The devil loves to deck his hard-heartedness out as compassion. He is a liar; that’s what he does. One of his techniques is to make forgiveness and vindication a binary operation. He puts the whole thing on a toggle switch. It must either be this or that.
But this means if two parties are involved in a conflict, all the sin must be on one side and all the righteousness on the other. And since we can all see the sin on the other side (very clearly), that must mean that we are in the clear. We like being in the clear, and so we roll with that.
It also means that anyone who has been wronged is being offered a standing excuse to not have to confess his own sin. But if he takes that out, what he is doing is hardening his heart against the gospel. The gospel is offered to all who repent and believe. And when I am repenting, the very nature of the operation excludes simultaneous accusations leveled against anyone who has previously wronged me.
A bystander might know that the sins committed against such a person were egregious, and that — socially speaking — the sins of the person wronged were relatively trivial. That’s as may be. But to give the wronged person a “bye,” as though salvation were a double elimination tournament, is to rob that person of gospel. The gospel is only for sinners.
In order to repent, I do not need to compare my sins with those of others. Indeed, I must not. We all know, as a simple matter of logic, that if such sins were compared, they would do well against some and poorly against others. But that is not the point. It is utterly beside the point.
I can confess the sins of one who has wronged me, and I can do it all day, and yet not receive forgiveness. To the extent that I am aware of the sins of others in my time of confession, I must be aware of them in a disposition of forgiveness because the Lord instructs to pray that we may receive forgiveness in the same manner, and to the same extent, and with the same willingness, as we extend forgiveness to those who have wronged us.
This is the kind of teaching — delivered to us by the Lord Himself — that can make us writhe. We call up appalling scenarios. Do you mean to tell me that there will be slave traders like John Newton who will be saved and slaves who died on his ship in transit who will be lost? The appalling scenarios can of course be multiplied. Manasseh was a king who did some awful things, but repented at the end. Were any of his victims eternally lost? The thief on the cross acknowledged that he deserved to die, but was ushered into Paradise after he did. Were any of his victims not so fortunate? Thus we argue our way into being the elder brother in the Lord’s parable.
The point is not to be a dog in a manger, or to agitate on behalf of repentant oppressors. We don’t want any of those who were wronged to be lost. We want to imitate God in His grace, which means being unwilling that any should perish.
We want all to come in — but it is necessary for all to come in on the same terms. All of us, oppressors and victims alike, are sinners in need of forgiveness. There was only one true Victim, and He died so that we might die in Him, and He rose so that we might rise in Him. We are offered this salvation independent of whether anyone else — whether my creditor or my debtor does not matter — takes Him up on the same offer.
And so, when we see some people — in the name of racial reconciliation, or sexual justice, or victims’ rights — denying that those who have suffered oppression ever have to repent of anything, we should not let that stand. The agitators will want to represent this resistance as somehow excusing, or advocating, or carrying water for the oppressor. Not at all. It is simply a defense of the gospel — the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. And through defending that gospel, we find that we are defending the possibility of salvation for absolutely anyone. Victims have had enough taken away from them already. Why would you want to take their forgiveness away?