It Shall Not Be Forgiven

And whosever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven.

— Luke 12:10 

Let us consider human forgivenessas between a father and a son. For although God is so much more to us, yet fatherhood is the last height of the human stair whence our understanding can see him afar off. There are various kinds and degrees of wrongdoing, which need varying kinds and degrees of forgiveness. An outburst of anger in a child, for instance, scarcely wants forgiveness.  One child, the moment the fault was committed, the father would clasp to his bosom; the father’s hatred of the sin would burst forth in his pitiful tenderness towards the child who was so wretched as to have done the sin, and so destroy it.  But suppose a father discovers in his child a habit of sly cruelty towards his younger brothers, or the animals of the house—of meanness, deceit, and evil. He might say to himself, “I cannot forgive him. This is beyond forgiveness.” He might say so while all the time he was striving to let forgiveness find its way; his love might grow yet greater because of the wandering and loss of his son. For love is divine, and then most divine when it loves according to needs and not according to merits.

But the forgiveness would be but in the process of making, as it were, or of drawing nigh to the sinner. Not till the son’s opening heart received the divine flood of destroying affection, and his own affection burst forth to meet it and sweep the evil away, could it be said to be finished, to have arrived. Not till then could the son be said to be forgiven.

Commentary

by Earle Canty

Let us consider human forgiveness as between a father and a son.  For although God is so much more to us, yet fatherhood is the last height of the human stair whence our understanding can see him off.  There are various kinds and degrees of wrongdoing, which need varying kinds and degrees of forgiveness.  An outburst of anger in a child, for instance, scarcely wants forgiveness.  One child, the moment the fault was committed, the father would clasp to his bosom; the father’s hatred of the sin would burst forth in his pitiful tenderness towards the child who was so wretched as to have done the sin, and so destroy it.  But suppose a father discovers in his child a habit of sly cruelty towards his younger brothers, or the animals of the houseꟷof meanness, deceit, and evil.  He might say to himself, “I cannot forgive him.  This is beyond forgiveness.”  He might say so while all the time he was striving to let forgiveness find its way, his love might grow yet greater because of the wandering and loss of his son.  For love is divine, and then most divine when it loves according to needs and not according to merits.

But the forgiveness would be but in the process of making, as it were, or of the drawing nigh to the sinner.  Not till the son’s opening heart received the divine flood of destroying affection, and his own affection burst forth to meet it and sweep the evil away, could it be said to be finished, to have arrived.  Not till then could the son be said to be forgiven.

Forgiveness is one of the great challenges of the Christian walk.  Many struggle with forgiving any perceived wrongdoing; others struggle with wrongdoing based on the wrongdoing and the degree of evilness they attribute to the wrongdoing.

In Mathew 18:21 -22, Mathew captured an exchange between Jesus and Peter regarding forgiveness.  “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him?  Up to seven times?”  Jesus responds, “I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.”  Jesus is telling His disciple and telling us through His disciple that we must have infinite forgiveness for our brother regardless of the wrongdoing and the degree of evilness we attribute to the wrongdoing.

Wrongdoing holds all but the most evil of people in bondage.  Even when someone receives forgiveness from someone who has been wronged, the wrongdoer must ultimately own what they have done.  Otherwise, the forgiveness showered upon them will not free them, but will hold them and slowly destroy them.  To be free, they must first own the wrongdoing, and then forgive themselves.  I am confident that even the most evil are tormented by their evil and that is because they cannot really forgive themselves.

Most of us are challenged by forgetting a wrongdoing.  Does forgiving require forgetting, or are they separate responses?  Does forgetting mean treating the wrongdoing as if it never happened, or does it mean not holding the wrongdoing against the person, but remaining cognizant of the fact that the wrongdoing occurred?  We are called to be wise, and we need to understand the relationship between forgetting and being wise.

For me, one of the great things about God is his mysteriousness.  He doesn’t do what some believe He should do; many who do not believe in God base their non-belief His failure to meet their expectations.  He also hasn’t provided every detail regarding how His People are to handle every situation.  Forgetting wrongdoing is one of those situations for which He hasn’t provided every detail.  Most, if not all, humans cannot forget.  It is something for which we lack the capability.  What we must do is not dwell on the wrongdoing and allow it to create bitterness between us and those who have wronged us.  As MacDonald suggests, the most loving thing we can do when we are wronged is to forgive, but hold the wrongdoer accountable for accepting that they have done wrong.