Q&A: Forgiveness vs. Resistance

Forgiveness vs. Resistance

Question

If we forgive but resist whom we forgive, what have we forgiven? We haven't forgiven the person, but only the first crime. If God stopped fogiving after the first crime and then began to resist us, we'd be dead or in hell by now. So we forgive and keep forgiving until the crimes stop coming, then we both will have been forgiven.

Answer

With regard to God's stance on forgiveness vs. resistance, I would argue that God does in fact resist our sin. He does this by changing our hearts and by working in us both to will and to do according to his good pleasure (Phil. 2:13). He does not let our sin run wild, but he restrains us (e.g. 2 Pet. 2:15-16). Also, he can both forgive and judge/resist in the same action, such as in the death of David's son (2 Sam. 12:13-14). Resistance of sin can often be a loving act toward the one you resist, which is why the Bible compares the sometimes violent discipline God doles out against his children as loving discipline like that a father inflicts on his children (Heb. 12; Rev. 3:19). God forgives, and he resists and disciplines with force. Further, the Bible specifically says that at least some human discipline (spanking, etc.) is an act of love (Prov. 13:24; Heb. 12:6). I would add that no loving parent would ever let his or her two-year-old child play on the freeway just because the child wanted to. Parents must resist their children's sin, and they must do so forcefully at times -- this is how they biblically demonstrate love.

In the same way, resisting the sins of adults and those who are not our children may be quite a loving thing to do. It can correct them, and exhort them to repent. It can also reduce the amount of sin they store up for the day of judgment, thereby reducing their eternal torment if they are not saved. If they are saved, it can aid in their sanctification, their pursuit of righteousness and holiness. If this were not so, then no discipline would ever be good. However, just as Paul instructed believers to discipline adult believers (1 Cor. 5:3,12-13; 2 Thess. 3:14-15), and just as God disciplines adults (Heb. 12), it can be good and loving for us to resist those who do evil. This is why God says it is loving to obey his Law, even when that Law demands certain violent or forceful action.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.