Is there ever a time we don't forgive?
Confession and Forgiveness
A man is in prison, convicted of murder. He asks for clergy. He confesses to the murder, but only privately to clergy.
The vicim's body is missing. He will not say where she is. He did not apologize for pleading 'not guilty', or the trial cost to the taxpayers.
Is that confession sacred, and therefore exempt from legal involvement or from publication?
Is that repentance real and that confession valid?
Has he truly confessed if he hasn’t taken public responsibility for the crime, or helped the family by revealing the whereabouts of the body?
Or told who his accomplices were?
Is he really forgiven?
Sexual Abuse by Clergy
Likewise, can any clergy molest a child and privately ‘repent’ without publicly confessing to the deed, to the victim and family, take judicial responsibility for the act, and expect to be forgiven?
Is there a sin I can’t be forgiven of?
2 Timothy 2:25:
25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth,
26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
This scripture infers that we do not self-generate repentance. It is a gift of God.
It is then logical to presume that if God grants us the ability to repent, He will forgive us if we do repent.
2 Timothy ties into Matthew 18, where Jesus gives the full blueprint for forgiveness, which is the real point of this article.
I question and want to confront the concept of cheap-and-easy, one-way-forgiveness, that leaves our churches filled with wolves in sheep’s clothing.
I consider Matthew 8:15 to be the single most complete scripture for forgiveness
but first we need to delve into certain mechanics of God's methodology; the 'if' and 'then' clause. Consider this:
Many promises and commnads are given on an if-then basis. And there are over 1400 'if's in the Bible.
2 Chronicles 7:14 "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land." The if-then equation.
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.
16 But if they will not listen, (then) take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.
17 If they still refuse to listen, (then) tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, (then, implied) treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
1) Talk in private. No settlement? Go to step 2.
2) Bring two or three with you. Fault will be determined there. No settlement? Go to step 3.
3) Public rebuke in church on Sunday. No repentance?
4) Consider person to be a spiritual outsider. Logically, stripped of all authority and responsibilities in the church.
Churches should have trials like this, as requested, including those against child-molesting clergy. Think this is harsh?
Look at Acts 5:
Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property.
2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.
3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?
4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”
5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.
7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.
8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”
“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”
9 Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”
10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband.
11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.
What happened to the 'Uncle Jesus' everyone talks about?
The New Testament was a time when God moved, because the church pursued God, both for His holiness and for His power.
The dead were raised, the sick were healed, the blind given their sight, and liars were struck dead.
Today's Christianity is pretty anemic compared to the 1st Century church, mostly because of the lack of holiness.
Paul, in 2 Timothy 4:
"14 Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done.
15 You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message."
When Annanias and Saphira were killed by God, were they killed as a form of discipline and still went to heaven,
or did God reject them as He rejected Lucifer for his rebellion?
I don't know.
1 Corinthians 11, talks about God killing those who take communion improperly:
27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.(*1) 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.(*2) 31 But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. 32 Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world(*3).
(*1) Some were treating the communion feast as a mere feeding-trough and not a remembrance of Christ's crucifixion.
(*2) Some people where killed for this, either by God killing them directly, or allowing diseases they already had to take them.
(*3) This verse infers that God kills some people so they can't continue in sin and thus incur eternal rejection.
And consider 2 Corinthians 2:
5. If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. 6 The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. 7 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. 8 I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. 9 Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. 10 Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, 11 in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.
This seems like the result of a Matthew 18 confrontation, done in stages as prescribed.
We see trials where families of murder victims forgive their victims who never admitted to the killing, pleaded not guilty, denied on the witness stand doing the crime. Yet they were found guilty and the families forgave them.
We know unrepentant criminals are not forgiven by God.
How is forgiving without confession of guilt, much less repentance, imitating God?
The Bible clearly illustrates a link betweeen repentance and forgiveness.
And Jesus' other words on forgiveness, John 20:23:
"If you forgive anyone's sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."
I will suggest that this scripture refers back to Matthew 18.
Lastly, Revelation 6: 9-11:
"When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. 10 They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” 11 Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters,[e] were killed just as they had been."
Saints in white robes acting in a manner that today's church would call unforgiveness.
Something to consider...
Eric J. Rose