The Bible teaches that “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God took on human flesh (John 1:14, Philippians 2:5-8), and died a bloody, slow, torturous death on the cross to atone for our sins (Isaiah 53, 1 Corinthians 15:3, Romans 5:8), and moreover, Jesus died to atone not only for the sins of some, for the sins of all humanity (John 3:16, 1 John 2:2, 1 Timothy 2:4-6, 2 Corinthians 5:15). Jesus died for all humanity because He wants all humanity saved (2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:4), because His very nature is love (1 John 4:8) and therefore loves all humanity. Psalm 139:1-4 tells us that God has foreknowledge. This means He knew in advance all of the sins we would ever commit, from the beginning of our lives to the end. And yet, even knowing this, He still died for us. Even knowing the horrors that Hitler would commit, or Pal Pot, or Osama Bin Ladin, Jesus still died on the cross to atone for their sins. They would have been forgiven if they had only repented and accepted Jesus’ sacrifice (see Isaiah 55:7, 1 John 1:9). There is no sin too evil for God to forgive, except the blasphemy against The Holy Spirit, which many interpret as resisting The Holy Spirit until death.
Now, taking this fact, some non-Christian made a meme that’s been making its rounds on the internet for a while. Instead of describing it, I’ll just show it to you.
This is a meme caked in sarcasm. Now, normally I don’t like writing response articles to memes since memes contain so little information that they can be misinterpreted, but this one has been popping up in feed again and again for so long (and a couple of other memes that make the same point) that I think it deserves a response. It seems to me that this meme maker is implying that God has done something wrong. God forgave what was an unforgivable act and now Timmy and the man who murdered his family are forced to live together for all eternity. How can anyone enjoy Heaven if they are forced to be in fellowship with someone who caused them so much pain and agony while on Earth?
Let me now give a response to this.
First, The Meme Maker Might Possibly Misunderstand Repentance
First of all, it seems that the meme maker has a common misunderstanding of what it means for a person to turn to God for forgiveness. Let me make this clear: turning to God for forgiveness is not simply looking up and saying “Sorry, God. Please forgive me.” If a person is genuinely remorseful over what he’s done and if He has no intentions of changing his ways, just simply saying “Sorry” won’t do any good. The Bible teaches that God knows what’s in our hearts (see 1 Samuel 16:7, Deuteronomy 31:21, Psalm 44:21, Psalm 139:2, Proverbs 15:11). So God knows whether or not a person sincerely wants to accept Him as their Lord and whether they intend on changing their ways or not. Moreover, The Bible teaches that if we truly love Jesus, we will strive to do His will. We will try to please Him rather than displease Him. Jesus said “If you love me, you will obey my commandments” (John 14:2) and He said, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.” (John 14:23) and the apostle John said in his first epistle “In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,” (1 John 5:3) John said in his second epistle “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.” (2 John 1:6). So, if a person loves Jesus, he will do everything he can to make Him happy, and it will grieve him when he fails at that goal. If a person thinks he can just sin, and sin, and sin, and sin, and not make any effort to do better, thinking he can simply get off the hook with God by frequently saying “I’m sorry”, what would we conclude? We would conclude that that person does not love Jesus because if he did love Jesus, he wouldn’t take such a blasé approach to his sinful lifestyle. He would be diligent at trying to keep himself away from such offenses.
True repentance is turning away from one’s life of sin. It isn’t living a life of consistent immorality with no intentions of changing, and simply getting off the hook by telling God that you’re sorry after every offense. Now, this is something that I suspect the meme maker had in mind by the words “He repented and asked forgiveness”. If it is, then it’s an unbiblical idea of repentance, and I agree that this would be a warped and twisted justice system if this is how God handled sinners. If it isn’t what the meme maker had in mind, then my bad. But, given how many non-Christians don’t understand what repentance truly is, it is likely that my suspicions are correct.
Secondly, Those Who Have Truly Experienced God’s Forgiveness In Their Own Life Won’t Have A Problem With This
It’s kind of hard to explain something to someone who hasn’t experienced something. Trying to explain experiencing the forgiveness of God to a non-Christian is like trying to explain color to a man born blind. You have to see color before it’ll even make sense to talk to you about. That said, let me just say that as someone who has been forgiven by God, which is everyone who receives Christ (Romans 3:23), won’t have a problem with seeing even people who were the vilest sinners in history get in. We know that we were once lost souls, dead in our trespasses and sin, without hope and without God in our lives (Ephesians 2:12), yet now in Jesus Christ we who were once far from God have been brought near to Him by His blood shed on the cross (Ephesians 2:13).
