church even today. We too carry the same commandment, the same responsibility and the same power to forgive in Yeshua’s name. 

 

 Reprint of this article is permitted as long as you use the following; Use by permission by Messianic Vision, www.sidroth.org, 2010. 

 
  

 

Lonnie Lane

For Lonnie's other articles, check out our Exclusive Articles and Resources, especially the section on One New Man.

Lonnie Lane comes from a family of four generations of Jewish believers, being the first one saved in 1975. Lonnie has been in church leadership for many years, and has planted two “one new man” house fellowships, one in Philadelphia suburbs and the other in Jacksonville, Florida, where she now lives near 6 of her 8 grandchildren. Lonnie is the author of “Because They Never Asked” and numerous articles on this website. She has been the Producer of Messianic Vision's radio and TV shows and the International Prayer Co-Coordinator for Messianic Vision's intercessors. Click Here to order Lonnie's book, "Because They Never Asked."

Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif.  All rights reserved. Used by permission.

 

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