Which came first: the chicken or the egg? This is one of those questions that gives most evolutionists fits, but the intelligent ones like Richard Dawkins or Stephen Hawking, who really analyze the possibilities, come up with plausible solutions, though statistically phenomenal; along the lines of ten raised to the number of atoms in the universe.
For the creationist, this is not a problem. After “The Big Bang” of Genesis 1:1-2, God went on a working binge and day by day created everything, noting that on the fifth day He made the birds. Now whether He created chickens right then is anyone’s guess, but He created each creature “according to its kind.” He may have made a generic bird that evolved into Rhode Island Reds, Cornish Game Hens and Butterball Turkeys, but it started with a bird who could lay eggs.
Forgiveness from The God Who Is There and forgiving those who offend us is not so clear. Which comes first? Jesus said very explicitly that “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)
Then He goes around willy-nilly forgiving people without even asking them if they have forgiven those who offended them. See Mark 2:1-5 and Luke 5:16-20, one of Jesus’ earlier miracles where He simply carte blanche forgives a paralyzed man prior to healing him. In Luke 7:47-48 He forgives a prostitute; again, no questions about her forgiving of those who have abused her. The preachers in Acts never once asked for psychological histories of their hearers; they simply told them to repent of their sins and they would be forgiven. James, the half-brother of our Lord, later wrote instructions that connected physical healing to forgiveness of sins without any caveats.
So which comes first, the forgiveness of God or the forgiving others from our hearts? To consider this we can look at another healing of Jesus in Mark 8:22-26. Here Jesus spit on the man’s eyes (not very hygienic, but hey, He is the son of God!), laid His hands on him and asked, “Do you see anything?” Really? Did Jesus not know if He had healed the guy!? So the guy said he could “see people, but they look like trees walking.” Again, Really? Did Jesus goof??!! Well, He fixed it next, because He laid His hands on his eyes again, giving him a second touch, and the guy could see everything clearly.
You see, Jesus did not (nor does He now) “goof!” So consider the reason for this phased in healing. After the first touch, could the man see? Well, sorta. Well, not really, not functionally. Yet he was no longer blind. I suspect Jesus saw the future analysts of spiritual matters trying to fill in the details in their theologies and He wanted to say, “Not everything is so cut and dried as your theology; sometimes our relationship is a work in progress.” Then He completed the work with a second touch!
In the same way, our question of which comes first, Forgiveness From God or Forgiving Others, is a work in progress, not so simple as whether God created chickens or eggs first. Just as chickens and eggs are now inextricably intertwined, forgiveness from The God Who Is There is inextricably intertwined with forgiving those who have offended us. But the working out of this is that sometimes we “see people, but they look like trees walking.”
When you experience the forgiveness of God it must work its way into your heart to such a depth that you cannot hold a grudge. Or if you have an offender in need of forgiveness, and you forgive him/her, you will find yourself experiencing a level of forgiveness from God that you have not known before. Whichever comes first, look for that “second touch” from Jesus! Because in the end, He will look at our hearts, and if we have not forgiven those who have offended us, it will show that we have never fully understood (nor accepted) His forgiveness. See Matthew 18:21-35 for a more complete picture of this.
The details of this works its way into our lives like in Corrie ten Boom’s meeting (reported in Tramp for the Lord). After talking about God’s grace and forgiveness in one of her church presentations, she saw a smiling man at the back of the small auditorium coming forward and her heart went into her stomach. She recognized him as one of the Nazi guards at the POW camp where she had been unjustly imprisoned. Here was a man who had stood over the women of the camp as they were paraded nude into showers (which later were turned into gas chambers). “The man who was making his way forward had been a guard — one of the most cruel guards. Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out. I was face to face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze. ‘Fraulein, will you forgive me?’” She prayed, Oh, God, I cannot forgive this man; You must forgive him through me. And as she extended her hand she felt a wave of the Holy Spirit pass through her and the man was forgiven, by both God and Corrie!
So which comes first? The Forgiveness of God or Forgiving Others. They are inextricably intertwined, like the chicken and the egg. God’s marvelous creation, you and I, are forgiven and forgiving, even when we “see people, but they look like trees.” Keep looking and wait for His second touch.