Consecration through Loosening
We are all bound together in our sin. Rarely do we understand the simple truth to this fact and the vast ramifications. As a member of the family of man I am spiritually and physically connected to all that has happened, is happening, and will happen behind doors, in prison, in the theater of war. I am connected to all man's sin in my bloodline with Adam. Our self-absorbed, inward-looking nature is affected by and affects all of humanity. But this, we Christians know. However, despite how righteous I think I am, I'm still connected in a real way to the whole, and in being so, I am no more righteous and holy than the worst of humanity. However, God has provided a means for escape: forgiveness.
Jesus is the Holy One of God. It is only through him and his work on the cross that we can be free from the sin of Adam that rules us. However, when I hold on to even the most simple grudge or am unable to forgive, I stay bound to the sin of Adam. I am connected in indebtedness to the debtor. To be in Jesus fully, I must be free of not only my debts, but also free others who are indebted to me. I must be able to say in my heart: I am forgiven and I forgive. The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant speaks directly to this issue.
Jesus makes it clear that we have a special role as baptized Christians to loose the bonds of indebtedness. He gave both his disciples this role (Matthew 18 and John 20), and in a special way, he gave his church this job as well (Matthew 16).
“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.
Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
Does he ever wish us to "bind" others on earth and in heaven? I don't think so. Christians are the 'looseners' while the world binds. Binding to sin is not our role. Is there ever an instance when we shouldn't say, "I forgive you." 70x7 is the rule Jesus lays out for us. Binding is the role of the Devil. His desire is to keep us bound to him in sin.
Thankfully, freeing others is as easy as saying, "I forgive you," and living anew.
But sometimes there's no one to ask for forgiveness or it's God who we have sinned against directly. All sin is ultimately against God, however we should always seek forgiveness first from our neighbor. In the instances in which we cannot be reconciled or if we have sinned directly against God, then we must seek forgiveness from the church. In Matthew 16, Jesus explains that the church has the role of setting us free as well. We are made clean in this way through the sacrament of reconciliation.
Yet, there are even those times in which neither our neighbor nor the church is available to free us from the bondage of our sin. And I'm not talking about when we won't see forgiveness from the church or our neighbor because we are holding a grudge. How can we truly forgive one thing and not another?
But there are still those instances when we can't be reconciled through the church or by our neighbor. Jesus never abandons us. God sent us the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, to whom we can pray, "Lord, I have sinned greatly, forgive me." The Paraclete steps forward, consoles, comforts, and intercedes on our behalf. Listen and hear in your heart Jesus proclaiming boldly to you just as he did to all who came before you, "Your sins are forgiven."
And finally, we are free to love.