Jesus said, “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18) Maybe a better way to say this would be, “whatever you bind on earth has already been bound in heaven, whatever you loose on earth has already been loosed in heaven.” The idea is that Christians are just recognizing what Christ in heaven already knows about that heart. And what’s more, Christ is present with Christians who gather together in his name. And when Christians forgive or don’t forgive, God answers that prayer because Christ is in their midst.

     So what does this look like? Let’s say a friend cheats on his taxes and you learn about it. As a fellow Christian, you confront him with that sin, “Hey man, what are you doing cheating on your taxes? Don’t you know that’s wrong?” If he refuses and says, “No, it’s not. And who are you to judge,” then Christ gives you the authority to tell him he’s not forgiven. His attitude is stubborn and unrepentant. If he does admit it’s wrong and says, “You’re right. That was wrong.” Then Christ gives you the authority to tell him his sin is forgiven by the blood of Christ, and you can speak kindly to him and maybe even help him fix his taxes.

     Have you ever noticed that’s exactly what we do at the beginning of worship, too? Each Sunday we confess our sins together, admitting that we are sinful people and asking God to have mercy on us sinners. And then the minister tells you the great news: you’re forgiven. He usually says something like “through Christ and by his authority I forgive you all your sins.” He does it and it’s as good as if Christ himself were standing in front of you and telling you that he forgives you.

       When we remember that Christ is the good shepherd who left everything to find us, who died for us and earned God's love for us, we can show others that same love.

       Through faith he gives you the authority to show that love to other people. It’s what Christ wants you to do, he wants you to take that authority and put it to use. When we take this authority to forgive or not forgive, we’re putting God’s Word to work. It reigns in sinful behavior. It defeats gossip and rumors. It encourages people to live in the gospel. It encourages us to be charitable and tolerant with each other. It encourages us to express our love not just through words but through action. It encourages peace, growth, happiness, and friendliness. It’s the first step of this simple way to show your love.