Withholding Forgiveness

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” John 20:19-23.

When we withhold the Gospel, keep our mouths shut before a lost world, our lost friends and neighbors and coworkers, we are withholding the means of forgiveness. And no, this was not just a charge given to the first century apostles that has long passed away. The great commission was never rescinded. And it has not been subcontracted out to a professional class of Sunday morning orators. We are all Christ’s ambassadors: “that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:19-20).

Today the world is scrambling for the false reconciliation of revenge, settling scores, and exploiting old wounds for monetary reparations. They prosecute anyone they can as accessories after the fact, even when the facts are centuries old, and the evidence has to be manufactured. All this is happening now because we have left a vacuum and kept the solution to ourselves. We are the possessors of the great secret that the price for all sin has been paid, and we are liberated from all grudges, incoming and outgoing. We are forgiven, and have the power to forgive.