03 October 2007

Does God Really Forgive Sinners?

Today the question was posed on a list I frequent:
Should mistakes in someone's past automatically preclude them from the opportunity to accomplish any good in the future?

According to a clergyman... any future good works are forever overshadowed by the mistakes of the past. Indeed, even false accusations, it appears, should cause an individual to be shunned forever.

I thought I would share an expanded version of my response...

The immediate response I think of is found in 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11 which reads,
"Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." (NLT)

Paul's basic message? Well, you were sinners once, but you have been washed clean.

Jesus (and Paul!), of course, requires us to change our ways... we have been called from darkness and self-preoccupation to the light of existence in the community of faith. God truly meets us where we are and walks with us through our struggles as we strive to become better than when we first encountered him.

When Jesus encountered the woman who was about to be stoned for committing adultery, he challenged the crowd (particularly the popular religion-mongers who had caught the woman) by seeking a sinless person to cast the first stone at her. Everyone dropped their stones and went home. They were all sinners. He then turned to the woman and said, "Go and sin no more." (John 8: 11b)

He sent the woman away forgiven, with a call for her to never do it again.

There will be difficult times on that walk. The apostles can tell you about difficult times. Peter calls Jesus the Messiah, and then -after a brief interlude- is called Satan by the very man he glorified by his declaration. In fact, Peter went on to deny Jesus... and yet Jesus reversed the denial and turned it into a threefold affirmation of Peter's call to serve - and it turned Peter inside out.

So, the next time someone tells you (any of you!) that God holds the sins we have repented of against us, challenge them to show you some New Testament proof. Next time someone tells you that God does not have abundant mercy, kindly request some evidence of the claim.

(Finally, just point to the Montanists if the individual in question needs some proof of a condemed heretical sect that practiced shunning to the degree this individual is advocating.)


All original material (C) 2007-2010 by Father Robert Lyons.

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