When forgiveness is wrong
The news today reports the tragic story of a teenage rapist - tragic, that is, for his victims. He raped a seven-year old boy and was tried. The seven-year old's parents - committed Christians - said at his trial that they forgave the boy and wanted his sentence to reflect that. He was given a three-year community order. Eight days later, he raped a five-year old boy whose father says the crime has destroyed the whole family.
We've become familiar with such stories of forgiveness, often the 'forgiveness' of terrorist attackers and often, if not usually, because the victims are Christians. It's hard not to admire the grace of those who offer forgiveness under such circumstances; harder still to criticise them.
But they're wrong. Scripure commands that we are to be perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect. Does our Father in heaven forgive? Yes, of course. Who does he forgive? Those who repent, and only those who repent.
Sin, according to the Bible, must be punished. And it always is punished - either the sinner himself is punished in hell for all eternity, or the Saviour is punished in the sinner's place on Calvary's cross.
Crime, too, according to the Bible, should be punished: the state wields the sword (Romans 13:4) as God's representative for that very purpose. The state has no duty to forgive, and no right to forgive, either, as far as I can see.
When the well-meaning Christian mixes his 'forgiveness' with the weakness of the State in punishment, the innocent are bound to suffer. And the sufferer may only be five years old.
For more on forgiveness, from a truly Biblical perspective, see Chris Brauns' book 'Unpacking Forgiveness'.