Thursday, October 13, 2011

Forgiving Sin

Mark 2:1-12 (ESV) And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. [2] And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. [3] And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. [4] And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. [5] And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "My son, your sins are forgiven." [6] Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, [7] "Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" [8] And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, "Why do you question these things in your hearts? [9] Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, take up your bed and walk'? [10] But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"—he said to the paralytic— [11] "I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home." [12] And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, "We never saw anything like this!" There is so much that this text has to say to us. The paralytic wants to walk, Jesus forgives his sins. He takes care of the real problem. He doesn’t just treat the symptoms. It’s not that the man had done some particular sin and had lost his ability to walk as punishment. In the end it just doesn’t work that way. Sin was the disease that needed to be taken care of. Jesus, forgiving the sin, allows the man to walk. In the same way, because Jesus has forgiven our sin, we have eternal life, and can look toward the full glory of life in heaven. Even those of us who are in relatively good health, will marvel at how sick we really have been as we enter into heaven, as our bodies are pulled from the earth and transformed and healed, or transformed in the twinkling of an eye at the return of Christ even as we are caught up from the destruction of the earth. No more bad hips and knees that no longer seem to be able to take a 3 mile run, eyes continually deteriorating making it hard to read and type. But what I find amazing about this passage is that Baptists continually use it to try refute the Lutheran conception of the Office of Ministry. No, they don’t quote Christ, they quote the Pharisees! A pastor isn’t in the office long before he experiences the persecution of Christ here demonstrated. Just a couple Sundays and you are guaranteed to have a Baptist or American Evangelical of some type, begrudge you for forgiving their sins at the beginning of the service. Talk to them, and they will tell you only God can forgive sins. When you retort that this is true, but God gets to choose how he does so and he chooses to do so through the pastoral office as can be shown in John 20, you are told you are usurping the power of God. Never mind, that even in the Lord’s Prayer, we are admonished to forgive sins. Some would like to cut straws here, and say trespasses, show me the difference. We forgive sins. They say well those are only sins committed against you personally. No sins are committed against you personally. You are the temple of God, remember? To sin against you is to sin against God. Of course this is true when we sin against others too. Not only do we as representatives of God, thereby give him a bad name, but we sin against those whom God loves, whom he created, and for whom he died. The long and short of it being we cannot sin, without sinning against God. They are his commandments we are breaking, even when it is our neighbor we murder or steal from, or sexually abuse through prostitution, pornography, affairs, and so forth, and I do believe there is special torment held for those who abuse according to a legal definition of abuse subjecting children to torture they should not suffer. But here I’m more interested to show that when God commands us to forgive our brother seventy times seventy he is commanding us to forgive others sins they have committed against him. Why it is that Baptists and Evangelicals have such a problem with this concept, I don’t know. Why they so nonchallanlty align themselves with Pharisees in this, I don’t know. But they pout as if someone just took their favorite toy away from them in kindergarten. This is a problem. See if we are forgiven, if Christ takes away our sin, we have nothing left to boast about, nothing left to work for, our selfish motives are gone. But that’s just it, if our works are aimed at overcoming our sin on our own terms, well then, our motives are sinning even as we are handing out blankets on a cold evening. And that is why Jesus forgives, because he loves us, and knows that we are incapable of doing anything about our own sin. But when he forgives, he takes away the sin, he takes away the selfish motives, he takes away all, and leaves us with nothing but his love, and there is more than enough of that to share with all by forgiving their sins when they sin against us.

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