Fifty Days of Easter

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Day 46: Whoever sins you forgive they will be forgiven

Fifty Days of Easter: Day 46
Whoever sins you forgive they will be forgiven

If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’ - John 20:23

Two days ago we looked at Jesus entrusting us with his power to unbind people. One of the greatest ways Jesus had of setting people free was to forgive them of their sins. In John’s Gospel, when he breathed the Holy Spirit upon them, he focused specifically on the power to forgive people of their sins.
One of the primary reasons that the religious leaders handed Jesus over to the Romans to be executed was that he kept forgiving people of their sins. This was blasphemy because only God could forgive sins, and since Jesus was forgiving people, then he was equating himself with God. That people went away from him feeling forgiven made matters even worse. If ultimately, people have sinned against God, then only God could forgive people. And here is Jesus forgiving people and they are feeling forgiven, it would be different if the people didn’t feel forgiven or it hadn’t “worked,” but it did work!
For me personally, this changes what we have often been taught - that Jesus died so that our sins could be forgiven. I think that is wrong. God had been in the forgiveness business long before Jesus lived on earth, and Jesus was forgiving people before his death. I don’t think he died so we could be forgiven, he died because he was forgiving people and I think the resurrection proves that we are forgiven. The resurrection validates Jesus’ ability to forgive. If Jesus hadn’t been raised from the dead, then we could easily question the validity and effectiveness of Jesus forgiveness.
Now Jesus has entrusted us with that same ministry of forgiving people. Its quite simple. When you forgive someone, God forgives them. We live in a world that regularly judges people as unforgiveable, and forgiving some of these people one can create enormous animosity toward you the forgiver. But know, that whenever you forgive, Jesus has got your back and God forgives them. There is no divine judgment for works of mercy and compassion.
In our Sunday forgiveness program I made the distinction, between forgiving someone, which is about how we resolve what was done to us in our past, and reconciliation which is an agreement between people about how they will live together in the future. I can forgive someone for a heinous crime and at the same time not being reconciled to letting them out of jail, because they have not demonstrated that they are safe to live in society. We can keep a person in jail not as an act of resentment, revenge, or punishment, but as an act of caring for our fellow citizens.
But let us return to the understanding that you and I have been given the power to forgive people of their sins. This is a profoundly priestly thing to do that is not just restricted to the clergy. This is what our patron St. Peter calls the priesthood of all believers.
I find that mind blowing. God has entrusted us and empowered us, that is you and me to forgive people of their sins. You are now in the family business of forgiving people. Imagine in your prayers this evening, saying:
“Hey Dad guess who I forgave today…” And God says, “I know, I was there, well done!”
As you contemplate going back into the world, and engaging with others who needs to be forgiven?
If you haven’t done so, start with yourself…
And now think of some people who need to be forgiven and forgive them…
With Easter Joy

Posted by The Rev. Dr. Rob Voyle with