Bible Reading: John 20:19-23
“If you forgive the sins of anyone they are forgiven [because of their faith]; if you retain the sins of anyone, they are retained [and remain unforgiven because of their unbelief]” [John 20:23 Amplified Bible]
This verse almost sounds as though the disciples to have power to forgive sins, but we know that is not what it means, because only God, and Jesus who is God, have the power to forgive sins. Jesus was commissioning His disciples, and sending them out with the message of the good news of salvation. As they proclaimed the gospel, they could honestly tell people who accepted the gospel, turned from sin and believed on Jesus, that their sins were forgiven. Equally, for those who rejected the gospel and its message, that their sins were retained and not forgiven, and that they stood condemned in God’s eyes.
Christian believers today have the very same mission that those early disciples were given. We are obligated to share the message that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, and that the only way to forgiveness is through faith in Him. This is the heart of the message that Jesus has given to us to proclaim, and when a person believes, then we can tell them, on Christ’s behalf, that their sins are forgiven.
There is also another way in which we can declare forgiveness to someone. Many years ago my mother came to stay with us. We often clashed and it was nearly always over small and insignificant things. She came to us for Christmas, and for the first couple of days everything was fine, but then it exploded. It was over a 3% extra payment on a credit card for an air ticket that I had bought on her behalf. There was an ugly display of bad temper on both our parts, and in frustration I walked out of the room, slammed the door behind me, and went upstairs to our bedroom. I lay on the bed, wondering why, after all these years of following Jesus, that I could not get on with my own mother. Suddenly I had a vision of my mother’s heart. She was so broken and I felt ashamed of the way I had spoken to her.
After a while I went downstairs, told her what I had seen, and apologised to her, asking for her forgiveness. Mum broke down and began to weep. Her words are just as clear to me today as they were all those years ago. She said, “Michael, if only you knew how much I loved you, and how often I wanted to pick you up and run away with you. You could not give me security, but your stepfather could. Will you forgive me?” For five years after that time, whenever Mum and I met, she would ask me, “Am I really forgiven?” Each time she asked I told her that she was truly forgiven. Gradually she began to believe it, until one day she knew that it was true. That gave her great assurance and healed our relationship.
Why do you think that telling someone they are forgiven is such a powerful thing to do?
Why do some people find it so difficult to accept the fact that their sins are forgiven?