Question: My 7 year old asked me a question that I don’t know how to answer, ” Mom, the bible teaches us to forgive right, and we are supposed to forgive those who do bad things to us right? Are we supposed to forgive the devil?”
Answer: There are two kinds of forgiveness.
The first kind of forgiveness is our response to someone who comes to us and tells us they were wrong for what they did to us and should be punished for it, but they want our forgiveness. We tell them we are no longer holding what they did to us against them. We’re no longer going to treat them as someone who is out to hurt us. We will start to learn to trust them and maybe even be friends if things go well. This is the kind of forgiveness God gives us when we come to him and tell him we were wrong for living our lives without him. He forgives us and does not hold it against us forever, because Jesus, his Son, took our punishment we deserved by dying in our place. If a person does not ask for this forgiveness, he or she does not get it.
The second kind of forgiveness is needed when someone is choosing to hurt us but he or she does not feel they need to be forgiven and does not ask for our forgiveness. They really are against us and still deserve to be treated with punishment for what they are doing. It is not our place to punish them. If they have broken a law by hurting us the law enforcers may punish him or her. But we have been taught by Jesus to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). We are to hope and pray that they will realize how bad they are being and that they will ask for forgiveness. But until they do, we do not want to hate them and treat them as badly as they treat us. So we treat them with respect even though we know they will still try to hurt us. Jesus did this when on the cross he asked the Father to forgive those who were crucifying him (Luke 23:34).
We know that the devil is never going to ask for forgiveness. Jesus says he is eventually going to end up in the Lake of Fire, which was designed for him and those who are like him (Matthew 25:41). He will always be our enemy, trying to hurt us by encouraging us to disobey Jesus and live our lives without God. We can choose not to always hate him or be bitter against him. But there is no hope that he will ever change. So our “forgiveness” is that second kind which does not allow Satan to keep himself as the focus of our anger, but rather to see him as a real enemy whom only God can defeat. Our focus is to be on God.