At church yesterday the reading was about Doubting Thomas, but it included the line:
Although I don’t think that he said it directly, the preacher made me think that this passage may be interpreted differently to the way I have previously thought about it.
Previously I have read this as Jesus giving the disciples (and by inference the church and clergy) the power to forgive sins – or not. This is slightly odd, as I believe that many of the “threats” in the Bible are nothing of the sort. For example:
instead, I see them as a description, or a warning. A little like when we say to a child don’t put your finger in the plug, or you will be electrocuted – we are not threatening a punishment, we are describing the way the world is. Similarly I see many of the apparent “threats” in the Bible as descriptions of how reality is. So taking the one above, modern psychology would agree – as would Philip Larkin (warning – profanity).
And so, I now see the option of reading the initial passage as a description – if you do not forgive then forgiveness is not given! And yet this is very powerful as not forgiving usually hurts the person not forgiving.
Is this a clear answer? Of course not, but it certainly gives food for thought.