If people are worshipping the “wrong” god, why can’t God forgive them for being misled?
“Why can’t God understand other religions and forgive them for being misled?”
If God forgives sin, why does he not just forgive the “sin” of being deceived about faith in him?
Why would sincere people who just made a mistake about religion not spend eternity with God?
The first thing I can tell you is that God is not impulsive , changeable or unpredictable, forgiving some and denying forgiveness to others. In fact, God desires for all people to experience forgiveness for sins and spend eternity with Him. He says, “The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” But God isn’t simply “forgiving.” He is complex and has many other characteristics that mean he can’t simply “ignore” sin. Sin has consequences.
But why is it faith in Christ’s forgiveness so crucial? Why can’t God just “overlook” sin. There are a number of reasons:
1) God is Holy. He cannot tolerate sin of any kind. So everyone has a problem, not just some of us, because we are all sinful.
2) God is just. A just God cannot just look the other way when we do evil, like a doting grandfather. If God is to be just, all sin must be punished. In the same way a judge who let’s criminals off with no penalty is not a good judge, a God who winks at evil is not just.
3) God is merciful. God’s justice is not all he is. His love of mercy means he desires a way for sin to be punished without people bearing the full penalty. His mercy provided a substitute to bear the penalty of sin; Jesus.
4) God is love. God loved his creation, people, so much that he was willing to suffer the penalty for our sin himself. He willingly substituted himself in our place, paying for our sin, so that he could demonstrate his mercy and love to us and remain just and holy.
In my view, this is the only way God can be just and merciful, Holy and loving all at the same time.
So, if one believes in “other religions” why can’t God apply the sacrifice made by Jesus to them? Or everyone? The reason is simple and painful. Jesus made clear that the only way to receive this gift of forgiveness of sin was to believe in Him. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) But why is this faith response so critical? Why can’t Jesus’ death and resurrection be applied to all who are sincere?
To me, the answer lies in understanding God’s purpose in creating people in the first place. He could have made more angels who would automatically love him. But he made people, and made them in his image. Part of that image, in my mind, is that we share in some way God’s power to choose. He created all of mankind with the power to choose to love him, or choose to not. Choose to do as God desires, or do what we want.
My youngest son has a teddy bear that when the paw is squeezed, asks questions, and pauses for responses. It will say, “What’s your favourite colour?” and after any audible response says, “That’s my favourite too.” Randomly the bear will say, “I love you” and “You’re my best friend.” While the bear imitates things found in genuine relationship, it’s isn’t genuine relationship. The bear doesn’t really love, it just says what is hard-wired onto the chip. It will say the same thing for anyone and everyone. God could have made people as ‘hard-wired’ animatronic beings who love without choice. But it wouldn’t be genuine in the way beings with choice love. But that choice means people can choose to love God or choose not to love Him. That some don’t pains God greatly. That option is what makes the action meaningful. It’s not required, but it does have consequences.
And the consequences is that we are responsible for how we respond to God’s offer of forgiveness, and the evidence he gave us. Romans 1:18-20 says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
So God’s justice is perfect, and all are without excuse because all have evidence of God’s divine attributes. They know their sin, and God’s divinity and power. So they cannot sincerely follow any path, they must follow the path that God has given them evidence to follow. And that path leads to the need for a saviour, and Jesus. In that way, it’s clear that not all path’s are equal, and sincerity doesn’t lead to all paths either. WE all deserve to be separated from God for our sin. The only way to deal with sin is for someone to pay the penalty for us. Only Jesus, God incarnate, can be the substitute for sin. To reject Jesus’ offer and follow a path of trying to be “good enough” is the problem.
Sometimes the narrowness of the path to God is hard to understand. I know my heart longs to see more people in heaven, as does God. The reason the path is narrow is because the problem of our sin is so overwhelmingly difficult to overcome given the nature of God. Only his substitution for us could open any path to him. Jesus would not have endured the cross if it were not necessary. But having done so, he offers us full forgiveness and welcomes us to know him and his love for us.There is another side to this problem and that is completely up to God on judgement day at the great white throne.God can still even at that late stage show mercy and compassion to anyone He wants to Romans 9:15For God said to Moses, “I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.”He can still decide if anyone is worthy to enter His Kingdom when the sheep is separated from the goats Matthew 25:3232 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.Revelation 7:9After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands.Revelation 20:11[ The Final Judgment ] And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide.