God asks us to forgive our enemies, but He does not do the same?


I’m confused by God’s apparent inconsistency - mostly in the Old Testament, but also in the New. I will never call God a hypocrite, as that is impossible; however, He seems to go against Himself at times, and to do things that He tells us never to do.

Primary example: the Lord tells us to forgive our enemies. This is present in both Testaments. What happens when God has an enemy, however? He promises to utterly crush and destroy them; moreover, He often does it literally. When the Egyptians started a pogrom to kill all the first-born Hebrew males, God revenged Himself and His people on them by killing all the first-born Egyptian males. The same goes for Christ slaughtering His enemies before Him (Luke 19:27) and casting them into a lake of fire (Revelation 19:20) at the end of time.

Why does God tell us to forgive others for free, when He gives us so many examples of His own merciless destruction of His enemies? Why is there seemingly infinite mercy, and then infinite wrath? Are we supposed to forgive our enemies as a sign of God’s mercy? He Himself doesn’t seem to reflect that idea. Maybe we’re supposed to forgive because we’re the ones who need forgiveness? I don’t understand the seeming inconsistency in the message.

These “enemies” of God are those who have had the chance to repent of their sin and have refused to do so. Sometimes the sin is so bad, and so deeply ingrained that the only way get rid of it is to destroy the person/people. Think of the time of Noah. God almost repented entirely of creating a place that would end up in such a mess. But He saved 8 people from the flood.

Ok, maybe I’m not the right one to answer this. I may end up causing more confusion. But I want to say that God gives us a chance to do things His way or not. It isn’t so much the people He hates, but their sin. This sin causes a barrier between us and God. That’s why we go to confession, to break down that barrier. There are many who refuse to do so, and some who refuse to even believe there is a God. He won’t force Himself on these people, it’s their choice. If you had to take one of two choices, with one allowing you to stay alive and the other would cause your immediate death, which would you choose? Most people would say that they would choose the way to life. But actions speak louder than words. We must do what we say we’re going to do. This reminds me of a verse in James, “Faith, without works, is dead.”

Thank you for your reply, Christy Beth.

Christ suffered for His enemies - yet those who reject His reign will be slaughtered before Him, as in the Old Testament with the Egyptians, Amorites, and all the others around Israel. Yet Paul says “If God is for us, who can be against us?” So, is God only for the righteous and the good? Yet, He gave Himself up for all: the righteous as well as the unrighteous. Where is His need to slaughter people coming from, then?

Surely the wicked will flee from the “Wrath of the Lamb”, but then what was the point of the Lamb’s sacrifice if it doesn’t help the very people for whom He died? Didn’t He go specifically to prostitutes and the sinners on Earth? The Grail Psalms express this: (Psalm 77:10) “I said: ‘This is what causes my brief; the way of the Most High has changed’.”

Doesn’t a perfect Father teach His children by example? God our Father is just, and always within His rights - but what sort of example of mercy does He give to** us** by incinerating whole generations, peoples, and nations just to make what amounts to a theological point? How can we praise & love One who may destroy us for not measuring up to His norms? … Unanswerable questions, maybe?

When I was a teen, my folks told me that I was absolutely forbidden to drink alcohol or to have sex. Yet, my folks consumed wine at family dinners; and, if they hadn’t had sex… well, I wouldn’t be around to write this post. Does that make my folks ‘inconsistent’? Does that make them ‘hypocrites’? Of course not. The rules that applied to me, at that point, did not apply to them. Assuming that God is judged by the standards He sets for us is a logical error.

Primary example: the Lord tells us to forgive our enemies. This is present in both Testaments. What happens when God has an enemy, however? He promises to utterly crush and destroy them; moreover, He often does it literally. When the Egyptians started a pogrom to kill all the first-born Hebrew males, God revenged Himself and His people on them by killing all the first-born Egyptian males. The same goes for Christ slaughtering His enemies before Him (Luke 19:27) and casting them into a lake of fire (Revelation 19:20) at the end of time.

Yet, your questions are valid. Does God – in the application of His justice – “utterly crush and destroy”? In the OT, He kills… but is that “utter destruction”? Given our understanding of eternal life, I think I would say that it is not. But, when God kills, is He doing evil? To say ‘yes’, you would have to be saying that God is disobeying the commandment “You shall not kill.” That, it would seem, would be a logical inconsistency: the commandment was given to the Jews, not to God; and its meaning in the original Hebrew is “you shall not murder”. The destruction of the first-born wasn’t murder; it was retribution, and it served to demonstrate to the Egyptians and Israelites that the first-born of Pharaoh wasn’t a god, but that only YHWH is God.

Does Jesus say that He will “slaughter His enemies before Him”? No… that’s part of the story that he tells, of an earthly ruler.

Does the “lake of fire” mean utter destruction? No… the Church does not teach Annihilationism; she teaches that there will be eternal bliss and eternal punishment, but not utter destruction of human souls.

Yes, Jesus died for all people, including His enemies. But the choice to reject Him is still there. We must be for God in order for Him to be for us. That isn’t shutting other people out. They shut God out. Look at the beginning of Genesis again. God gave Adam and Eve the whole of the garden to eat from. All except one tree. If they left that tree alone, they would be ok. To eat of the tree, that brought about death. Eve disobeyed first. Then she gave one of the fruit to Adam. He could have refused to eat it. If he had, there would have been a different outcome. But he ate it, and with that, there had to be consequences.

