Likewise, I don’t think forgiveness and justice are mutually exclusive. I can forgive someone, and yet still work for justice and restitution as part of the process of reconciliation (which, IMO, should be the goal of justice in the first place - true justice is a reconciliation of relationship and the renewal of respect for the Imago Dei in both parties).
I believe in this distinction between forgiveness and reconciliation quite strongly, because if one’s forgiveness is dependent on the offender's repentance, then we will often remain captive to the pain and bitterness caused by other’s hurtful actions towards us. How can we ever be free from the weight of that if we always have to wait for the other person to repent? Sometimes that’s just never going to happen. Some people will never admit that they did anything wrong. Some people will never say “I’m sorry I hurt you.”
IMHO, the good news is that I can choose to forgive regardless of the other person’s attitude. I can choose to be free of the pain they have inflicted on me, and I don’t have to wait around for an apology that may never come before I can begin the process of healing.
I think it’s the same way with God. He forgives us regardless of our repentance, but reconciliation can’t happen until we choose to turn around and accept that forgiveness and live in a way that reflects justice. However, if God had to wait for us to repent before he could forgive, I think that would mean that our sin, our rebellion, is stronger than his grace and love; and I just don’t think that is the case. God forgives before we repent. As it says in Romans 5:8 "But God demonstrates his love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
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