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Some of the most difficult words of the Bible come from the mouth of Jesus. For example, he is the one who talked about 2 sins, one against God (insulting the Holy Spirit), the other against one another (an unwillingness to forgive), that he called unforgivable. (Luke 11:18; Matthew 6:15)

Writing about the unnecessary suffering a misunderstanding of these words have caused, 19th century author George MacDonald writes, “If we are bound to search after what our Lord means—and he speaks that we may understand—we are at least equally bound to refuse any interpretation which seems to us unlike him, unworthy of him.” (Source: Unspoken Sermons).

I think G.M.’s advice, dangerous as it may sound, can be needed medicine for anyone who has forgotten that even inspired words can be misunderstood— apart from the source, moment, circumstance, and intent in which they were spoken.

As to whether a person has committed an unpardonable sin, MacDonald writes, “I am far less anxious to show what the sin against the Holy Ghost means, than to show what the nonforgiveness means.

The solution MacDonald suggests for what Jesus calls “unforgivable” is that he is not speaking of withholding “eternal salvation”. Rather, because of his love for us, he is not willing to ignore (1) a condition of heart that is resisting the Spirit we need to know Jesus, or (2) the kind of unforgiving bitterness toward one another that shuts our hearts to the influence of God in us.

Does that resonate with you? Can you in good conscience believe that when it comes to matters “unforgivable”, what remains to be seen is “the kind of unforgiveness” that One as merciful as Jesus could only have meant?

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