The world of Harry Potter has its unforgivable curses, and the world of the Church has its unforgivable sins. But whereas the former are clearly defined in Potter's world, the latter is sort of randomly guessed at or mandated in ours. Because the Bible doesn't seem clear on this, we have seldom been clear on it. Most of us fear (secretly or openly) that we might (or even have) committed this sin. Perhaps you feel I have committed it by reading the Potter books!
But before we really get into what this sin might be, let's back up to how we deal with sin in general. Apart from that mystery sin behind Door Number Three, which other sins are forgiven?
Actually, all of them.
"Say what? Blasphemy! Why, my sister Esmeralda once..."
Nope. Just ask Peter.
"OK. Yo, Pete! Which sins did Jesus die for?" (smirks, thinking of Esmeralda...)
"...Christ died for sins once for all..." (I Pet 3/18a, NIV)
"I think that means he died once for all of us."
Indeed. For every man Jack (or woman Jane). No restrictions. For Adam and Eve. For Abel. For Cain. For Jezebel. For Elisha. For David. For Goliath. For Hitler. For Bush. For Obama. For the Taliban. For you. For me. For Esmeralda...
But just as there is no limit on the whom, there is no limit on the what. "For sins." Not for "some sins". Not for "all sins but that one sin which someone's sister Esmeralda shall commit two millenia in the future". For "sins". For all sins.
Some of us say that, but somewhere deep down inside (and maybe right on the surface) we really think, "He died for all my sins up to the point I met him, but I'm not so sure about the ones since, or at least some of them." But I haven't personally met anyone, or run across evidence of anyone, who hasn't sinned at least once after they got into a relationship with God. "No, not one."
So we have to expand our definition of forgiven sins to include not only our sins BC, but our sins AD. And more than that, we have to include every sin we ever will commit, right up til the moment we die.
Now that's forgiveness. That's freedom. So many of us live in bondage to unforgiveness, even though we're already forgiven!
But it's even crazier than that. What about those who don't know God?
The good news (though from a broken perspective, some Christians hear it as bad news) is that if he died once for all, and forgave all sins, that includes every last sin of Jezebel, Goliath, Hitler and Esmeralda.
"But but but!!!!"
OK, all but one. The unforgivable sin. (Thought I'd forgotten that one, hadn't you?) So if God forgives all these sins, everyone goes to Heaven?
I wish there were a way that could work, but there's still that one sin, the one we started out talking about:
Jesus said, as recorded in Matthew 12/30-31, "Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven..." (NIV) What does the Holy Spirit do? He tells us who Jesus is. There's a clue in the first part, too-- this has something to do with how we deal with Jesus. (And lest we forget, The Father is the Son is the Spirit-- one God, remember?)
So if Jesus died to forgive our sins, the only thing that really makes sense here is this: if we die having rejected Jesus, then we have blasphemed (behaved irreverently) toward the Holy Spirit and the message the Spirit brings. So the only truly unforgivable sin is to die having rejected God. If you are reading this, you probably haven't died, so you probably haven't committed the unforgivable sin.
If Jesus is your Lord, your lover, your friend, your brother, you're golden. You don't have to worry. If he's not, you still don't have to worry... if you move into that relationship. Since you don't know from one instant to the next whether you'll be alive, waiting til later isn't your best option. If you aren't there, or aren't sure, now is the perfect time to fix that.
"But isn't that dangerous thinking?" Or, "Hey, wait! That means I can sin all I want!" Not quite. Paul addressed this in Romans 6: "Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."
Would sin love for us to dive back in? Sure. But that's your old, dead self calling. Why would you listen to a corpse? If you screw up, ask forgiveness and move on (this is what Jesus meant by having your feet washed vs taking a bath, which happens when you first move into a relationship with him). There are people who see this as a loophole in the law, thinking they can have their cake and eat it, too. I'll leave it up to God to sort them out, but such people appear to me to be far more concerned about rules than relationship. Jesus took care of the rules so we could have relationship. But if we're really in that relationship, really loved by and loving God, we want to please him, not abuse or mock him or... blaspheme him.
So, I don't care what you did before you met Jesus. I don't care what you did after you met Jesus. I don't care what you've done if you haven't met Jesus. You're forgiven. Accept it. Embrace it. Embrace him. Problem solved.