Across the Pastor’s Desk

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, June 14, 2018

Across the Pastor’s Desk, By Don Rose

Just this past week a presidential adviser assured the citizens of the country — as well as of the world — that there is a special place in hell for any leader of a foreign nation that publicly disagrees with the president. There was no clear report that this individual is a practicing Christian or, for that matter, a practitioner of any particular religion. It is interesting to note, however, that he believes that he can take on the role that orthodox Christians throughout the centuries have ascribed to Jesus, as the one who will come again to judge the living and the dead.

Don Rose

Was this just a misunderstanding on the part of the adviser, or was it more likely a sign of the times? What is God’s desire for humanity? Is it judgment and condemnation or, in fact, is it forgiveness and reconciliation?

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From a biblical point of view, the latter would certainly appear to be the case. If God is about love, forgiveness and reconciliation despite humanity’s brokenness and sin, why is humanity convinced that it can become the arbiter of judgment? Last Sunday, many within the Christian community would have heard a reading from the Gospel of Mark, which included reference to the unforgivable sin. Much time and energy has been and continues to be devoted to this topic. What is the unforgivable sin? Who has committed the unforgivable sin? The discussion goes on and on. As many have noted, if anyone is concerned about the unforgivable sin, they have in fact not broken it because if they had, they would not be concerned about it.

On the other hand, little attention seems to be given to what the reading contained in the verse just prior to the mention of the unforgivable sin. There, Jesus has shared that the kingdom or reign of God is marked by forgiveness of sins and all sorts of blasphemies. Would it not be better to devote time and energy to topics of reconciliation and forgiveness than to deciding who has committed the unforgivable sin? As the church and the people of God are to be witnesses to the reign of God, they are called to be witnesses to the forgiveness that God so freely offers. As the Apostle Paul wrote, it was while people were still sinners that Christ died for them.

The message of the church that is unique in all the world is this message of forgiveness. Certainly if government officials believe that the role of ultimate judge belongs to them, this unique message needs to be proclaimed louder than ever to bring about the change that the world so sorely needs.

Don Rose is the pastor at Mansfield and United Lutheran churches.