A Church of England vicar has resigned because she cannot forgive the London 7/7 bombers who murdered her daughter.
Should a Christian always forgive? A simple reading of the Bible shows that it is not so. Universal forgiveness is a modern heresy. In John 3:16 we are told that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. Universalists emphasize the fact that it is the whole world and major on the 'whosoever'; but it should be noted that this forgiveness is conditional. The words 'believes in him' are not decoration; they are the condition. Two verses later it says, "he who does not believe is condemned already."
In I John 1:9 we learn, "If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Note the condition: 'if we confess our sins.'
On the cross Jesus said, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." Was this a prayer for all mankind or merely for the soldiers who were carrying out the crucifixion? You only have to read his confrontations with Herod and Pilate, Annas and Caiaphas to realise that they knew what they were doing. Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it would be good if one man died for the people. (John 18:14) They at least were not included in any general forgiveness. And what about Judas? We are told that the devil entered into him.
Jesus tells us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. Paul expands on this in Romans chapter 12. He tells us to bless those who persecute us. We should not repay evil for evil. We should not take revenge. He quotes from Proverbs chapter 25, "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this you will heap burning coals on his head." In other words doing good to one's enemy might bring him to repentance.
In the parable of the unmerciful servant the man who had been forgiven a great debt is condemned when he fails to forgive the smaller debt of a fellow servant (Matthew 18:21-35). But note verse 29: his fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, "Be patient with me, and I will pay you back." This story exorts us to forgive those who beg forgiveness, for we have been forgiven much more.
Forgiveness is available for everybody. "While we were still in our sin, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) There are countless exortations for brother to forgive brother. Those who have placed themselves under the covenant of Christ have an absolute obligation to forgive others under the same blanket. But those who reject the love of God and his priceless gift of grace put themselves beyond forgiveness.
Even if we are able to overcome our own grief and for our own benefit are able to come to terms with the hurt that has been done to us - and this always takes time and prayer - the perpetrator remains unforgiven because God's forgiveness is conditional on repentance. Forgiving those who do not repent does no good. It only encourages them to go on sinning.
Suicide bombers remove themselves from the possiblity of forgiveness. Man is destined to die once and after that to face judgement. (Hebrews 9:27) What they did in London was unspeakably evil. It cannot be forgiven and the bombers are beyond forgiveness. It is absolutely right for a Christian to hate evil. A bereaved mother can sympathize with the mothers of the bombers that their children should have been lost to them; she can pity the fact that they were led astray by evil men; but of their own volition they did this evil thing and then removed themselves from the possibility of repentance. There is now no-one for her to forgive. What remains for her is to cleanse her soul of bitterness. It's not easy. Who can say that they would not feel bitter in such a situation? But it is certainly true that when the bitterness goes she will be healed.