One thing I find especially encouraging in the Bible is the infrequency of its allusions to unforgivable offenses. In fact, they come down to one kind of action only, “blaspheming the Holy Spirit.” Mark’s Gospel defines this as attributing the effectiveness of Jesus’ exorcisms, and possibly his ministry, to the power of Satan.
The discussion of an unforgivable sin seems to have arisen in the first place because scribes had traveled from Jerusalem to Galilee to accuse Jesus both of being possessed by Satan and of driving out other demons by Satan’s own power. When Jesus asked the scribes, in response, how Satan can drive out Satan, they dropped the whole subject.
Would that everyone else had as well. But at least by the mid-second century, Christians finally began easing off from their own morbid fascination with unforgivable sin. A powerful sign of the permanent shift in this attitude is evident in the Apostles’ Creed of that time, which gives expression to a strong belief “in the forgiveness of sins.”
Forgiveness is not of some sins. Nor is it of all sins except one. Forgiveness is forgiveness of all sins, period.
Although I still meet people who are absolutely convinced that they have done something truly unpardonable, I do not know anyone who has actually committed the sin that Mark referred to and that the Apostles’ Creed does not.
If there is no unforgivable sin, though, there certainly are sinful actions serious enough to put the integrity of a relationship with God and one’s neighbors in jeopardy. My own list of these is becoming shorter and shorter, but the things on it are bothering me more and more, e.g.: denigrating other people according to their beliefs, affiliations, income, gender, ethnicity; celebrating having more while others have less; treating the created order as something there for the taking.
But there is nothing in any offensive or harmful act, even an act like one of these, that is powerful enough to keep separated those who commit it from those who are willing to forgive it. Where sin is, grace also abounds, especially as the forgiven reach out to forgive others.
If there is a loving God at all, as I believe there is, that God will always love us more than we love our sins.