A friend challenged me on the idea that everyone is forgiven. I guess this depends on what the word forgiveness means to you. It is mainly because everyone seems to have trouble with God’s viewpoint, that I have concentrated on it from his side of things. Understanding God is the base issue.
If we look at the prodigal son, we find no hint of the father ever holding animosity against his “wayward” son. God is love. Jesus said to love your enemies. It is hard to get away from the thought that God is love, only love, and nothing BUT love.
Yes, forgiveness is a two way street in that it has to be firstly offered and secondly received. And for it to be real forgiveness, it has to firstly be offered with some value, some integrity attached. And for it to be really accepted, it likewise must have a value element attached, so that it is also real and effective. After all, the purpose is that of reconciliation of the two “wounded” parties.
The value element attached in this reconciliation, is the blood of Christ, his loving sacrifice. This is what is offered by the “offended” party (God), and it has been offered “up front”; in other words, the “price” for this reconciliation has been “paid” beforehand. This makes it a genuine offer, and the value attached to it is the suffering and death of his son. This is some serious forgiveness offer! [you would think it would be the offender who had to “make restitution”, not the offended]
So the offending party (us) have to respond to the offer of forgiveness. The only way we can do that is to accept the offer on the terms offered, that is, the acceptance of the offered and highly valued gift. For it to be real and true, the element of its value has to become an integral part of the deal.
For the “offended” party to offer such a gift to the “offender” must surely be evidence of the love that God has for us. Of course he is not offended. You cannot offend love, only grieve it. For the forgiveness transaction to be complete, it has to be accepted on the terms offered, and that really means the reciprocation of love. But grace [which is love] allows for a period whereby the appreciation of the gift can be allowed to grow to fullness. But it must be at least accepted at its prime level, that is, at the level of its prime intention, which is reconciliation.
So great is the gift that it can be recognised and accepted even though its full value may not be realised at the time. So yes it is necessary for the gift to be accepted at some level, and the required minimum level is that it be accepted with the great integrity in which it was offered, so that the integrity of the offerer is recognised. In other words, it must be believed, i.e. taken at face value.
The face value of this gift is that all judgement and penalty for sin has been removed from the offenders account. It is as though you owed a lot of money to someone and they then told you that they had wiped the debt clean. What is of most importance is that they also told you they did this because they loved you. What could be the response to this?
If it is of immense value to you that the situation has been resolved in your favour, but furthermore that it is seen that it cost the one to whom the debt was owed an immense further price in resolving or forgiving it, then not to respond to that reconciliation would be illogical to say the least. Yet illogicality may prevail because of pride, vanity, or the pursuit of earthly “riches”.
So though the sacrifice has been made and the price, cost, of forgiveness paid by one having to come down from heaven and suffer the injury you have caused them, in front of you, impaled on a wooden stake as it were, then to not respond to this means you have other plans in mind. The point being, that you have been freed from your situation (which was hopeless) and you have refused to respond by leaving your deathly situation behind you and moving into that forgiveness which was not only offered, but already enacted, put in place for you. And which reality of is brought into being by simply believing it, by believing in God and who he is and what he has done for you.
This is how you can be forgiven yet still dead. This is how all are forgiven yet only some will rise to the life that this death on his part has provided, THROUGH YOUR RESPONSE TO IT. Which response was to choose death over life. By not believing..
It doesn’t make the forgiveness less real for it not to be taken up, not accepted, on the terms and in the Spirit in which it was offered. The offering of it cannot be undone. It has been offered, It was costly, the debt was huge and the pain of it immense.
So yes, even Hitler could have responded to God’s love. But he did not. Even Hitler was offered forgiveness, was effectively “forgiven” on that cross, but it meant little to him. He had another “value” system he wanted to implement. After all, why accept peace when you can make war? Yet this is the implication for all of us. The prince of peace has made his offer and suffered terribly for it. If we prove that we are strife lovers instead of peace lovers then we will join Hitler, wherever he is.
All sin and its effects have been made null and void, but you can choose to remain in those effects if you want to, you can choose to disregard the fact of them being voided, in fact this is the only time you truly get to exercise a free choice, because prior to this your will was enslaved to the human nature in which you were born. By choosing poorly you only prove you prefer enslavement to freedom. No doubt, at some point in time, Hitler also made his choice.
[PURE THEORY a further thought extension might be that God literally removes the permanency of all sin’s consequences during the grace period so that men might find him, at the end of which time whatever the reality is, it becomes permanent.]