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We Gather in Faith

Teaching and commentary from our pastor, Bishop Francis Christian.

REFLECTIONS

A question that frequently comes up is what is the “sin against the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 12:32) which Jesus says will not be forgiven.  Perhaps one way of answering this important question is to look at a scene in Shakespeare’s Hamlet that addresses the issue of forgiveness.  The King, Claudius, has murdered his brother, married his brother’s widow and stolen the crown.  In his reflection Claudius reveals what is transpiring in his tortured soul.  The king knows that his fault is past but prayer does not serve him well since the effects of his crime—the stealing of the crown, the sinful fulfillment of his ambition and his adulterous relationship with the queen—all remain.  He correctly senses that his foul murder cannot be forgiven as long as the effects of the murder remain. Our faith tells us that God’s mercy is always available through the salvation gained for us in Christ Jesus.  We need only to turn to God with sincere intent and resolve, confess our sins and receive divine mercy.  No one is excluded from this grace.  God’s will is that all be saved. What blocks God’s forgiveness is not any particular thing we might do or not do. What makes something unforgivable is our refusal to forgo the effects of our sins and our unwillingness to reform our lives. It is not that a particular act is unforgivable, but rather that the person committing it refuses to admit his or her sinfulness, hardens their heart, and refuses to change.  St. Peter denied Christ three times.  But he was readily forgiven when he wept bitterly and acknowledged his sin.  Judas also betrayed Christ, but he was unable or unwilling to ask for mercy and so ended up in despair.  Mercy was offered to both.  It was accepted by only one. Judas’ sin was “unforgivable” only because he couldn’t ask for mercy.  In other words, the unforgivable sin is the refusal to believe that God is truly a God of love, truly a God of mercy.   The only thing that will not be forgiven is the refusal to ask to be forgiven. And we can only ask to be forgiven when we are willing, as Claudius was not, to remove from our lives with God’s help the effects of our sin.  As we draw close to Christmas and celebrate the incarnation of God’s love for us, let us rejoice that He will forgive everything if we only ask.