We extend forgiveness towards others because God first extended it to us (1 John 4:10), and “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” (1 John 4:19-20, emphasis mine). One cannot harbor hatred or the resentment and bitterness that leads to it and still call themselves a Christian. John says that it is impossible to love God and simultaneously hate a Christian brother or sister. Moreover, we heed the words of Christ in The Parable Of The Unmerciful Servant:
“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’ And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’ But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. Then summoning him, his lord said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. ‘Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.” – Matthew 18:23-35
The point of the parable: If you don’t forgive, God will not forgive you. If you truly desire someone to go to Hell, you will go there yourself. If you exact vengeance on those who have wronged you, God will exact vengeance on you. Forgiveness isn’t an option for the Christian. Not forgiving someone results in salvation forfeiture.1 Jesus warned his listeners to forgive those who have wrong them or else they themselves would be under God’s judgment. This meme fails to take into account that resentment won’t exist in Heaven among the saints because no true saint will harbor it here on Earth. Additionally, since the meme says Timmy himself was murdered, why would he especially harbor resentment against his family? I can understand if he was left behind, but presumably, he and his family all ended up at the same place at the same time. “Oh no! We’re in Heaven with Jesus where we’ll experience no unhappiness or sorrow ever again! How dare that man!” I could understand it a little better if Timmy himself were left behind, but not in the scenario in which Timmy himself was killed. Do you think any of the apostles harbor resentment against those who martyred them? Matthew 18 and 1 John 4:19-20 give us reason to believe that they didn’t unless you want to argue that the apostles weren’t actually saved and are suffering in Hell right now.
Now, forgiveness isn’t necessarily easy even if you are saved. However, one who has been saved will make every effort to forgive. He will pray about it, he will try to cast resentment and hate from his heart, he won’t purposefully hold onto it. “Easy for you to say, no one has killed your whole family”. While it’s true that I personally haven’t had a sin this gigantic committed against me (Praise God), I have heard the testimonies of several Christians who have forgiven crimes this big, and actually, lead the murderer to Christ and developed a friendship with them! Take Steve Saint’s testimony as an example:
Incredible! That is the power of God’s love! That would be impossible without the power of The Holy Spirit! In my personal opinion, I think relationships like this are just as powerful a testimony to the existence of God as The Fine-Tuning of the universe.
In the comment section on Facebook where I picked up this meme, a person named Jemini Occam shared her own story. She wrote “paternal physically, mentally, and sexually abused me 18 yrs. As an adult, I forgave him, my late 50s. The Lord had me write letters to him about God’s love, salvation, eternity, heaven and hell – which I did, at least four. My sister-in-law and I prayed fervently for his salvation. He died three yrs ago, age 90, and as far as we know, rejecting Jesus. I felt robbed. I never had a father growing up, no relationship with this man as an adult, and I was hoping to get to know him as the man God intended him to be throughout eternity. Now, it won’t happen. Instead, he is in hell, under judgment, being punished not only for what he did to me but all the harm he caused others as well – and of course, for his rebellion against God. It didn’t have to be that way. Jesus already paid for his sin in full. But he rejected that gift. Here, on earth, there we have two court systems for people – Criminal and Civil. Because paternal rejected God’s grace and mercy, I got justice in God’s ‘Criminal Court.’ God IS Just, and He IS Fair. I would have far preferred that paternal accepted God’s Grace and Mercy and would spend eternity in Life, rather than eternity in hell. Due to God’s Justice, I am confident I would have been compensated in God’s ‘Civil Court’…….. And I would have had my Dad, too.” 2
When Stephen was martyred, his last words before dying were “Lord, don’t hold this sin against them” (see Acts 7) not “Lord, make the fires of Hell especially hot for these bastards!” One of the men who participated in the stoning of Stephen was Saul of Tarsus who later became the apostle Paul (Acts 7:58). I don’t think Stephen was disappointed to see Paul pass through the pearly gates in A.D 68.
Inconsistency Among The Skeptics
I’ve noticed that, on the one hand, you have non-Christians trying to indict God for judging people, but on the other hand, they object to God forgiving people. What, exactly, do you want Him to do? Do you want Him to punish or forgive? You can’t have it both ways.
The meme reflects unforgiveness. On the part of its author, which is unsurprising considering the tone and content. The meme accuses God of injustice for forgiving even vilest of sinners. The meme fails to understand that a person who has been forgiven by God will likewise extend forgiveness to others, that harboring unforgiveness on their part negates God forgiving them. Little Timmy won’t care what the man did to him and his family. He’ll be too filled with Christ’s love to care about what happened in his time on Earth. He would greet the man as a brother and rejoice with him in the kingdom of Heaven.
Now, some may object to this response article saying “You’re presupposing Christianity is true in your counter-arguments!” But this is not a valid response, for the one who made this meme presupposed Christianity was true in order to make his point. This is how arguments of worldview internal inconsistency work. You presuppose a worldview is a worldview for the sake of argument to attempt to show something is wrong with it. It’s a “For the sake of the argument, let’s say X is true, how do we explain Y?” type of argument.
One final note: although this meme was invented as a crack at Christianity, it actually depicts a beautiful reality: that no one is too far gone. Anyone can experience the forgiveness and love of God. That’s one of the things that prompts me to praise Him, not criticize Him. In fact, a lot of people in the comment section on Facebook didn’t even see it as an anti-Christian meme, but I knew that it was from seeing it posted on atheist Facebook pages and groups in the past.
1: Although, since I adhere to “The Can/Won’t Model Of Eternal Security”, I’d like to qualify my statement in this footnote by saying that although Christians can forfeit their salvation by freely choosing to not forgive their debtors, no true Christians actually will make that choice. They are able to make that choice, however, otherwise, Jesus’ warning not to harbor resentment would be pointless. True believers will heed Christ’s words in The Parable Of The Unmerciful Servant like they heed the various other warning passages about apostasy found in The Bible, and therefore they will persevere. My position on eternal security is a minority report in the church, so if you haven’t heard of it, check it out in my 3 part series here, here, and here.
2: Shared with permission.