Is There An Unforgivable Sin? 6-6-24

You can listen to this reflection here. Sunday’s gospel reading is here

There are enough of things to worry about in this life; you probably aren’t losing sleep over whether or not you’ve committed the Unforgivable Sin. But it might bother the scripture-savvy neurotic overly given to scrupulosity, the nagging worry that I have blasphemed against the Holy Spirit. (I’ve been known to tell Jesus jokes… )

Reading the passage afresh, I think I can relax. It appears that the ultimate “diss” on the Holy Spirit was accusing Jesus of having an evil spirit. “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” 

To avoid the eternal sin, we need only refrain from naming as unholy the Spirit of God. And so we must be able to discern the Holy Spirit from evil spirits – and that’s not so hard to do. Jesus said one can identify a false prophet by his fruit (Matthew 7:15-20). John said to test those who claim to speak by the Spirit – and the test is whether or not they affirm that Jesus was fully human. (I John 4:1-3) We can also look for evidence of the Spirit in a person by what fruit they bear – are their words and work generally life-giving and God-oriented? Do we see around them the good fruit of transformed lives?

If we focus our energy on all the places and people in which we do see the Holy Spirit at work, we won’t have time to worry about unclean spirits. Getting us to look at negatives and what’s lacking is one of the evil one’s strategies. For instance, instead of worrying about whether or not we’ve committed the one unforgivable sin, how about we notice the much more startling announcement Jesus makes here: “…people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter.” Wow! Talk about grace and mercy covering a multitude of sins!

We have talked a lot this week about evil and the devil – those are big themes in this passage. But it’s worth remembering that the way the Tempter works is to distort the prohibitions and the penalties, and downplay the promises. In the Garden story (also appointed for Sunday), the man and woman are told they can eat the fruit of every tree except one. And that’s the one the tempter focuses their attention on – that one prohibition. That is still his strategy, because it works so often.

How about we stop falling for it? How about we stand so firm in our belovedness in Christ, in the amazing mercy covering our petty sins and blasphemies, that we cannot be shaken off course by distortions and lies intended to undermine us? How about we invite the Holy Spirit to be so full and thick in us that we’re much more apt to praise God than to condemn ourselves or others? The clock is running out on the power of evil – God’s love has us covered. That is our Good News.

© Kate Heichler, 2024. To receive Water Daily by email each morning, subscribe hereHere are the bible readings for next Sunday. Water Daily is also a podcast – subscribe to it here on Apple, Spotify or your favorite podcast platform.

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