Me? Forgive?

Did you ever read a portion of the Bible, maybe even something you have read many times before, and been stopped in your tracks by it? That happened to me this morning.

While waiting for my breakfast partner to arrive for our customary Sunday morning meeting, I was reading in my Spanish Bible, which makes me think a little differently. I was in John 20, a place I chose because, well, my Bible fell open there.

You might recall the passage. Jesus has risen from the dead, his followers are huddling together in fear behind locked doors, and Jesus just pops in among them. Apparently, he came through the wall or something. But that's for another conversation.


After greeting them, he turns their world upside down:

"So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, 'Peace be with you.'

"And when he had said this, he showed them both his hands and his side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

"So Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you; as the Father has sent me, I also send you.'

"And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained" (John 20:19-23).

Now, I've read this perhaps a hundred times, and maybe you have, too. It's a life-changing passage to anyone who takes it seriously. I have taught for years about Jesus sending his followers - I'm one - in the same manner as the Father sent him. If you take that seriously, the implications are profound.

But this morning I was more focused on the context - right after the resurrection and in a locked room - and on the last statement.

Especially the last statement: If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven in heaven, and if you don't they are not.

Wow.

Think back to the Gospels for a moment, and consider what it was that got Jesus in the deepest trouble the fastest. Got it? Yup: He forgave sins. Remember what they said? That's right: Only God could forgive sins. So in granting forgiveness, Jesus was - in the eyes of onlookers - claiming equality with God.

And now? Now he tells his people that they have the authority to forgive or retain sins. They - we - are given an authority that belongs only to God.

Is your boat rocking yet? Where do I get off, claiming I can forgive - or not - someone's sins?

It's important, I think, to keep this statement together with the one immediately before it: Receive the Holy Spirit. It's important to consider this entire matter in the greatest humility, carefully avoiding arrogance.

This reintroduces the ignored member of the trinity, the one essential to living the life to which God calls his people. We can only act and speak as those sent by Jesus, as those entrusted with the message of reconciliation, those with the authority to forgive, through the active, present power of the Spirit of God in us.

It's time, it seems to me, to rethink some things.

5 Comments

While this concept of being able to forgive sins based upon what Christ did and through the Holy Spirit, is very profound indeed, what is even more troubling to me is the verse where we are told that if we do not forgive others, we in turn will not be forgiven by God. I've preached it and taught it and lived it for that is really where the theology of it hits the road. My son is a new Catholic convert and we've had some interesting discussions on who can forgive sins. This article is helpful in that ongoing discussion. Thanks for writing it.

Forgiveness is an afterthought. There is a very powerful reason that the Father has mercy upon all of his children. There are many passages that explain, perhaps the most explicit is 2nd Corinthians 5:16-21. Why does our mighty Lord not count our sins against us here in 18 & 19 of this one? "18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them." The reason is so powerful, yet I have never heard it explained in our modern commercial churches!

It is a profound responsibility that faces the Christian, and one that most of us want to run from, but I will state it here in its most unqualified terms:

"You are now the Incarnation of God on the earth."

Yup. There we go. Believers, collectively and individually, are an incarnation of God on earth. The same Holy Spirit that impregnated Mary with the Son of God is the same Spirit that transforms our human cells, flesh and blood into divine vessels and holy temples for a transcendent God

That means:-

We now have the responsibility to forgive as He does, as stated in the post

We now have the responsibility to love as He loves

We now have the responsibility to exercise miraculous faith like He does

We now have the responsibility to be holy as He is holy

We now have the responsibility to sacrifice ourselves for love as He sacrificed Himself for love

We now have the responsibility to... well, you get the idea

Daunting, isn't it?

I gotta think about this one- I'll get back to you-

There are way too many thoughts going around in my head : )

There is no dooubt the bible holds the biggest riddle the world has ever known. Some believe forgiveness is not for the other person it is for ourselves. It is a practice that allows us to let go of bitter resentments and be able to live and love freely again. The book of Matthew says something about don't remove the logs from someone elses eye when we have logs in our own eyes. It states don't judge others least yea be judge. There is you balance. The bible says the word of God is "I am the I am." That's how Gods works a performed through us. It's like God allows us to practice sitting at the right hand of the father in the Utopic society that most belief structures call paradise. We practice until we get it right. We ask ourselves is it right to punish criminals, but what we should be asking ourselves is why are we as a society still breeding criminals? We breed people who have never known nurturing so they don't know how to nurture. We breed people who rebel against the anxiety of exsisting in a world with no love in extreme ways. That is why crimes happen. It's not that people are bad people or want to be bad. People just don't have the right tools to achieve results in their lives any other way. Have you ever felt like you were screaming at the top of your lungs, but still nobody could hear you. That's what it feels like when people don't have the adequate communication skills to express themselves appropriately. So they speak to us in other means. When children do bad things we call it a cry for attention. Some people's estemes are so low that negative attention is as good as no attention at all. That's when all the robbing, cheating, and stealing begin. Then it grows to abusing others. That's is the whole misery loves company cliche. Miserable people make others feel miserable to. If miserable is the normality in their environment they don't feel so indiferent. It is that simple yet as a whole society we can't seem to get it together. If we can't get it together hear in practice land then can we honestly say we are prepared to maintain ourselves in Utopia? Are we really ready for Heaven? We are Godlike, but take a good look around. If we were running Heaven the same way we run our little planet then it wouldn't be much of a Heaven would it.

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  • Rebecca said:
      There is no dooubt the bible holds the biggest riddle the world has ev...
  • Alicia said:
      I gotta think about this one- I'll get back to you- There are way too...
  • Siya Khumalo said:
      It is a profound responsibility that faces the Christian, and one that...
  • Dirk said:
      Forgiveness is an afterthought. There is a very powerful reason that t...
  • Rev. Dr. Frankie L. Perdue, D. Min. said:
      While this concept of being able to forgive sins based upon what Chris...

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