One Big Warning, Often Missed….

I remember years ago, in elementary school years, a pastor posing the question, “What is the unforgivable sin?”  Pretty heady talk right.  The question was not posed in a mean way.  Nothing scolding about it.  Just a question from a kind pastor.

After fielding a series of flubbing answers from the kids, the pastor noted one sin.  One unforgivable sin.  That sin … “speaking against the Holy Spirit.”  And it is there, clearly listed in the Gospel of Matthew.

Now of course we can read those lines in Matthew as agreeable, reading it with the righteous scorn of a fundamentalist more interested in pointing out God’s wrath than God’s mercy and applaud the rectitude of it all. Or we can take the time ask, what is the warning here?

And here is the warning.  And it is a big one.  Often missed…

Jesus knew their [the priests] thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

“Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.  (Matt. 12:25-32)

The warning starts here…

It begins with who Christ is addressing.  And that group was the clergy at that time in that place.  Religious professionals.  The righteous. The pious.  The pure.  Who most often got it wrong.

And then what Christ is addressing.   What Christ is addressing is their accusation that he is able to heal because his power was demonic – the reference to “Beelzebul.” Not from God.  Allied instead with the devil.

And finally how Christ answers their accusation.  Here … BEAUTIFUL theology.  When Christ responds “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven”, he is saying this.  ”You can speak out against me.  That is forgiven.  But you can’t speak against the spirit of healing that frees others.  That is not forgivable.”

And it isn’t.  Not because God can’t forgive it because God does forgive it.  But because we deeply wound our spirits when we cynically pull into doubt the whole spirit of healing.  Rake that spirit, tear it apart in others and its miraculous work, and we rapidly pull ourselves away from the healing spirit that can heal our lives.  Punished by that sin, not for that sin. In that sense … unforgiven.

So that healing spirit – the Holy Spirit – will move where it will.  As Christ notes, it moves like the wind. Our job is not to judge it and its gentle work of healing as it winds around lives and lives of others. Our job – to celebrate it.


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