The little bell on the door of the Oak Street Bible Shop tinkled as I entered, but the occupants hardly looked up. Apparently I had come into a discussion in progress.
Glen was holding up a little volume titled "Forgiveness, Our Christian Duty” “ You take this sappy little book”, he said. “I don't even have to read it to know what it's about. If someone murders a member of your family, it's your fault if you don't love and forgive them. The focus is all on you.”
Glen was off on one of his tirades again.
Joy had just come up from the basement and overheard his remark. She was sensitive to any criticism of her books.
“You can't just throw out the sermon on the mount”, she said. “Jesus said, For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. That’s in Matthew chapter six, verses fourteen and fifteen.”
Joy really did know her Bible, it was admitted. Arguments with her were about how she interpreted it.
“I'd like to get my hands on the creep who smashed out my car windows”, said Sue, her blue eyes blazing. She held out her smooth little hands, “ I'd strangle him if I had the chance.”
It was hard to imagine Sue strangling anyone, but her anger was evident, and understandable. She had never harmed anyone and it was rare for her to even raise her voice.
“Well, you had better try to forgive unless you want to be unforgiven by God” said Joy, in her Mother Superior voice.
“Or go to hell”, said Glen. He knew Joy was big on hell.
Gary was looking at his MacArthur's Study Bible. “ You know, MacArthur has a really good note on those verses. He says the issue is not salvation, or eternal forgiveness, God does not take away justification from his children. What it is, is a chastening, it has to do with our daily walk, not our eternal destiny. I'm sure we all agree that once saved, always saved.”
“ Once born always born”, said Sue. There was a silent assent from all present.
Glen was still hot. “That's another thing”, he said. “This whole sermon on the mount thing really bothers me. When I was a kid that's all we heard in our church, the sermon on the mount, and the parables of Jesus. All that meekness was a real turnoff for a boy trying to be a man.”
Joy persisted with her theme of unconditional forgiveness. “Jesus set the pattern for us all. From the cross he said,Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Glen replied, "But he is saying forgive them because of their ignorance. What about those who do know what they do? Stephan, when he was dying, said, Lord lay not this sin to their charge, that is in Acts chapter seven. Doesn't that sound a little more
severe? He calls their actions sin.”
Gary spoke up with an air of moderation. “There seems to be a progression in the doctrine of forgiveness, the more you know, the more you are held accountable. In the days of the crucifixtion, and Stephan's martyrdom, the Bible hadn't even been written. Today it's hard to plead ignorance.”
Joy seemed to have been reconsidering her stand. She really was sensitive to the Word. You couldn't get her to back down on a personal basis, but if you used scripture she would listen.
“We really have to be careful about basing our doctrine on a single quotation. I remember what Jesus said in Luke seventeen. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.”
She looked down into her pocket testament, “That's in verse three.”
“If he repents! If he repents!” Glen spoke with satisfaction. “That doesn't sound like the sermon on the mount, does it?”
“Progressive revelation”, intoned Gary. “Progressive revelation.”
“We need the whole Word don't we?”, said Sue. “ You have to keep on reading.”
“That's why I love my Strong's”, said Gary, his hand resting on his big volume.”Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word of God”. Sue recited from memory. “That's what Jesus told the devil in Luke chapter four. Every word.”
“God really does understand our weaknesses and limitations”said Joy. She seemed to be moderating. The Scriptures had that effect on her. “Look at Romans chapter twelve verse eighteen, what Paul is saying; “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceable with all men.”
“Two modifiers”, said Glen. "If it be possible" and "as much as lieth in you". That sure is an understanding way of saying it”.
"I know sometimes not much lieth in me, I'm so glad God understands.” Joy, still looking at Romans, continued, “This sure sounds like a mixed message doesn't it, quoting from verse twenty "Therefore, if thine enemy hunger, feed him: if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head”.
“I'd like to heap coals of fire on someone's head”, said Sue, still thinking of her shattered car windows. “And speaking of progressive revelation”, Glen, who loved The Book of Revelation, quoting from chapter eighteen:” Render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her works; in the cup which she has mixed, mix double for her. In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; “
That is what God says about Babylon at the time of her judgment.”I know of someone Paul did not forgive, said Gary. At the close of his life, Paul remembered a man who wronged him and his ministry. He knew God would take care of this person. He read from his MacArthur Bible:
“Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. Second Timothy chapter four, verse fourteen.” “Have you ever heard a sermon on Alexander the coppersmith?” asked Glen. “Do you think you ever will?”