18th Century British Poet Alexander Pope
“To err is human; to forgive is divine.” Alexander Pope was making a sage observation which would comport well with a general perspective from Scripture. Let’s parse this phrase just a little. We know from Scripture that all men are sinners (erring in the way of God’s law). Nobody, save a few of the most hardened leftists, would deny the truth of man being less than perfect. God exhorts (commands) “…be perfect as I am…” Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world (not all sinners as Paul declares in his doctrine of election), and in so doing, provided our justification before God. Our justification amounts to “Divine” forgiveness of our sins, and therefore providing us with eternal life in Heaven with our LORD.
So, forgiveness is Divine, and God commands us in Luke 18:15-17 if our “brother” (a fellow Christian) sins against us and “repents”, then forgive him (that’s divinely inspired forgiveness – not “inspired” itself). If he does not “repent”, then it becomes a matter of severity of the offense and the conscience of the potential forgiver as to how to go about dealing with the situation and could lead to excommunication from church (the body of Christ), shunning (isolation), rebuke, restitution, or forgiveness with no repentance (“love covers a multitude of sins”). But, what about forgiving a non-brother (unbeliever) if he sins against you? Now a real conundrum presents itself to the believer. Christians, the church, and church government have no authority over unbelievers throughout most of the world. The United States is the one true exception because our Constitution is based upon Presbyterian/Congregationalist interpretations of Scripture and it’s proper Biblical application to civil government.
For example, in America, we have an appellate court system in the event that an improper or unjust decision is made in a lower court. At one point, and to a significant extent still, Americans enjoy the benefits of private property although it is much infringed upon these days; they also enjoy the right of self-defense, also being infringed upon, and freedom of religious belief and speech – although, again there are infringements upon that, and Mayor Bill DeBlasio of New York City has actually threatened to “permanently” shut down churches if they don’t voluntarily stop meeting “temporarily”! There are many other things that Americans enjoy apart from the rest of the world, and they are derived from Scripture and not chance.
So, when our unbelieving, atheistic, Socialistic, Communistic, Fascistic leaders do things against us, do we forgive them? Under the stated principles of the Declaration of Independence, and the laws of the Constitution, we have a way to redress our grievances peacefully, honorably and Biblically, and if it cannot be done peacefully, then we have from our founding fathers an exhortation to rebel. So, within the civil body politic, we have first forgiveness, second, vote out of office or impeach, third the court system, and fourth rebellion. Within the context of rebellion, we have firstly, speaking out, secondly, non-cooperation, and thirdly armed rebellion which is the absolute last choice, and which a tyrannical (unbelieving government) may force upon the believers in Christ.
It should be duly noted that Christ was not a wimp, and He never denied the relevance and applicability of the Mosaic law (save the ceremonial/sacrificial/dietary laws which were abrogated subsequent to His crucifixion and resurrection). His highest praise was reserved for a Roman centurion for such faith which Christ had “not seen anywhere in all Israel”. The Ten Commandments were referred to numerous times by Christ and in the New Testament. Christ says in Scripture that He did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it, and He did so perfectly and without sin – He is our guide and example. St. Paul succinctly points out man’s sin in general in the book of Romans 3:10-18.
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