SARALAND, Ala. (WKRG) — It’s Faith Time, our weekly conversation on matters of faith. The New year may be a good time for forgiveness and grace. This morning we have Pastor David Roach with Shiloh Baptist Church in Saraland. We talk about the difference between forgiveness and accountability—starting with forgiveness.
Guest: Forgiveness is not holding someone’s offense against them in the context of your personal relationship. Accountability is taking steps to help ensure the offense won’t be repeated. It’s possible to have either without the other, but it’s not healthy to have one without the other. Forgiveness without accountability sets up a repeat offense. Accountability without forgiveness leads to bitter hearts and broken relationships.
Anchor: Why is forgiveness sometimes hard?
Forgiveness can be hard because we worry it may cause those who hurt us not to receive the justice they deserve. A classic biblical example of refusing to forgive is the Old Testament prophet, Jonah. God told him to travel to Nineveh and tell the people there to repent. Jonah refuses at first and runs away from Nineveh. We all know the story about how he’s swallowed by a great fish. But a lesser-known part of the story comes in Jonah 4 when he tells God why he ran away initially rather than go to Nineveh. Jonah says, “That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” In other words, Jonah hated the people of Nineveh, and he hated the idea of their being absolved from blame.
We can be like that at times. We hold such animosity toward people who have wronged us that we almost can’t bear the thought of not holding the offense against them.
Anchor: How does one forgive while also ensuring justice?
Guest: To forgive is not to say, “I give up on justice being done in this situation.” We forgive because we trust God to bring justice. Sometimes justice comes through the government. If someone has committed a crime against you, you should forgive them and also report it to the police. In other cases, we forgive and report the offense to some other appropriate authority.
Ultimately, however, we forgive because we trust God to bring justice. If the person who wronged you is a follower of Jesus, He bore the just penalty for that sin when He died on the cross. Second Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” If the person who wronged you never comes to faith in Jesus, the Bible says they will be punished for their sins forever in a place called hell.
God will bring justice for the offense against you—either through the cross or through eternal punishment in hell. Because God will deal with sin so thoroughly, we can forgive without worrying justice will be thwarted.