Church Write-Up: John 20:23 and Personal Forgiveness/Unforgiveness; Romania

Here are some items from the church service that I attended last Sunday:

A. The service itself interacted with John 20:23: “Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.” The youth pastor and the pastor both spoke of this in the context of believers carrying forgiveness to others; in some cases, the pastor said, believers may need to withhold forgiveness towards people who are unrepentant in order to show them how destructive and serious sin is. The goal is to encourage them to repent. The pastor and the youth pastor seemed to be interpreting the forgiveness as personal forgiveness: believers forgive others for sins against them personally. Protestant commentaries, however, tend to interpret John 20:23 in light of the church carrying the Gospel. The church carries and preaches the Gospel, which has the power to bring forgiveness towards those who accept it and unforgiveness to those who reject it. Roman Catholicism holds that it possesses the authority to bring people forgiveness and unforgiveness: forgiveness through penance, and unforgiveness through excommunication.

The pastor probably accepts the Protestant interpretation, but he chose to focus on personal forgiveness and unforgiveness. What he said about unforgiveness stood out to me, though, since Matthew 18, a chapter that talks about forgiveness, binding and loosing on earth and in heaven, and church discipline, essentially presents the church withholding forgiveness if a person refuses to repent after two stages of confrontation. Can individual Christians do this, too, towards people who refuse to repent for sins against them? In this scenario, Christians would probably be expected to confront those who sin against them, to give them the opportunity to repent, and to open the door towards reconciliation. That is different from bearing a grudge in secret, avoiding the person, and expecting the person magically to figure out that he or she did something wrong. I do not think that Christians are required to confront each and every offense, however, for 1 Peter 4:8 states that love covers a multitude of sins, Proverbs 19:11 praises overlooking an offense, and Proverbs 9:8 discourages people to rebuke mockers.

I am thinking through this. I fail often in it, since I am not a confrontational person, I do not want to appear vulnerable to others and to give them the satisfaction of knowing that they hurt me, I simply do not want a sustained relationship with certain people, and, in general, I dispute the idea that everyone should be friends. Some personalities just conflict.

B. At Sunday school, two ladies spoke to us about their mission trip to Romania. They worked at a camp for orphans. Some have autism. Some of the orphans have given their bodies to adults sexually in order to get food. Some of them are as old as 21, since they are still in school, and Romania allows orphans to receive care if they are in school, whereas the U.S. boots them out at age 18. There are rivalries among the orphans, and, if a bullied orphan tells the adult and receives comfort, that orphan will probably be bullied even more by the bullies. One lady there, who attends our church, was generally quiet, but she was adept at knowing Bible verses and putting together a Bible study right on the spot. After camp, for the rest of the summer, the orphans are medicated and sleep, since their supervisors see that as a way to keep them under control.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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