There is a problem with forgiveness. Sometimes, it isn’t just to forgive. Some evils do not deserve forgiveness. As you read this, you may think I am just trying to grab your attention with a shocking statement, but I am not. Evil demands justice, and if there is no room for justice, there is no room for forgiveness. Before you dismiss me as a heretic, hang with me.
I lived in Rwanda when the 1994 genocide took place. Many people don’t know that the conflict didn’t start that year. Instead, it began several hundred years before when one of the tribes overthrew the other violently. They would chop the leaders off at the knee in front of their families to belittle them. See, height was considered a sign of leadership. Then children of that generation grew up and eventually retaliated against the tribe who had so brutally murdered their parents. It is difficult to imagine such violence, and it simply isn’t okay if we simply forgive.
Child slavery, rape, and the abuse of the helpless are evils that cause us to feel a wave of just anger at those who perform such acts of wickedness. That feeling isn’t wrong; it is a feeling that agrees that this world is broken and it’s not supposed to include such evils. So what do we do with passages that call us to forgive? The answer is we give the weapon of justice to God. Romans 12:19 says, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
We are not wise enough to weigh the world’s evils in balance and determine when and where justice should be served. Instead, we give our anger and suffering to God to deal with justly. He then does so perfectly because the death of Jesus on the cross is the ultimate act of justice against evil. When we give God the sword of justice, we are free to forgive fully.
There has been significant healing and forgiveness in Rwanda since 1994, but it was not through an attempt to sweep the injustice under the rug. Instead, the Rwandan church has learned to give God the weapon of justice and trust in his hands. Only then can true forgiveness happen.
Do you have someone who has hurt you? It is not wrong to feel that hurt. Today, take a moment to offer those feelings to God. Feel free to vent your pain to him and ask for his justice. Once you are done, leave the sword of justice in his hand to wield when and if he chooses, even if he already has on the cross for the one who has offended you.