In my previous post (Part I), I stated that in the absolute sense of our sin against a holy God, there is only One Man who could legitmately pay our entire moral debt in full. That man is Jesus Christ, when He died for our sin on the cross -- once for all.
In this post (Part II), I look at an example of how a person can actually legitmately make substitutionary atonement for another's moral debt on a one to one basis. In the case of a particular moral offense, when another person sins against a Christian, if the Christian forgives the other person in the name of Christ, then he or she is practicing substitutionary atonement. The offense is being absorbed by a deliberate choice (act of the will) by the person to whom a debt is owed, just as we are commanded to forgive our debtors. We know that somehow, in the eternal sense of the cross of calvary, this debt has been paid for through faith in Christ.
Given the atheist's and the world's disdain for the concept of substitutionary atonement, Christian forgiveness is one of the most miraculous ways we can demonstrate the love of Christ to the critics of the body of Christ.
Of course, those within the household of faith have an expectation of repentence for full restoration and reconciliation. Yet, by extending the olive branch of forgiveness, we often are acting as catalysts for that repentence to work its way out through the power of the Holy Spirit.
My struggle is that I am inclined to either fight or flight. Sweep it under the carpet or blow it out of proprotion. I'm aware of this tendency, which helps, but nonetheless, I struggle internally constantly with how to deal with forgiveness and justice. On the one hand, I do really want to forgive, to be rid of any trace of resentment, and to release my debtor. On the other hand, I also have a very strong sense of desiring justice and especially to look out for others who might be weak, oppressed, or unable to fight for themselves.
Mostly, I need much greater discernment about these things and the proper way of dealing with different levels of injury and injustice.
As a side note, Ray Ortlund has written a great little post on the topic of forgiveness that is helpful.