This is a question I was thinking about yesterday. I'm sure it's been addresses before -- I certainly have not read every book or heard all the arguments, and any in depth study of the issue will quickly disavow one of the idea that there is anything out there that has not been voiced before -- but, that being said, I haven't been able to find a satisfactory answer during my cursory search... Feel free to point me to a link or book I should take a look at...
My question is about Jesus' forgiveness of sins in his lifetime. I'm not going to list examples of him doing this, because I think it's fairly common knowledge that he did. I am speaking of those times during the gospels where he says something to the effect of "Your sins are forgiven; go and sin no more."
I am making two assumptions about this action of forgiveness:
1. Jesus is taking that person's sins onto himself, and in essense wiping that person's "slate clean".
2. In order for someone to do #1, he must take on all the responsibility of that person's sin as well. i.e. You can't take on someone's sin without also taking on the responsibility that goes along with it...
Let me quote from a Christian website that I found while researching the issue, which describes it thus:
"Forgiveness or pardon, of sins (letting them go as if they had never been committed), remission of the penalty."
I don't believe (but I could be wrong) that in the examples of Jesus forgiving sins, the actual sins are ever specified, but my understanding has always been that ALL of that person's sins were being forgiven. And it follows that many of the sins being forgiven were committed against other people -- after all, other than "thought crimes", ALL sins we commit are against others.
Let's assume one of those sins that Jesus forgave was stealing. The person being forgiven has stolen something from someone else. (This is a hypothetical example, since -- other than adultery -- no example of what the sins that were being forgiven is given. "Stealing" could be replaced by "lying" or "physically hurting" or any other sin you can imagine committing against another person.)
Imagine for a moment that Jesus wasn't there, and we were just dealing with someone who had done something to injure another. If that person is genuinely seeking forgiveness for the wrong s/he has done, what are that sinner's responsibilities? First, obviously, s/he must be genuinely sorry and contrite. But secondly -- and more importantly to my mind -- s/he has to rectify the wrong s/he has committed. If s/he has stolen from another, s/he must pay back what was stolen, and so on depending on the sin committed.
Isn't this just common sense? What good is a desire for forgiveness if it doesn't also include an action which rectifies the wrong that has been done?
My problem with Jesus' forgiveness of sins should be obvious by now: for Jesus to truly forgive someone's sins, he must also take on all the responsibility of those sins as well -- and that must, by necessity also include rectifying the wrong committed.
So my question is, why are there no stories of Jesus forgiving someone's sins and then going over to pay that person's debt or return what that sinner has stolen or healing a physical hurt the sinner had committed -- or whatever action would be required to rectify that specific sin (which could be numerous if you are forgiving EVERY sin a person had ever committed)?
How is Jesus' forgiveness of sins of any actual worth? I know the obvious answer is that he paid everyone's debt by dying on the cross, but that is meaningless to those that were actually wronged by the people he forgave while he was alive.
To me Jesus' actions in this way are nothing more than therapy -- and potentially very harmful since the implication is that the person he forgave went away feeling better without being commissioned with any responsibility to rectify the wrongs s/he had committed.
Does this bother anyone else? I find it very troubling. Please discuss.
P.S. This same argument could be made for his vicarious payment on the cross as well, but to me it is most obvious when thinking about what he did when still alive -- assuming of course that these are REAL stories about REAL people who have hurt other REAL people. (It's easy to think of these stories as metaphorical, but everything changes when you think of them as real events that really happened -- REAL people that were affected by this... Sometimes I think that Christians profess their belief in these stories as true events, but then gloss over their inconsistencies and consequences as if they were metaphorical. I don't understand how one can hold both views simultaneously?
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