“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” vs. 18
As the early Christian communities began to deal with internal disputes, Matthew laid out some guidelines based on his remembrance of Jesus’ teachings. They followed a logical progression, beginning with one on one conversations and ending with possible dismissal from the community. In other words, this was no small matter, and Matthew reminds the believers that these procedures have spiritual significance. This is not merely a human exercise! Jesus himself has given this authority to the church. Through the centuries this authority has been known as the Power of the Keys and it’s been exercised regularly in worship. This is what’s happening in the words of absolution that follow our common confession. When the pastor says that our sins have been forgiven, it’s not just her word! The forgiveness comes from God! This can be a powerful word of assurance for troubled souls–it does our hearts good to hear on a regular basis that God continues to have mercy on us and that our sins are forgiven. It’s gotten a bit more dicey though when these same words have been used to excommunicate and drive people out of the church. It seems that we humans have a tough time exercising power in a God-pleasing way. Often the power goes to our heads, and any semblance of mercy is lost. We’re all a lot better off when our focus is on loosing rather than binding!
Thought for the Day: When should forgiveness be withheld?