In a modern translation of Mark 3, Jesus says, “Listen to this carefully. I’m warning you. There’s nothing done or said that can’t be forgiven.” The key word in that statement from Jesus is “nothing.” Paul said something similar in his letter to the church in Rome, “There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God.” There is that word again, “nothing.”
Jesus is clear about the universality of forgiveness but then he goes on to say, “…but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of eternal sin.” That seems contradictory to the word nothing. In a Bible study I was leading this passage came up. Someone asked, “How will I know when I am blaspheming? This is very confusing.”
This seems paradoxical, all is forgiven but not this very strange thing called blasphemy. What is going on? Jesus explains it for us: “Listen to this carefully. I’m warning you. There’s nothing done or said that can’t be forgiven. But if you persist in your slanders against God’s Holy Spirit, you are repudiating the very One who forgives, sawing off the branch on which you’re sitting, severing by your own perversity all connection with the One who forgives.”
Did you catch it? When you question the universality of God’s forgiveness for everyone and every sin you are sawing off the branch on which you are sitting. When you do that you are making it impossible for yourself to receive the very forgiveness that you may wish to deny to another person.
In other words, the only unforgivable sin then is the failure to see that God forgives every sin, every person. The only unforgivable sin is to limit God’s grace, to limit God’s desire to bring all into the light of God’s ongoing love for all.
CS Lewis wrote, “To be a Christian is to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”
“Forgiveness,” writes George Everett Ross, “gives people back their friends and neighbors.”
One way to say it is this: Jesus is the Lord of the second chance. That is good news for all of us.
Grace and peace to you,