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To forgive or not to forgive:
That is the question
by Prof. Sandee
written September 9, 1995 - revised April 2002

I was reading one day and came across John 20:19-23. This is when Jesus appears to His disciples after the resurrection.

Wow, I thought, "Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained."  Do we have that kind of power?

I then thought about Jesus.  He prayed, "Father, forgive them."  Without Jesus praying none of us would have had a chance.  I think when the ground shook and the sky darkened, it would have been the end, had Jesus not prayed, "Father, forgive."

Then Stephen prayed, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge."  Remember, Saul was standing there "consenting unto his death."  Would Saul have become the Apostle Paul if Stephen had not prayed?  I believe it was Stephen's prayer that gave Saul a chance. After meeting Jesus on the Damascus road, Saul got up blind. I believe his life would have been taken from him if Stephen had not prayed, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." Saul got a chance to accept Jesus, I don't think it would have been a chance without Stephen's prayer.

Then Paul himself prayed, "I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge."

Looks like a pattern to me.  Something to think about.

But John 20:23, also says "whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained." (kept)  If we don't forgive, if we hold on to someone's sins, then are we truly of Jesus. Yes, we are able to choose to remit or retain. But what would Jesus do? What should we do? Remit, Forgive. Jesus forgave us, otherwise we wouldn't have had a chance to be reconciled to God. Can you, who have been reconciled to God chance someone not being reconciled to God because you would not remit their sin, but chose to retain their sin? If we'd have been Stephen, would we have prayed "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge" or "Lord, get 'em". We have a will, God will not interfere with it. Just as Jesus had a free will. (He died as a man). He chose to forgive. Jesus felt every part of that cross and beating, just as we would have.

The Lord's Prayer Matthew 6:9-15.
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. 14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will you Father forgive your trespasses.

Think about it.

John 20:19-23  (back to where you were)
19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and said unto them, Peace be unto you. 20 And when he had so said, he showed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. 21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father has sent me, even so send I you. 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: 23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.

Luke 23:34 (back to where you were)
"Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."

Acts 7:58-60, 8:1-4, 9:1-15  (back to where you were)
58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. 59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. An when he had said this, he fell asleep.  8:1 And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. 3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. 4 Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.  9:1 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. 3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 4 And he fell to the earth, an heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. 6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, an it shall be told thee what thou must do. 7. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. 8 And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. 9 And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. 10 And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias, And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. 11 And the Lord said unto him , Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prays, 12 And has seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. 13 Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he has done to thy saints a Jerusalem: 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. 15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:

II Timothy 4:16   (back to where you were)
At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.

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last updated February 17, 2007