In John's Gospel, Jesus said: "23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they will be forgiven. But if you don’t forgive their sins, they will not be forgiven." Actually, that's not quite what it means in Greek.
First of all the word "forgive" in Greek doesn't quite mean what we mean when we use the English word. The Greek word means to "send away," "remit." Or more simply it means to "remove" sin and it's penalty. It's not saying that you will forget or ignore it. It's more active than that. It means to actually "remove" it, like removing a cancer from your body or the body of another.
That's why the Pharisees were so upset with Jesus for "removing" sins. "Who can remove (pardon) sin but God alone" was not a question of Jesus' authority to do so, but a question of his POWER to do so.
This is SO important to note: Jesus just gave the disciples his breath (Spirit) and then said to them in effect, "now you have the power to remove sin, just like I did while I was with you." That's why the impartation of the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness of sin are so closely linked by Jesus in these verses. One implies the other.
Do you have Jesus' breath? Then you have the power to remove sin!
Secondly, there is no future tense in the above verse, in the Greek. In Greek it is a grammatical structure that doesn't exist in English. To make sense in English the translator uses the future tense. However, that really destroys the meaning of the second part. "But if you don't gain mastery of their sin" Jesus doesn't use the same verb in the second part of the verse. TOTALLY different word. TOTALLY different meaning. "Krateo" means to "take power over something," "grab," etc. It implies a degree of FORCE over something.
And then the next word is spectacular: "he would have already been mastered by it, over powered by it." SAME verb, krateo, passive, perfect tense, subjunctive mood.
So what Jesus is saying here is more like this: "If you remove someone's sin, then that sin is toast, finished, gone forever. But if you don't gain mastery over their sin (by force), then their previous condition would remain, they would have already been mastered by it. The object of these verbs is the person who is mastered by sin, which you have the power to remove.
Jesus is not saying you have two options: forgive sin or not to forgive sin. He is saying that you have an obligation to remove their sin, because if you don't they will be doomed.
That's why Jesus gave his breath to us, so that we could remove sin from others.
At least, that's what it says in Greek. Your English bible might not say the same thing.
Go Change the World.
Change is difficult, as we all know. And transitions in leadership are perhaps the most difficult of all changes we face. The uncertainty is probably the hardest part.
It is not unlike the transition that took place when Jesus died, was raised and taken up into heaven, at least from the point of view of the disciples. Losing a friend was the first shock, followed by the uncertainty of what was going to happen after that. Jesus word to his disciples included a promise of the Holy Spirit who would guide them. And that Holy Spirit is still with us today, and the promise still holds true today.
It’s easy to forget that Jesus is the head of the body we call the Church and that his Spirit is still among us every day. We are so much like Martha, busy with preparations and arrangements. We want things to work well. We expend a lot of energy to make sure that everything works out well. And when an uncertainty pops up that we can’t control it can really throw us off our mark.
Mary had the right idea. Adequate preparations are important, but obsessing over the details is not. At some point it is time to just sit down at the feet of Jesus and listen to him. There are details that are out of our control and worrying over their outcome only produces anxiety. Mary knew that it was time to sit and listen to Jesus.
So I encourage you to relax, rest at the feet of Jesus and listen to him. Prayer is the mightiest force in the Universe. And most of prayer is simply listening to what the Holy Spirit is saying. Your anxiety will drop (and your blood pressure will drop as well). And by listening to the Holy Spirit you will find the calmness and peace that you need. The result will be that you will be able to think more clearly and rationally. This is the time when clear and rational thought is most needed. That only happens when the anxiety drops. And that happens when you quiet your soul, and listen to Jesus. Mary got it right. Don’t be a Martha.
Pastor Justin Grimm from the synod office is walking us through a year of renewal. One of the things he talked to us about was developing a habit of invitation. He talked about someone he knew who just recently retired in St Paul and visited a local church for the first time. One of the members of the church welcomed him and started up a conversation in order to get to know him. The member found out that he had just retired and so he asked Justin’s friend what he planned to do in retirement. “Play a lot of golf,” he said. I am sure there was much more they talked about, but that one comment lead to an invitation. The next week another member of the congregation called Justin’s friend and invited him to join a few men from their congregation who were going to be playing golf that week. Justin’s friend was convinced this was the congregation for him and his wife.