Those Whom You Forgive
Posted on August 12, 2013
The last few weeks were extremely busy and unfortunately blogging lost in the war of priorities! However, life has slowed a bit and I’m excited to explore a challenging passage from John 20. Without further adieu, let’s jump in! John 20:21-23 states, “Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
Yikes! There’s a little pressure! Could Jesus really be saying that if we refuse to forgive someone they are not forgiven?! Yes and no! First of all we must see verse 21 clearly to rightly interpret the punch of verse 22. Verse 21 says that Jesus was sent from heaven to earth for the purpose of proclaiming the nature of the Father which includes the forgiveness of sin (see Hebrews 8:12). So Jesus is tying receiving forgiveness to the mission of being sent ones to the uttermost parts of the earth (see Acts 1:8).
In other words Jesus is saying the message of forgiveness is embodied by an apostolic people who go to every sector of the earth and declare the work of Christ and what He accomplished. What Jesus is getting at is, if there is a group of people who (for whatever the reason) we refuse to go to and embody (word & deed) the good news, they continue to live as if their sins are retained. And tragically remain under the weight of darkness because those who have the light do not deem them worthy of hearing the message.
Sounds like Jonah, huh? Could this really be true? Consider Paul’s words to the Romans in chapter 10:14-17, “How, then, can they (those that have never heard – Jew & Gentile) call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are SENT! As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news?” But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the messaged is heard through the word of Christ.” Declaring what Christ has accomplished is what stirs faith in the human heart to trust in what Christ has done!
Is it possible for people to hear what Jesus has done and not believe it? Yes! But does that mean we should not go to people who seem vehemently opposed to Christ, because they should get what’s coming to them? No! In fact, that is the very opposite of what Jesus did. According to Romans 5:8, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In other words, we didn’t do anything to merit His coming!
His coming was completely founded on His love and value for redeeming a world that was in utter turmoil. Let us let go of our offense and realize the work of redemption does not exclude anyone in its scope, even if some will refuse to believe. It’s good news and mankind was made to thrive on the hearing and trusting of good news!