Friday, July 29, 2011

HOW LOVE WINS - Part Seven

God’s Love, Governmental Responsibilities and the Atonement

Does God want to forgive sinners? Consider, Psalm 86:5 which reads, "For Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon Thee." It’s interesting that the Psalmist states that God is ready to forgive. There is an internal willingness of God to extend forgiveness to the guilty. The atonement, then, is not an influence upon God that convinces or prepares Him to be forgiving. God is ready to forgive. There must be something which prevents His readiness, His willingness from becoming actual forgiveness. I would suggest that the love of God inclines Him to promote the improvement of His creation while leading Him to resist its detriment. Therefore, mercy and forgiveness must be exercised wisely to guard against conditions in a given situation getting worse as opposed to better. In many discussions that I’ve had with students upon the topic of the atonement and its relationship to forgiveness, I have noticed a tendency toward careless thinking. An essential concern here relates to the question, “In God’s plan of redemption, do you think He wants to improve or worsen conditions on planet earth and in our lives?” The atonement is a governmental strategy designed to make it possible for God to wisely and righteously pardon the guilty upon the conditions of their repentance and faith without injuring His character or kingdom. Without in depth discussion about Commutative, Retributive and Public Justice, I suggest that God is interested in Public Justice. The love and wisdom of God leads Him to seek means of forgiveness that protects the citizens of His kingdom. I conclude this brief entry with a representation of the difference between Personal Offense and Forgiveness and Governmental Offense and Forgiveness (Pardon).

On a personal level God has overcome the insult and offense (sin) committed against Him. However, as a moral ruler of a moral kingdom, God must deal with the issue of pardon in a wise and responsible manner. Let me illustrate by using a human parallel.

A thief is caught after breaking into a house. He is then brought before a judge for trial. During the proceedings it surfaces that the house he had broken into belonged to the judge he stood before. The judge, being a merciful, just and reasonable man, considered the thief’s situation carefully. Recognizing that the man was driven by desperation to feed his family the judge chose, on the personal level, to forgive the offense committed against him, expressing no bitterness, resentment or vengeance toward the criminal. With the complete dismissal of internal, personal turmoil and resentment the judge handed down a verdict consistent with the laws of the land for, at least, three closely connected reasons. All three reasons rotate around his governmental responsibility to promote public justice. First, as a public servant he had a duty to honor the law for the sake of public interest, knowing that others who were contemplating crime needed to realize that negative consequences do follow illegal activity. Second, it was important to protect his character due to his responsibilities as a judge, communicating to his constituents that he is just. Third, the well-being and protection of those under his care must not be endangered by his merciful disposition or practices. In this example, the judge exercised personal forgiveness but could not extend governmental pardon since there was no way to accomplish the three concerns above. As God faces this dilemma as the Governor and Judge of the human race, the atonement becomes that governmental strategy designed to resolve these challenges.

Ecclesiates 8:11 - "Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil. "

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