For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked 8 (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. – 2 Peter 2:4-10
I have had more than one conversation with people who have been gravely hurt by other people – sometimes people close to them, and with whom they should have been safe. Either by physical or sexual abuse of a trusted relative, or by severe emotional trauma these abused people have a great difficulty with forgiving those who have sinned against them.
Part of that has to do with our false-understanding of forgiveness. Too often we think of forgiveness as a sort of super-overlooking of offense. It’s like when someone is rude to you and you simply overlook the offense rather than trying to take her or him to task. Or when your spouse forgets your birthday or anniversary and you just laugh it off and truly just “let it go.”
Simply to overlook an offense is sometimes a good and right thing to do. But it is not substantial enough to rise to the level of true forgiveness. True forgiveness embraces the hurt, it acknowledges the wrong done as truly wrong, hurtful and destructive. True forgiveness, however, chooses to set aside the wrong for the sake of Christ. True forgiveness recognizes that there is a great price to pay for the sin committed, but that price has been paid by Jesus Christ.
Peter speaks of cosmic events of judgment that cry out for true forgiveness. These acts of angelic rebellion, the evil of men and women at the time of Noah, and the wanton sexual depravity of Sodom and Gomorrah are testimony to the righteous judgement of God against sin, and our desperate need for God’s mercy and forgiveness. For we all sin, and any sin is an affront to God. Make no mistake by trying to hide behind the fig leafs of well at least I didn’t murder anyone excuses. Those fig leaves will never protect you from the scrutiny of God.
We are promised here to be cared for by God in the face of the most horrific injustice and sin. We may fall upon the mercy of God in earnest repentance and hear the word of grace, “Neither do I condemn you, go leave your life of sin” (John 8:1-11). God forgives sin for Jesus’ sake, and those so forgiven will certainly abandon their sinful ways and seek his protection from those who make forgiveness a license to abuse, hurt, take advantage, and indulge in their own self-serving waywardness.
One more thought…Dan Allender and Karen Lee-Thorp have written a book, The Wounded Heart. The book is written for adult survivors of sexual abuse. They make a stunning statement in it that the greatest need of one who has been abused is for forgiveness. I had to read and re-read that thought several times before I could embrace its truth. I highly recommend the book to anyone who has experienced trauma at the hands of others.
Truth be told, however, we all need forgiveness. True forgiveness. Not for God to overlook our offenses, but to forgive them, for the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ who died for the sins of the world. That he has done. We must not be lax about receiving that zgift!