Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Troubling Scripture

I was taught that God loves us. “The bible tells me so.” And if God loves us then God is willing to forgive us. People have, over the generations, added conditions to God’s forgiveness, but this simple message has been engraved on my heart - that God’s love and ability to forgive are limitless.

You can imagine how troubling I find Matthew’s Gospel (12: 32, 33) where it says, Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”

So, we can do anything, even speak against Jesus the Christ (“Son of Man” is the title he used to talk about himself) and be forgiven, but speaking against God’s Holy Spirit is unforgiveable. Two absolutes collide: my belief that God forgives every sin clashes with Jesus saying, yes, but not if we, “blasphemy against the Spirit.”

A week ago I couldn’t have told you what blaspheming against the Spirit meant. I have always known that this scripture troubled me. Then one night this week, I woke up with a start, in the middle of the night, fumbling in the dark, I found a pen and paper and wrote, “We are only limited by our ability to deny the gifts of the Holy Spirit.”

That is I think the point Jesus is making: say what you want against him, there’s still forgiveness; but speak against God’s Spirit and we are truly troubled. The gifts that accompany God’s Spirit are joyful, life affirming, loving and forgiving. Jesus is asking us to embrace God’s love, forgiveness and the gifts that come with acceptance. “The bible tells me so.”

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