Forgive ’em When They’ve Been Hanged
Bible Text: Psalm 130:3-4 | Speaker: Dr. Harold J. Sala | Series: Guidelines For Living | If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. Psalm 130:3-4
“One must forgive one’s enemies,” said Sigmund Freud, “but not before they have been hanged.” Such graciousness! Anyone who adopts that attitude must hope never to have enemies himself, for the person who cannot forgive burns the bridge over which he himself must someday certainly pass.
Some things are difficult, perhaps almost impossible to forgive without God’s help, but His help is there. Have you ever thought much, though, about what would be the consequences if God adopted the same attitude towards us? Like Freud, we think, “I’ll never forgive that [whatever you choose to call the person] as long as he lives!” We mean it, too! And that is exactly why some people honestly feel that God can never forgive them. They are convinced that God treats us the same way we often treat each other.
How about it? Does He? Or was the author of Psalms right when he wrote, “If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared” (Psalm 130:3-4). Will God forgive anything? I mean, is there any sin so great that He says, “I’ll never forgive you”?
In pondering this issue, let’s take a look at three words which dealt with varying degrees or issues of wrongdoing. In the Old Testament, several words were used which described human failure. The first word, “transgression,” was a word that dealt with the intention and purpose to do wrong. The act of wrongdoing was usually premeditated. A person did something–a theft, a murder, a sexual relationship with his neighbor’s wife, even stealing a piece of fruit in the market–and the word signifies rebellion against authority. A refusal to stay within the boundaries of what is right. This is the attitude of sin. It is a reflection of deliberate wrongdoing when the person knows better than he or she does.
The second word, “iniquity,” referred to the act of sin itself. The base meaning of the word suggests something that is twisted, crooked, or untrue. Eventually it described a lack of conformity to what was right. Attitudes that are wrong eventually are played out in acts of wrongdoing. Every injustice, every sinful deed, begins with a thought, and that thought eventually is embodied in an act which you strive to justify.
The third word, “sin,” is the one which is most commonly used in the Old Testament, and this word meant “missing the mark” as an arrow that has fallen short of its target. It meant “deviating from the right path,” as would happen when a person comes to a fork in the road. He hesitates with uncertainty and then takes the wrong turn in the road. It may be an innocent mistake, yet no justification can excuse the fact that he took the wrong road.
Do you remember how David, in a moment of weakness, yielded to the flesh? Because he was the king and very powerful, he justified his wrongdoing and took Bathsheba, when she was the wife of another man. David used all three words in describing what he had done–transgression, iniquity, and sin! He openly and candidly admitted his moral failure, and then sought and found the forgiveness of God.
Is there any sin which God will not forgive? David was guilty of murder, of adultery, and the abuse of authority, yet God forgave him.
As David himself said, “You are kind and forgiving, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you” (Psalm 86:5). Thank God He is more gracious to forgive than we are. Think about it.
Resource reading: Psalm 86