Forgiveness questions regarding James Holmes and the shooting in Aurora, CO will quickly surface in the aftermath of the evil.
We need only think back to last week to the news in Iowa to be reminded how quickly forgiveness enters the discussion. Within hours of an apparent abduction, the parents of victims stated that both they, the parents, and God had forgiven anyone involved:
“I want to say to them that my husband and I have forgiven them,” she said. “God has forgiven them already. So we have forgiven them and we just want our children back safe and sound. That’s all we want. We don’t even want to know who the person is.”
My heart goes out to these people. I cannot imagine the weight they feel. I pray that God will soon grant answers. But for their own sake, they need to be gently encouraged that God has not forgiven perpetrators if, in fact, they abducted these little girls. Quite the opposite, the righteous, eternal anger of God looms for all evil. God states without qualification that vengeance belongs to Him. It is not ours to say that God has forgiven.
Now, Aurora, Colorado finds itself suffering today in a way similar to what Columbine High School did several years ago. As is always the case, both in their own minds and in their interaction with others, Christians need to think through what has happened through a biblical worldview. Questions of the problem of evil, the sovereignty of God, and the appropriateness of forgiveness quickly enter the discussion. We need to be prepare to speak carefully and responsibly.
- The reality of moral evil in a fallen world. “Human beings are capable of unspeakable moral evil. We are shocked by such atrocities, but only because we have some distance from the last one. We cannot afford to be shocked when humans commit grotesque moral evil. It tells us the truth about unbridled human sin.”
- The grace of human restraint. If God left humanity to ourselves, such evil would be even more prevalent and we would destroy ourselves.
- Evil answered at the Cross. Dr. Mohler’s most important point is that the Cross is God’s answer to evil. On the Cross, we see how God’s love and justice meet. God’s justice was satisfied by His only begotten Son; His love is demonstrated in that he paid for our sin.
Building on Dr. Mohler’s third point, it must be stressed that while God is most certainly loving and gracious, he is also just. God himself states emphatically, vengeance is mine, I will repays says the Lord (Romans 12:19). Paul assured the Thessalonians who had suffered grave injury that Jesus is going to return and when he does. Speaking to injured people, we should encourage them:
6 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, 7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9.
Of course, we must also remind an onlooking world that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). There is none that is righteous, no not one. Our only hope is to look to the Cross and put our faith and trust in Christ and Him alone (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Those who try and avoid bitterness by way of cheap forgiveness will find that a soft view of the justice of God makes for hard people. But those who look to Christ and the Cross will find that his yoke is easy and his burden is light.
As for whether or not God has forgiven James Holmes, or any other killer, or any other sinner, apart from Christ, the solemn answer is, “No.”