Street Smart Forgiveness
John Lennon wanted us to imagine no heaven, no hell, and no religion too. Then we'd all be “living life in peace." But even the demons know that hell exists, and they are terrified of it (Matthew 8:28-29, James 2:19). Of course they don't think it's fair and expect their crimes to be forgiven (see Universalism and Narcissism). But if that doesn't work, at least they can drag most of us into hell with them (1 Peter 5:8). So when Lennon sang "We hope some day you will join us" he was singing along with ancient heretics, demons and the devil himself (see The Devil's Redemption). You hear that tune everywhere you go these days, and it's in the hymnals of many churches, but you'd be smart to question what it's really saying.
Not so long ago, someone with a good and honest heart was called a "God-Fearing Man" or "God-Fearing Woman" (see The Beginning of Knowledge). You could trust that person not to lie or cheat because they believed they would never get away with it in the end (Galatians 6:7). But lately, people tend to believe they will be forgiven no matter what they do - it's called Universalism. "There is no fear of God before their eyes" (Romans 3:18), so why shouldn’t they do whatever they want to you and have a laugh? Universalism is very old but was never widely accepted. But bestsellers like Love Wins changed all that, promising a new age of love. Instead, we got a twisted “New Normal” love grown cold (Matthew 24:11-12).
They talk about love and act like angels (2 Corinthians 11:14), but their love is not the love in the Bible, nor is it in any dictionary. Their words seem to glow, but that's just gaslight. Ancient Gnostic ideas and radical philosophers actually encourage them to be deceitful and hide their true motives, literally giving them the right to make you their slave and commit genocide (see Nietzsche, Narcissist, Nazi). They say their love is better than God’s, since they get the freedom they think they deserve (1 Peter 2:1-22).
Sunday morning TV is full of scammers. But at least they call themselves Christian, so anyone that bothers to read the Bible will see if what they say is true or not (e.g. Acts 17:10-12). On the other hand, almost all Universalists dismiss the Bible,1 drawing freely from a mixed-bag of philosophies, pop psychologies, fake scrolls, visions, out-of-body experiences, metaphysics, and weird religions like Satanism and Gnosticism:
One does not become a universalist without a thorough rethinking of received Christian ideas regarding God, Christ, the self, and the nature of salvation. In ancient times, the issue of divine justice or injustice lay at the heart of the “metaphysical rebellion” that occurred in ancient gnosis. Gnosticism was a radical rejection of the world as it appears to us and an imaginative [reconstruction] of reality. This rebellion against the status quo, and the Judeo-Christian God, gave rise for the first time to the teaching on universal salvation [ibid 2.3]. Gnostic writers developed elaborate mythologies of alternate universes, invisible to the unaided eye. — Dr. Michael McClymond, The Devil’s Redemption: A New History And Interpretation of Christian Universalism.
Let's keep it real. Sadly, there really are Takers in this world (see Selfish vs. Social). It used to be they often felt some deep-down understanding that what they were doing was wrong. But Universalism frees them from all that. Now they can see their role as a perfectly acceptable life choice (see Universalism and Narcissism). The Giver’s role is to provide whatever is needed and help everyone escape any consequences. But if the Givers complain, they deserve to get labeled unforgiving and un-Christian hypocrites (e.g. Matthew 6:14-15 misapplied). So it's a Win-Win for the Takers. They get to cheat the Givers, and get a laugh seeing the Christians struggle to forgive, or condemn them if they don't (see The Sunflower).
It is not going to help Universalists to let them take what they want and demand forgiveness, nor does it show Christ-like love to show bullying narcissists you're a door mat and a punching bag.2 Some preachers say we should forgive anyone anything immediately, but they make exceptions to their rules, so that a wife does not have to forgive the abusive husband by staying with him. At other times, preachers say the wife must stay, forgive unconditionally, and take the abuse, expecting that it will convert her husband. Neither of these approaches are Biblical (see Biblical Forgiveness).3
The Bible pulls the mask off of these conflicts. It helps us identify the elephant in the room, what gets swept under the rug, and who keeps playing with the Gaslight. When we apply forgiveness with Christian principles, we make clear that unloving behavior will not be ignored — if not in this world, then certainly not in the next (Matthew 18:15-17). Those of us that follow Christianity don't take the very big risk of being wrong. Because there is a hell (make no mistake, Christ spent a lot of time warning people about hell, e.g. Mark 9:43-48), we act Christ-like when we help people stay out of it. We can't reach sinners if they think they already know what we know, have moved far beyond it, and now have the right to play us (see Nietzsche, Narcissist, Nazi).
