With news outlets reporting that Pope Francis will announce that priests all over the world will now be able to forgive the sin of abortion because it is a Jubilee year, I couldn’t help but wonder just how in Heaven’s name did we come to this?
My Catholic friends were all saying that the report must not be accurate because the priesthood in America has been granted this “administration” for thirty or so years, but doesn’t this argument beg the question: Does the pope, a priesthood or any mortal, fallible individual have the power to forgive sins? And if so, why should this year be different than any other year? Why should these “rules” be different from country to country?
But please don’t take this column as Catholic bashing; my divergence from Catholic doctrine is no denial of my affection for my Catholic friends.
So let’s start with the easy part – Jubilee. The Year of Jubilee is solely an institution of the Mosaic economy (Leviticus 25), it is a function of the Sabbatical year system and is wholly unwarranted outside of the Jewish people living in the land in their tribal regions.
Jubilee and the sabbatical year were provisions of mercy that would ensure that Jewish families weren’t unfairly deprived of their land or forced into perpetual servitude. There is simply no Scriptural basis to drag this aspect of Judaism into the doctrines of the Christian church – unless of course, one holds tradition, wrong though it may be, above the authority of Scripture.
Jubilee is simply not found outside of the Torah and the orthodox rabbis will tell you that, because of the exile of some of the tribes, it hasn’t been observed since 600 B.C.
Why don’t we find Jubilee in the New Testament? Because Christ fulfilled The Law and as the anti-type to the types of Moses – Christ is our Passover, he is our kinsman redeemer, he is our city of refuge, our High Priest, and yes, Jesus Christ is our Year of Jubilee!
That being said, why should forgiveness of the sin of abortion only be more merciful and more accessible every 50 years?
Here is a hard truth for many of my Catholic brothers, but it shouldn’t be: Only God can forgive sins! Salvation is of the Lord. This is why the Jews picked up stones on a number of occasions to stone Jesus Christ, because when he made the claim that he could forgive sins they took it as blasphemy.
That’s not to say that we can’t forgive one another for personal indiscretions, but in front of the bar of Heaven, only God can forgive sins.
Now I’m sure I’ll be deluged with the account of the upper room discourse where Jesus says to the Apostles, “Whosever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosoever sins ye retain, they are retained,” but breathing the Holy Spirit onto a group of Apostles is hardly creating a system of middle men that are “necessary” for forgiveness. On what basis did the Apostles proclaim forgiveness? Was it “arbitrary” or was it based on the response to the gospel that they were sent out by Christ to go into the whole world and proclaim?
When it comes to redemption, we don’t need a pope, a priest, a confessional, a paper from the Wizard of Oz, or any other mediator – “for there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
Ultimately it matters a great deal whether we are talking about the forgiveness that comes to a lost individual upon trusting Christ or the forgiveness that comes to a believer who has sinned within the family of God. John 20 is talking about the former, the pope is addressing the latter, and the distinction is not without difference.
Now if you have had an abortion or participated in abortion you are no more lost than the most morally righteous virgin on the planet because we are all born under Original Sin, we all have a sin nature, and we are all Hell-bound and Hell-deserving.
And God would save you the same way that he would save Mother Teresa, Jeffrey Dahmer, or myself — based on the acceptance of His Son as our substitutionary sacrifice for all our sin.
The moment that you trust in the shed blood of Jesus Christ and you assent in the privacy of your own soul to the Father, you are instantly, in the twinkling of an eye, declared righteous, forgiven, adopted into the family of God, along with thirty-plus other benefits of Calvary.
It is between God, His Son, His Holy Spirit and you. No one else is required. And you can have this right now! We aren’t saved by being good, we are saved in spite of being bad.
What must you do to be saved?
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved . . . That whosoever believes on him should not perish, but have everlasting life . . . He that believes on him is not condemned but he that believes not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God … He that believes on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him.
If you are already a Christian and you participate in an abortion then you are allowing the power of sin in your life to quench the spirit and you have grieved the Holy Spirit of God, but the penalty for sin has been paid in full. You are compromising your testimony and participating in a most outrageous sin but you are not lost all over again.
When a believer sins, he is not cast out from the family of God, he has strayed into a far country. And If the Holy Spirit resides in you and you are truly born from above this will produce a conviction of the soul and you will have spiritual unrest until you come back in from that far country – “Be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
What about ex-communication? It is here that I can find some agreement with the pope, although, the idea of excommunication in Catholic dogma is much too bureaucratic; Ted Kennedy and Nancy Pelosi should have been excommunicated, Martin Luther not so much. So what is the Biblical solution in the regard to willful public sin?
The Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians how to deal with a man who was flaunting his adulterous relationship with his step-mother: kick him to the curb and let shame work repentance.
You see, allowing open, willful, abhorrent sin to share a place of honor and protection in the church compromises the very testimony of that church. That’s not to say that all those that are sexually broken should be thrown out of the church, only the ones who are not seeking healing and are demanding that God, Christ, the Bible, and the church drop our principles to reflect their particular sin preference.
How should this work in church? If Matthew Vines or Rob Bell attended my church, I would publicly rebuke their abominable positions and under church discipline, expel them from the fellowship. Shame is part of the restoration process. If they are not convicted by the word, the Spirit, and the body of Christ, it’s a good chance that they’re not in the body of Christ. But what if they repent and seek restoration? Forgiveness should be lavish and instantaneous as Paul directed the Corinthians. No pope, no encyclical, no faux year of Jubilee necessary. Just good common Biblical sense.
For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.
(II Corinthians 2:6-11 ESV)
*If you are someone who suffers from post-abortive trauma there is healing in Christ Jesus. Contact me privately and I can help you or if you prefer, I can recommend counselors that will help you with your wounds.