As parents with teens we sometimes faced the dilemma that arose when we had to ground our children as punishment. We often wondered who suffered the most – our children who were grounded, or we as parents who had to limit ourselves so we could enforce the punishment.
Today’s passage takes place after the resurrection. Jesus has appeared to his disciples as they hide within a locked room – perhaps the same room where the Last Supper took place. What authority does Jesus give? Do we have that same authority?
This statement from Jesus can spark considerable debate and may not be the easiest passage to understand. Many believe this is the commissioning of the disciples, Jesus giving these eleven followers the authority that Jesus has. They now have the power to forgive sins, to heal, and also to condemn.
Now the question is, does this authority end with the disciples? Or is this same authority something we possess? Do we have the power to withhold forgiveness from others, and in that power do we condemn them?
I believe the answers to those questions must be decided by each individual. Who is to say which of us is correct?
On a purely logical and superficial level what is being said makes sense. If you forgive, then the person is forgiven. If you don’t forgive, then forgiveness is not given. It may or may not have everlasting consequences. It may simply be a statement of obvious sense.
Perhaps the most important question to ask is, what does Jesus intend by this comment? If we look at in light of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6:12, then we might assume that Jesus is simply reminding everyone that we should be forgiving. We should be aware that we are forgiven, even though we don’t deserve that forgiveness. With that awareness we should be willing to forgive others.
And maybe the absence of forgiveness has no bearing on the souls of the people we do not forgive, but rather the absence of forgiveness on our part actually binds us up in an attitude of bitterness and selfishness. When we do not forgive, perhaps we are the ones who suffer the most.
DAILY CHALLENGE: Can you forgive others?