Isaiah 55:7 says “let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts;let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
That got me thinking about that word, pardon. We use it all the time in phrases like “pardon me” or “I beg your pardon”… but what does this word really mean, and in this context.
Perhaps the closest earthly example is when a Governor or a President pardons a criminal. They have the authority to do so and from that moment on, all records are changed as if the original crime never happened. Others in society may still look at this person as having committed the crime. People are still in pain or harmed from the crime and they hold this person responsible. But the law of the land no longer does. The reigning authority no longer does.
When a criminal gets out of prison after serving their time, they are still an “ex con”. They are still guilt of the crime even though they have paid the price. On the other hand, if there is an appeal and the criminal is now found “not guilty”, this simply means they can no longer prove beyond a reasonable doubt that this person committed the crime. It doesn’t alter history, it simply alters responsibility for the crime.
But a Pardon is different, it literally alters the records of history as if the crime had never been committed. This is how God sees us. Not simply as someone whose crime has been paid for (though Christ DID pay that price), but so much more. Christ did pay the price for our “crimes” (our sins). But God doesn’t look at us as someone who committed a crime that has now been paid for, He actually PARDONS us of the sin all together. Our sin may have caused harm or damages here on earth, perhaps even destroyed relationships, reputations or even people all together. But despite that real pain still existing, God has pardoned us of that sin.
He doesn’t just pardon us, but “abundantly pardons” us. This means no matter what the sin, no matter what the damages, no matter what the cost. If we accept His son as Lord and Savior, then God “abundantly pardons” us of everything.
This is how a Jewish Pharisee named Saul (who was responsible for the death of many Christians including Stephen) could be so pardoned as to be actually renamed to Paul. He then spread the Christian church throughout the gentile land, all the way to Rome itself. He is responsible for writing 1/3 of the New Testament and a significant part of the growth of the early church. That was a pardon.
What’s even more crazy about this pardon, is that we’re called to do the same to others. Just as those early believers had to find it in their hearts (with the help and prodding from Barnabas) to accept that pardon of Saul and forgive him… we are to forgive others as well.
The most moving example I’ve ever seen was during the trial of Gary Ridgeway (the Green River Killer). One after another, parents and loved ones of his many victims stood in the court room and blasted Gary for what he had done. The entire time, Gary had absolutely no emotion, no remorse. But then one man stands up (having lost his daughter to this killer) and did something that brought the entire courtroom to tears (I’m tearing up remembering the scene). After recounting what Gary had done, he stated that just as his Father in Heaven has forgiven him of his own sins, his Lord and Savior calls him to forgive others. Then he pause and uttered the words “Gary, I forgive you.” Gary, who had been stone cold during the entire proceeding, broke down. Our laws on earth certainly will never pardon him of those crimes, but that man did in his heart. And the real fact is this. If Gary has or ever does accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior, then God will “abundantly pardon” him, wash him clean, and accept him into the arms of God.
Is there someone in your live you need to “pardon”?