“You have to forgive him/her/me to get to heaven.”
It’s one of my pastor’s sayings. And, if I’m to be honest, it always kind of makes me go hmm.
It’s not that I have a problem forgiving anyone. I do my best not to have trouble forgiving anyone, not that it always ends up that way. But I try. I do my very best not to hold grudges, to the point where I sometimes refuse to set up healthy boundaries. (but that’s a whole other blog post).
Most of the times my pastor says this, it follows something that somebody, or he himself, has done that some may consider bad. Sometimes sinful, sometimes not.
The most recent example is when he was delivering his sermon for Super Bowl Sunday about a week ago. He said that someone he knew was a fan of a particular football team- I think he said the Patriots, but don’t quote me on that; I tend not to pay attention to football- Anywho. He said that this guy was a Patriots fan, and instantly followed it with, “but you have to forgive him to get to heaven.”
Now, in this sense, it’s more of a joke. Nobody needs to be forgiven for liking a certain football team. No offense, but it doesn’t really matter. But there are other times he’s used that phrase that have grated on me a bit.
I decided I’d actually look into this myself.
We have to begin with the basics. What do we need to do to get to heaven? I did a bit of searching and took a look at Acts 4:11-12 to start off with.
ACTS 4:11-12: READ VERSE
This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men⁽ᴬ⁾ by which we must be saved.Acts 4:11-12 ESV
So, we must be saved through the name of Jesus Christ. That’s some pretty basic stuff. You gotta go through Jesus, there’s just no other way. ⁽ᴮ⁾
Then, in my research, I stumbled across this passage in 1 Corinthians:
1 CORINTHIANS 6:9-11: READ VERSE
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV
Basically, sinners won’t inherit the kingdom of God, and unforgiveness of a sin someone has genuinely repented of is sinful. Right?
The first verse I came across on this topic in Ephesians made it pretty clear:
EPHESIANS 4:31-32: READ VERSE
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.Ephesians 4:31-32 ESV
Forgive one another. Right there in plain text.
And it goes even further. I asked my pastor about the topic and he sent me a few Scripture references:
MATTHEW 6:14-15: READ VERSE
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.Matthew 6:14-15 ESV
LUKE 6:37: READ VERSE
Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;Luke 6:37 ESV
COLOSSIANS 3:13-14: READ VERSE
Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.Colossians 3:13-14 ESV
“Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” As if we needed to hammer the proverbial nail any deeper. God forgives those who forgive others.
I suppose I’ve proven the statement true. Now, let me propose somewhat of a counter-argument. More of a logical one than Biblical. Just let it be known that I wholeheartedly agree with the need to forgive to get to heaven. This is just the reasoning behind my doubt in this statement in particular…
- The pastor goes up front and says to the church that you have to forgive people to get to heaven.
- Somebody unsaved hears him.
- Said unsaved person now knows that Christians must forgive each other.
- So this unsaved person goes around doing misdeeds against Christians, claiming that they have to forgive him because “the Bible says so.”
See the problem?
Now, I know that this is a bit of an extreme. But my mind loves to delve into extremes. You always gotta be ready for anything, right?
So, I have nothing against the fact that we must forgive each other to go to heaven. I just feel a bit iffy about proclaiming it in the way my pastor does, as his words can be twisted. For true forgiveness from God to happen, someone must be exercising an attitude of repentance and truly be sorry for what they’ve done. I think I’ll go into being forgiven/forgiving others in a later post. Maybe next week! 😉
[A] Side note! The Greek word translated “to men” in Acts 4:12, anthropoi, refers to both men and women.
[B] More verses about salvation through Christ! :
– 2 Timothy 1:8-9
– Romans 10:9-10
– Mark 16:15-16 (Also includes baptism; that’ll be another fun topic)
– 1 Peter 1:8-9
– Hebrews 9:28
– And many more!
P.S. Thanks for sticking around through my rambling! I thank God for this opportunity to get my thoughts straight on this topic, and I hope I’ve helped you as well. Have a blessed day! 😊