When parents either explicitly or implicitly tell their children to do what they say which is directly contradicted by what they actually do, we call it hypocrisy. I saw a great commercial recently that portrayed this reality in regard to smoking. The parent lectures the child on the evils of tobacco use with a cigarette hanging off of their lip. I suspect that parent had a bit of a credibility problem with their child. As parents, we are often guilty of hypocrisy due to the fact that the standard to which we aspire and that to which we point our children is something of which we all fall short. Hopefully, however, the way or the degree to which we fall short of our aspirational values is not too large. If it is, it creates confusion, disillusionment and disengagement in our children. Parental hypocrisy has a stumbling effect. This, you remember, was the chief aspect of the leavening effect of the Pharisees of which Jesus warned His followers.
I think we would all agree that it is bad parenting to ask our children to do something we ourselves are unwilling to do. And yet, this is precisely what the modern view of forgiveness asks God’s children to do. Most evangelicals would agree that God ultimately does not and will not forgive everyone. Most of us are not universalists, despite the resurgence of that ancient belief. God relates to a world that is filled with forgiven and unforgiven people. Despite His call to all to find His forgiveness, many remain estranged. He does not unilaterally grant forgiveness to all, but rather, offers them a way to be reconciled to Him if they so choose. He warns of impending judgment on those who refuse His kindness. So, not only does He not forgive everyone, He as the just Judge must in the end do what is right and pronounce a just verdict over those who are outside of Christ and the forgiveness that He alone brings. This is not controversial for most Christians.
If then, God does not forgive everyone unconditionally, how can He ask us to do so? It is, according to His rightful place of authority and ownership over all things, His divine prerogative to do whatever He pleases. However, He tells us that He is bound by His own character not to be hypocritical. He is light. There is no darkness in Him. He walks (conducts Himself in all things) in the light and asks us to do the same. If these statements are true, how can He ask us, or would He ever ask us, to do anything that He Himself will not do. I think the answer is clearly, “No.” God is the ultimate Parent. There is nothing He asks us to do that He does not practice Himself. He never says to us, “Do as I say, not as I do.”