First came a spiritual death. Separation from God. This brought into play sacrifices. Like with Cane and Abel. There are other sacrifices spoken of in that book. They became “mandatory” when Israel became a nation. Of course, that was before they entered the promised land. But even that didn’t stop the sacrifices. Why? Because we sin. God had called them to sacrifice to cover their sins. Of course, there are many other types of sacrifice, but the sacrifice for sin was a biggie.

So, when Jesus died on the cross, He died to pay for our sin. He took the place of the sin offering. But that doesn’t mean that all people accept that. By refusing that, they bring about their own ruin. God hates sin. He won’t allow anyone into heaven who hasn’t repented of their sins. That would go against Himself.

Ok, take Jonah. He was told to go to a city to tell them to repent or they would be destroyed. He didn’t want to go, but God knew where he was going anyway. After spending three days in the belly of a big fish, he was spit out on the shores of the town where he was to go. He preached what God had told him to, and then he got mad because they repented. The desired outcome had occurred. But Jonah didn’t like that. Maybe he wanted to see the city destroyed to make up for the time he spent in the belly of that big fish.

When we repent, we turn away God’s wrath. Of course, sometimes we need gentle punishment. Think of the hardest times of your life. God allowed them to happen so you could either learn something from it, or bring you closer to Him. Or maybe it’s both. But God’s justice will prevail. But remember, it HIS justice that must prevail. We can’t judge as He does. We only see what’s on the outside. He sees into our hearts and minds. He knows who is really for Him, and who is against Him. There’s no in between.

We are not God. now restate your question.:wink:

Such things can be a problem unless one takes into account that Scripture is written by men for men. Yes Scripture is inspired by God, yet God is infinitely above us and our ability to comprehend his ways, so how can God express Himself to us in ways we can perhaps fathom? The answer of course is to put things into thoughts and words that the audience of the time can understand and relate to.

The Holy Spirit inspired the writers, but trying to express the spiritual realities of God to the audience of the time would be like a person in the 100 BC trying to understand the workings of modern electronic computer. The alternative is to provide the writer, and the audience, with terms and situations that they CAN understand…even though the stark and unvarnished reality might be quite different.

This is what I sense about such passages. That they are largely analogies given to us by God for our benefit. The reality will be made clear in the next life.

Ultimately - for myself anyway - I find the command to Love my neighbor plenty to keep me busy without getting too worried about how God might seem to be inconsistent.


What an indictment! That certainly is the best answer I’ve seen so far.

Storm-clouds of doubt come only when we doubt the goodness of God. The moment we entrust ourselves to that goodness that is the characteristic of His love, the clouds seem to pass.

All God’s enemies have to do is repent and they will immediately become his beloved sons.

You have answered your own question.

*For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15)

**Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. *(Ephesians 4:31-32)

Our hearts become hard when we do not forgive and God’s forgiveness cannot then enter our hearts. Our hearts become softened and porous when we forgive and God’s forgiveness can then enter. Jesus speaks of hardness of heart many times.

It is because God’s forgiveness cannot penetrate a hard heart. We have to forgives so that we may receive God’s forgiveness, and we have to go on forgiving, showing mercy as we have been shown mercy.


No offence to the original poster, but this seems like another “I Gotcha Catholics!” type question. However, I shouldn’t judge.

I’ll put in my two cents…

A baby does not understand why he is forced to take a bath, or why he is forbidden to put his hand in the electrical socket, or why he must stay within his playpen, or why he can’t eat as much candy as he desires, or why he can’t have some wine - that strange, mysterious, red liquid that his parents enjoy so much.

A dog doesn’t understand why his owners, who love him very much, have to neuter him, have to put him on a leash, or have to end his life if he catches rabies. Technically a dog doesn’t understand anything, because animals don’t think. However, let’s just pretend that they can for the sake of this post…

All of these actions are unfair, cruel and intensely hypocritical from the baby’s perspective and the dog’s perspective, because their respective understandings of reality are far inferior (really, really inferior) to that of their parent/owner.

I suppose the fundamental mistake the baby and the dog are making, in both examples, is that they are equating themselves to their parent/owner. They believe that their understanding, knowledge and intelligence is on the same level as their parent’s/owner’s understanding, knowledge and intelligence.

In other words, the problem is pride. I think this is why Jesus said, “unless you become like a little a child, you cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” Those who truly see God as a loving parent will never say to Him, “You had no right to do this to me.” or “You’re a hypocrite.”

I strongly recommend the Book of Job.

It’s kind of difficult for a Catholic to make a “I gotcha, Catholics” thread.

I often do have interior “gotcha” moments, however, where someone else within me seems to say: “Right, that’s it! This one problem proves that you made a mistake to believe in God. This is a waste of time. No one can answer this one. Just go back to atheism.” It is probably the demons using my questions and myself as a puppet to sow doubts in those who are just as full of doubts & fear as I tend to be.

Please forgive me…

Your comments here make me think of the book I’m reading now…The Screwtape letters…Great book.


agreed, as are almost all of lewis.

Ahh…now I feel bad.

I hope you’re not being sarcastic because I’m a very sensitive person. But I try not to take myself too seriously :).

In any case, Preadicare, my apologies if my post was not helpful or was accusatory. If something I say thwarts an atheist from becoming Catholic, then I am the one who is being used as a puppet.

Hi Praedicare

Sorry again. You *are *Catholic. What I meant to say is that I would hate it if anything I said contributed to you going back to atheism.

Ugghh…I’m tired. :slight_smile:

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