How can God be just and forgiving at the same time? If we were brought to justice for our sins, death would surly be our consequence. If God is love, how can He be just? If God loves so much, why are people still sent to hell? I started writing the questions a couple weeks ago as an intro to a blog post and then stopped and wrote something altogether different. In light of Rob Bell’s promotional video that asks similar questions, I thought I’d dig into them a little.
The letter of the law says that sin brings the punishment of death. Strict justice would mean that we all die because we have all sinned. To unconditionally forgive us and save us from the punishment of death, justice would have to be overruled or the price (punishment) would have to be paid by another. Jesus Christ, the picture of perfection as God in the form of man, paid the price of sin for everyone. Anyone else could have paid the price for themselves alone because of their own sin (carrying that sin with them into death) but Jesus, the sinless One, paid the price for everyone. Unconditional forgiveness (a full pardon) is given to anyone who accepts it through Jesus Christ. That forgiveness cannot come by any other means because there is no other possible perfect payment. God is just and forgiving because He is able to forgive you through the fulfillment of justice through Jesus Christ.
In regards to God’s love, it is through His love that The Son (Jesus Messiah, Emmanuel, God incarnate, one of the three persons of God) endured the cross to pay for our sins. Love is the only thing that would bring someone to lay down his life for others (John 15:13). God’s love and justice are interchangeable in that His love paid the price of our sins and we are forgiven because of the His justice carried out on the cross.
But people are still condemned to eternity separate from God. How can this be true if Jesus Christ died to pay the price of sin for everyone? The answer goes back to love. Perfect love does not force anyone to accept anything that they don’t want. The offer of everlasting life is there through Jesus Christ is a gift available for anyone to accept. The alternative is eternity separate from God. This goes back to the justice of God. If you don’t want to accept the payment that Christ made on your behalf, then you have to pay the price yourself. The problem with that is that you are taking your sins with you to the grave and you cannot receive everlasting life if your sins are not first removed. When you accept the gift of salvation through Christ, all of the sins of your life are taken to the cross and you are given a new life through the resurrection of Christ. This new life is everlasting in the presence of God.
God love offers the gift of redemption and brings people into his glory forever through Jesus Christ, but it does not force anyone to accept that gift. To deny the gift is to choose hell.