“If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20.23
Jesus seemed to be endowing his disciples with quite amazing power when he said that whatever they pronounced in the way of forgiveness would stand. The implication is that if they happened to be in a bad mood one day and decided not to offer forgiveness, then some unfortunate person might spend the rest of their life with their sins standing against them!
Jesus was saying something a little different, but equally powerful. If I forgive someone their sin against me, this is not just for their benefit. It is also so that what they have done has no more power over me. I may still be aware of the effects of their actions against me, but I am no longer chained to them by resentment or the constant desire for revenge. We often think of forgiveness as someone being ‘let off’ their wrong-doing, whereas in reality they have not been let off anything; the price has been paid by Jesus - justice has been done and due punishment paid. Rather than letting people off, Jesus has taken the sins committed against us incredibly seriously.
The invitation here is to enter into what Jesus has done by accepting all that he did for us on the cross, recognising that it was not just for us but also for those who have hurt us as well. Freedom from resentment and bitterness is an amazing offer being held out to us – it is up to us to take it.
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The Revd John Ryeland, Director of The Christian Healing Mission