“Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven” (Luke 12:10).
This verse is often referred to as the unforgivable sin and it can be difficult to understand. What is Luke saying here? Also, if you have been reading this blog regularly you may have read more than once that God forgives us more than we can ever mess up, so you may be thinking, “What’s the deal? Why can’t we be forgiven for blaspheming the Holy Spirit?”
One way to approach the understanding of this verse is to refer to my reflection from yesterday, but then turn it on it’s head. I shared an example from my late teens in which I followed the leading of the Holy Spirit, not so much aware I was doing so at the time. I followed my curiosity imparted on me by my teacher which led me to purchase a Bible, then I was led to leave a party and when I got home I had the urge to open my newly purchased Bible and did so. Because of each successive yes to the invitation and guidance of the Holy Spirit, I placed myself in a better position each time to hear the word of God.
Now, that experience could have taken a different turn. I could have resisted the initial curiosity that welled up within me from my teacher’s discussion and instead of going out to purchase a Bible, I could have stayed home that day and opened up my copy of The Stand by Stephen King and given it a second read. Thus denying that invitation of the Holy Spirit, I would not have had a Bible when I went to that party. I could have followed through on the first urging to purchase a Bible, but then resisted the second to leave the party. Choosing to ignore either or both promptings would had led to a higher probably of my not hearing God’s voice that night. Say each step did happen up to and including hearing God’s voice, but then I denied that I heard God, instead attributing the experience to some bad pepperoni pizza from the party. Each are examples of how I could have closed myself off to God’s communications.
God invites us to follow him in a myriad of ways. With each invitation, no matter how small, we can say yes, or we can dismiss these “encounters” as mere “coincidences.” With each denial, we further limit ourselves to the possibility of acknowledging an encounter with God and/or even begin to doubt that he even exists. We could then develop “a mentality which obstinately sets the mind against the Spirit of God, and as long as that obstinate mindset perdures, God’s forgiveness cannot be accorded to such a person” (Fitzmeyer 1985, 964).
God loves us more than we can ever mess up, so much so, that he gives us the freedom to reject him. He does not impose his will on his, but invites us. John the Baptist and Jesus got this, and this is why their emphasis on repentance was so preeminent in their preaching. If we turn to God with humility and contrition, true sorrow for our sins, God will forgive us.
The danger of a consistent obstinate disposition, is that like a muscle that is not used, it will atrophy, and so will our ability to see God working in our lives. We will become less and less able to see, to notice his gentle stirrings and invitations. We will become blind, our heart will become hardened. Now that does not mean God stops communicating, he does, but when we harden our heart, when we close ourselves off to him, and dismiss each invitation and attempt at communication, we are less and less able to receive the forgiveness he so thirsts to give us.
Let us continue to seek ways to experience God and share our experiences with others, as God does, not as impositions but as invitations. We need to remember to meet people where they are and as they are, accepting them and their dignity to say no to the invitation. Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit, who is the Love that is shared between himself and God. The more we say yes to his guidance and leading, the more we will see him in our everyday experiences, the more we will begin to recognize his voice, and the more we will experience and participate in his love. In this way, our life may be more attractive and inviting to others such that we may be the only Bible someone else ever gets the chance to read, and maybe, just maybe, they may hear God speaking to them through us.
Photo: Morning at Our Lady of Florida Spiritual Center, if you have been feeling a call to retreat, to get off the hamster wheel for awhile, this is a wonderful option, one that JoAnn and I have said yes to this weekend! Here is a link to their website: https://www.ourladyofflorida.org/
Fitzmeyer, Joseph A. The Gospel According to Luke X-XXIV in the Anchor Bible. NY: Double Day, 1985.