Thursday, June 30, 2016

Unpardonable or Unpardoning

On Sunday, I preached from the passage on the unpardonable sin from Mark 3. One usual focus is to help people determine whether they have committed it. Well, the truth is that if it was a one time ordeal, many more would be in trouble. But that is not the depiction in the text. The issue is blasphemy, and specifically, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. But it is not simply blasphemy that is the issue, it is to blaspheme and continually blaspheme, that is, the word (in the Greek) is in the form where the action is continual, not a one-time action. (The unpardonable nature was also meant for a people and a nation, not us today, but the principle carries forward to today. Click here for full context.)

In the context, the sin was that the religious leaders were crediting the work of God to Satan. Jesus provides a logical defense and even appeals to their own beliefs (the coming Messiah could heal the mute, see Matthew 12.22 for this detail), yet the opposition against Him would only intensify despite the continued miracles and the teachings of a coming Kingdom. Thus many (if not all) who were guilty of blasphemy on that day did continue to commit that sin.

The issue really was that these people were becoming unpardonable in part because they were unwilling to pardon. Of course, simply pardoning Jesus is not sufficient, one must have faith, but in their case it would have been a place to start. They had observed Jesus doing great things, but because of when He did them (some were on the Sabbath), or what He said ("your sins are forgiven") they believed Jesus was guilty of blasphemy and thus were unwilling to listen and become fruitful (Mark 4.8).

Today, we live in a world that has a great deal of evil. I awoke this morning to the news of the attack at the airport in Istanbul, for instance. And while the true identity and motive of the attackers is not yet known, the early speculation is that the attack likely had stemmed from radically religious people.

But the problem is not being radically religious (Jesus was), but in how it is made manifest. The truth is that Jesus stirred the pot hard for those who were not interested in what He was doing and teaching (again, the leaders of the day expected EXACTLY what He was doing, just not so much in the way He did it (or taught it). And thus, He was at odds with the establishment of the day for serving and loving people.

In our day, many face the same tribulation. It is certainly true that Christians are being forced to bow to the pressures of the day, and when they don't they find themselves being figuratively burned (like Sharach, Meshach, and Abednego were supposed to be), eaten alive (like Daniel was supposed to be), or crucified (like our Lord was). But some who profess to be Christian are often no better in their actions toward others. Jesus called us to love God, love others, and love one another (the latter applying to fellow believers). And loving others requires forgiving, or pardoning.

Make no mistake, loving does require the need to judge, but not to pronounce judgement. Matthew 7.1 is often quoted as "Do not judge!" But that is not what the passage means. In verse 5, Jesus says that we must make sure we are able to see clearly BEFORE helping others, but WE ARE to help others which requires knowing what help to provide which requires a measure of judging.

But to judge, does not mean that we do not pardon. That is the very essence of the first verses of Matthew 7. We are to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness (which includes confessing our sin (the log in our eye), before we can see to remove the speck from another's eye. (Our sin against God is far greater than any grievance we may have with another). And when we do not pardon, we are permitting God not to forgive us (Matthew 6.14-15), and prove that we are not truly seeking God and His righteousness.

To not pardon others (i.e. to be "unpardoning") is to become unpardonable. To not forgive is to remain unforgiven. Ultimately, that sin is to reject the Holy Spirit, which in our day, means to not respond to what He is doing around us, in part, to get us to respond to God. But because the Holy Spirit brings regeneration and leads us into all truth (John 14.26), if we don't respond to His guidance, then we choose to be unpardonable. Jesus, by His choice, died for all sin. For those who choose not to believe, then judgement is already fixed (John 3.17-18).

But this brings us full circle. The scribes, Pharisees, and other leaders were warned that continued blasphemy was the issue. Jesus issued a warning (which requires judging between good and bad, or in that case, evil), and any who repented would be forgiven. It is amazing to think that some of those same people may have been a part of the 3000 who were in the crowd in Jerusalem for Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2 (see v. 41). As Peter would later say, they were responsible for killing the author of life (Acts 3.15), yet God pardoned them when they turned to Him.

The world definitely is filled with many challenges, but Jesus promised that the Kingdom was near. That was true then, and it is true today. I don't know how long we must wait until the "already, but not yet" of the Kingdom will dissipate into a full realization of the Kingdom, but God does. In the meantime, I can trust that the Kingdom was fully procured by Jesus at the cross and became fully secured by His resurrection. And it is offered to those who are pardoned, in part, because they are willing to pardon others as well.

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