When does a Christian no longer have to forgive? Does forgiveness end with the dead; or does death put forgiveness on hiatus? Every follower of Christ is obligated to forgive those who live–but how much more those who have passed? Where does forgiveness stop–does it ever? Do we forgive only those who ask to be forgiven?
“He [God] is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living.” (Mark 12:27) We know that the dead in Christ shall rise in the first resurrection, and the rest of the dead shall rise–some to everlasting life and some to everlasting contempt–after the thousand year millennia rule. (1 Thessalonians 4:16 & Revelation 20:4-6; John 5:28-29; Daniel 12:2) So then, shouldn’t a Christian forgive even those who now sleep in Christ. After all, death is only a break between existence; they will rise again.
Despite doctrinal differences amongst various denominations who believe the dead ascend into heaven, this author fervently states this is just not true. But the topic of ascending into heaven after death is for another time. The truth of the matter is that the dead know nothing; the dead cannot repent and therefore one in the grave cannot apologize for their crimes. (Isaiah 38:18; Psalm 115:17; Ecclesiastes 3:20-21; Ecclesiastes 9:5)
Yet, Christ forgave the whole world. He forgave those who did not ask for forgiveness, and he forgave those who had not yet been born. (1 John 2:2; Luke 23:34) Time did not apply when He forgave us. If the whole world, present and future was forgiven then how much more the past? After all, “Before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58)
There is a saying, “Love keeps no record of wrongs”, and is usually attributed to 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Yet, how fascinating it is that mankind has every crime against humanity cataloged, alphabetized, and indexed.
For example: back in June of 2014, an Alabama ministry quoted Adolf Hitler on a billboard. The quote–originally spoken in a 1935 speech promoting the Nazi Youth Movement–read, “He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.” Following the quote was the bible verse, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he shall not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) The billboard was covered up within a few days because the billboard was found to be offensive, disturbing, and confusing simply because it featured the brutal Nazi dictator. The ministry that promoted the sign, stated they should have picked Herbert Hoover’s quote: “Children are our most valuable resource.”
Interestingly, if someone else had made the quote, no one would have found it offensive or disturbing. There is nothing inherently evil with what Hitler said when taken as it is, and it does pair with the bible verse fairly well. But people have not forgotten the Nazi atrocities and, quite obviously, they have not forgiven them either. Mankind attempts to blot out the faces of past despots, yet they can’t seem to blot out their sins through forgiveness.
Also, in current events, there is controversy over the confederate flag being a symbol of “slavery and oppression”, while others assert the flag’s origins came from states’ rights. Regardless of the symbolism one attributes to the Stars and Bars, this controversy is yet another glimpse into the bitter-hatred that plagues the hearts of men.
Slavery was abolished 152 years ago, and by 1968 civil rights for African Americans was fully implemented. The modern world has gone head-over-heels in regards to equality–equality for all races, all genders, all religions (or at least most), all orientations, and yet a 152 year old skeleton has been dragged out of the closet. Seems the world cannot be content with what they have NOW and have to emphasis on what their ancestors didn’t have back then.
Philippians 4:11 “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”
The following excerpt from an article ‘How Anger Works’ from the website, How Stuff Works.
“Chronically angry people. . .may not produce acetylcholine, a hormone which tempers the more severe effects of adrenaline. Their nervous system is constantly working and can eventually become overexerted, leading to a weakened heart and stiffer arteries. There’s potential for liver and kidney damage, as well as high cholesterol. Anger may bring along some accompanying issues, such as depression or anxiety .
“Anger’s physical side effects explain why you frequently see studies about the damage that this emotion can do to our bodies. In one study of almost 13,000 subjects, individuals with the highest levels of anger had twice the risk of coronary artery disease and three times the risk of heart attack, as compared to the subjects with the lowest levels of anger. Some scientists think that chronic anger may be more dangerous than smoking and obesity as a factor that will contribute to early death.
The world is perpetually angry, and the world is full of hatred–but no wonder, for Satan is the ruler of this world and he broadcasts such feelings to the masses. (John 12:31; Ephesians 6:12)
Lack of forgiveness gives birth to bitterness, hatred, anger, envy, covetousness and other such sins, which in turn can cause physical damage. You cannot overcome hatred without forgiveness, and without forgiveness you have no place in the Kingdom of God nor does eternal life abide in you.
“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, HATRED, variance, emulations, wrath, STRIFE, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Galatians 5:19-21
“Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” (1 John. 3:15).
As Christians, we should be wise as serpents, but harmless as doves. (Matthew 10:16) The study of history, is in no way discouraged by this author, in fact understanding the intricacies of world events past and present can help one prepare for the future, “for a prudent man foresees evil and hides himself”. (Proverbs 27:12) But remember one thing when confronted with the hideousness of war or the faces of wicked rulers: they don’t–or didn’t–know what they were doing. For Satan deceives the whole world. (Revelation 12:9)
All have been deceived. In one way and at one time or another, we all have sinned, and we all fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8) Whether you’re a brutal Nazi dictator, a civil war slave owner, or a 21st century Christian who views themselves guiltless–remember that no one is better than another; no one is more righteous than another. “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” Isaiah 64:6 “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Isaiah 1:18
It’s never too late to forgive, because forgiveness is timeless. It’s not applicable only to the living or to those who ask for it, but a Christian forgives all. The known and the unknown; the dead and those who live. If we are to imitate Christ then we are obligated to forgive the whole world, past, present, and future.
“Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” (Colossians 3:13)