While we are here in this world, this process leaves a lot of unforgiven sin, but we don't need to be Sin Inspectors. What are we supposed to do? First,
Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written: “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. Romans 12:19
We may not see God’s justice for the wicked in this lifetime (Job 21:7). In fact, God wants us to love our enemies (Psalm 35:11-17, Matthew 5:44). The Psalms have not forgotten the terrible things that happen in this world, and they cry out to God for the power of the wicked to be broken (Psalm 58:6). Like the Psalmist, we can feel some relief that our Father will certainly bring that offender to justice: "Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked" (Psalm 73:17). In heaven, the martyrs appeal to God for justice and get rewarded (Revelation 6:9-11). If something terrible happens to you, have the faith to know that God will deal with those responsible. What a powerful witness it is to remind everyone that the victim has no need for revenge (Proverbs 22:8, Galatians 6:7).4
So we should hold grudges when people refuse to repent? Not at all. The Bible says we should treat them like they have abandoned Christian morals and become a grifter (Matthew 18:17). But don’t be surprised if they insist they are Christian (see the difference between judgement and discernment in Matthew 7:1-6, 13-27). How did Jesus treat them? He loved them (Matthew 5:43-48), "But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew human nature. No one needed to tell him what mankind is really like" (John 2:24-25).
Universalist preachers take the God-Fearing and throw them under the bus, so the God-Fearless can rule over them. Watch out when a Universalist says they love you, because their love is not like love in the Bible. Universalists say their love is better than God’s, since they forgive the evil people that have done whatever they wanted to you.
The Word says “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6a). The knowledge He wants us to know is no secret. It's right there in the Bible, simple as John 3:16
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. — John 3:16
But Jesus doesn't stop there.
For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him. The one who believes in Him is not judged; the one who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the Light; for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light, so that his deeds will not be exposed. But the one who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds will be revealed as having been performed in God.” — John 3:17-21
Believe it or not, the world has gotten clarity and stability from the Bible for thousands of years. But now that it has been rejected by so many countries, it should be no surprise that strange and shadowy ideas like universal forgiveness are taking over. To be smart out there on the mean streets, just make sure Jesus has your back.
1. There are Universalists that call themselves Christian, but they believe almost none of the Bible, so there are few verses that restrain them (John 5:44-47, John 14:15). They do not have to know their history to understand how people on the street behave, but all of this can be traced back to church leaders. As they take liberties with the Bible, they dismiss God's authority and operate in the shadows, doing whatever is right in their own eyes (Proverbs 3:7, 14:12, 1 John 1:5-10). When priests and preachers think whatever they do is right and all their sins will be forgiven anyway (and are saddened because those that stopped their abuses don’t understand the Secret Knowledge of Gnosticism and Universalism), of course there will be horrifying abuses and scandals in churches.
2. If you are being physically abused, there are programs that can help keep you safe. Call 1−800−799−SAFE(7233). See also Mayo, Maria. The Limits of Forgiveness: Case Studies in the Distortion of a Biblical Ideal. Wipf and Stock Publishers. 2015.
3. See McClymond, Michael. The Devil's Redemption: A New History and Interpretation of Christian Universalism. Baker Academic. 2020. Also see the interview at How Universalism, ‘the Opiate of the Theologians,’ Went Mainstream.
4. Turning the other cheek, going the extra mile (Matthew 5:38-42) and asking for forgiveness for those that murder you (Luke 23:34a, Acts 7:60) are laudable acts, intended to bring sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32). But sinners need to admit there is such a thing as sin (Matthew 5:18). God does not forgive everyone (John 3:16-21, Revelation 22:14-15 etc.), and neither do the saints that are in heaven (Revelation 6:9-11). Justice remains important to almost everyone, and "Vengeance is mine" (Romans 12:19b) satisfies the moral, psychological, and Old Testament legal response to evil.