for days i have been stewing over this verse, attempting to fully understand what john was saying in his first letter. i am one who lives in the grace of christ first, daring to believe that we are redeemed, covered in the purifying blood of the spotless lamb, and that we are deeply and passionately loved by the king. there are others still, who live through the macro lens of depravity, that it is our brokenness that defines us, and after clearly focusing in on our shortcomings, then the grace imparted to us by the cross finally, in some blurred way, touches our unworthy souls.
the way that i view christ's love for us - unconditional, unfailing, and available for all; tends to make verses like 1 john 5:16 a knotted mess of misunderstanding. how can there be a sin that leads to death? is not the entire reason for the crucifixion of jesus to wipe away sin? what about the whole "as far as the east is from the west" and "yet while we were still sinners, christ died for us"?
it doesn't take long before my inquisition boils over and through studying john's letter, i am lead to matthew 12: 31-32.
"and so i tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the spirit will not be forgiven. anyone who speaks a word against the son of man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the holy spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come."
ok, so, this points me back to john's statement of, "there is a sin that leads to death." just before john shares this with us he tells us that we should pray for our brothers and sisters if we see them commit a sin that does not lead to death. since god created a heart of intercession within me, this makes complete sense. but what about john's continuation? when he says, "there is a sin that leads to death. i am not saying that you should pray about that."
it is here that i get stuck. the sin that leads to death - blasphemy of the holy spirit. how do we know who exudes such an unforgivable sin? who are we, petty and finite human beings to judge? i found the painting posted on my page from greg boyd's blog (http://www.gregboyd.org/popular/washing-osamas-feet/) that captivated my full attention. it is a humanly unfathomable portrayal of jesus washing the feet of the world's most powerful political leaders, including osama bin laden. this painting caused such an upheaval of controversy, and mostly among christians; to no one's surprise. why? because we self-righteously donned the hat of judge and feel that osama bin laden's sin is unforgivable, doomed unworthy of the grace of christ.
i wonder if this is what john was describing when he says, "i am not saying you should pray about that." did john know that it would be horrifically challenging to pray for others whom we assume committed the one unforgivable sin? is john saying to us, "hey, i know you can't imagine praying for the bin laden's and hitler's of your world, so leave that to jesus. let him be the intercessor and judge for them."??? is the bottom line of this snippet in john's letter to pray for our brothers and sisters and leaving the judging of sins to god?
at any rate, i continue to ponder the words of john and matthew. i continue to meditate on the painting by lars justinen. and i continue to pray for my brothers and sisters, the bin laden's and hitler's. i continue to pray for redemption, grace, mercy and justice - whatever that looks like.