What Does the Bible Teach About Forgiving Murderers?
Forgiveness is an essential part of the Christian faith. The Bible teaches that we should forgive those who wrong us, even if they commit terrible crimes like murder. However, forgiving someone who has taken another person's life can be extremely difficult, and many people struggle with the concept. In this article, we will explore what the Bible says about forgiving murderers.
Forgiveness is a Commandment
One of the most important things to understand about forgiveness is that it is not optional. Jesus taught his disciples to forgive others, no matter what they have done:
"For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." - Matthew 6:14-15
This passage from the Sermon on the Mount is clear: if we refuse to forgive others, God will not forgive us. This means that forgiveness is not just a suggestion or a nice thing to do, but an essential part of our faith.
The Example of Jesus
Another important aspect of forgiveness is that it is modeled for us by Jesus himself. When he was on the cross, he forgave the soldiers who were crucifying him:
Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." - Luke 23:34
Jesus' forgiveness was not just for minor offenses - he forgave those who were actively killing him. This shows us that forgiveness is possible in even the most extreme circumstances.
Forgiveness Does Not Mean Ignoring Justice
One common misconception about forgiveness is that it means we should ignore the legal consequences of someone's actions. However, this is not the case. Forgiveness and justice can coexist, and in fact, they should. The Bible teaches that governments have the responsibility to punish wrongdoers:
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God's servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer." - Romans 13:1-4
According to this passage, governments are established by God to maintain order and punish those who break the law. This means that we can forgive someone for their actions, but still support legal consequences for what they have done.
Forgiveness is Good for Us
Finally, it's important to remember that forgiveness is not just good for the person we are forgiving - it's good for us as well. Holding onto anger and bitterness can be incredibly damaging to our mental and physical health. Forgiveness, on the other hand, can bring us peace and healing:
"Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." - Ephesians 4:31-32
In this passage, Paul encourages us to let go of negative emotions and replace them with kindness and forgiveness. This can be a difficult process, but it is worth it for the sake of our own well-being.
In conclusion, the Bible teaches us that we should forgive murderers and other wrongdoers, no matter how difficult it may be. Forgiveness is not optional - it is a commandment from God. We can look to the example of Jesus, who forgave even those who were killing him. Forgiveness does not mean ignoring justice - governments have a responsibility to punish wrongdoers. Finally, forgiveness is good for our own mental and physical health. By choosing to forgive, we can experience peace and healing.