Posts Tagged ‘forgiveness’

Given a Second Chance, What Would You Do?

April 27, 2015

What would you do if you were given a second chance to live? Wither away in bitterness? Help the person who tried to kill you? Dedicate your life to helping others in similar situations as your attacker?

Ten days after 9/11, a shocking attack at a Texas mini-mart shattered the lives of two men: the victim and the attacker. In this stunning talk, Anand Giridharadas, author of “The True American,” tells the story of what happened next. It’s a parable about the two paths an American life can take, and a powerful call for reconciliation.

Watch this TED Talk for a moving story of redemption. Not explicitly Christian, but that’s OK. It’s the power of love.

The Tension Between What Should Be and What Is

July 10, 2014

In the old TV sitcom, Cheers, there existed a dynamic tension between Sam, the owner/bartender, and Diane, the waitress. Would they become romantically involved or not?

TV writers just can’t hold dramatic tension for long, though, and eventually Sam and Diane slept together and that tension was broken. Humans, it seems, cannot live in that sort of tension.

Jesus had no problem with dynamic tension.

Andy Stanley brings up the story of the scholars asking Jesus about divorce in this week’s “Your Move” message.

The scholars wanting to test Jesus to see if he is faithful to the tradition of Moses, asks him if a man can divorce a woman. (Note: it didn’t work the other way around at that time.)

Jesus answered by asking them if they had read (a direct hit on them) that when a man and a woman marry they become one flesh that no one can tear apart.

That is the “what should be” part of the problem.

Then why did Moses give us a method for divorce? Because our hearts are hard and we fall short of the ideal.

Jesus lived comfortably with the tension of what should be and what is. He understood that people are not perfect. That’s why he brought forgiveness.

The question is, can we live within that tension? Or, are we more like the Pharisees of his day or the “church lady” of Saturday Night Live fame–people who know rules and enjoy pointing out where others fall short of perfection?

I am painfully aware of what I should be. And what I am in reality. All I can do is ask for forgiveness for the gap.

Are Perfectionists Always Right

July 25, 2013

Some people seem to exist only in order to point out what is wrong about what everyone else does. You know these people. I hope one of them isn’t you! These are people whom you avoid at receptions. You hate to get stuck in the same room alone with them.

I was around one of those critical people the other day, and I started to think. (That’s one of my vices; I’m always thinking.) What is it that makes these people think that they are always right? Or, even, are they always right?

Even worse–am I one of those people sometimes?

I’ve listened to many during my long life. Seems to me most, if not all, fit into the category Jesus described when he said that you’re more worried about the speck of dust in your neighbor’s eye than in the plank in your own eye.

Jesus challenged people. He could see through people into what their real motivations were. He’d say things like, “Sell all your possessions and follow me.” He could see what was holding that person back from truly following him.

Where Jesus did  get critical was toward his archenemies–the Pharisees. These guys lived that life of pointing out what was wrong about everyone else. But they really tried to be perfect in their lives just as they were telling other people to be perfect.


You can’t live a perfect life. And to tell others to do that is to pile up burdens on them. And that is not the way to salvation.

Jesus was critical towards the Pharisees. He’d point out all their inconsistencies. How they were more worried about the outside of the cup than the inside. Symbolic of how they were more concerned with their outward appearance than with inner holiness.

My guess is that those critical people could use a dose of love. Leading to understanding and empathy. And worry about their own inner life. Not so much worrying about other people.

Can we accept redemption?

January 10, 2011

Paul writes to the Ephesians, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us.”

I am curious about this action of God. Actually, I’m more curious about how we, as humans, accept the redemption of others. Most of us probably live day-by-day not even aware that we ourselves are redeemed or forgiven by God. How many times have you sinned already today? Probably not really big ones, though. Right?

But how about the times you done some bigger bad things? Could you accept God’s forgiveness? Or, can you accept that God forgives others? I know that for some people healing from the sin of someone else takes forgiveness of the other to begin to heal.

I thought about this during the weekend when Michael Vick was about to play in an NFL football game in the playoffs. He participated in some barbarian activities using animals–he supported dog fighting. I know that this is a male diversion in many parts of the world. But we try to be more civilized here. We count that as a sin and have made it illegal.

However, Vick acknowledged his sin and spent time in jail–perhaps having to forgo a career worth perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars. But he served his time and emerged promising to turn his life around. And, so far, so good.
Many people hold Vick’s past activities against him and evidently believe that one should never be forgiven for past sins. God doesn’t feel that way–and we should all be eternally grateful for that. We are still accountable for our actions. If we but acknowledge our short comings, God is steadfast in his support of us. The least we can do is to act the same way to a fellow member of the human family.

Then we have the tragedy in Arizona. We know little about the young man who went “crazy” and started firing his automatic pistol at a crowd. But what a shame that someone, sometime ago, perhaps an older man in his life, couldn’t have provided some support. According to stories, many people were afraid of him. But, so far as we know, no one stepped in.

Maybe we should be even more watching for troubled souls who need a human to intervene and show God’s redemption so that they don’t have to take terrible action.

But this I know–I am grateful for God’s redemption, and I’m grateful when people turn their lives around for the better. Wish I could share that better.

Doing for others, doing for Jesus

October 16, 2010

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about living a life with God. This was started by peering into the attitudes of people who claim Christ as their leader, but their actions appear anything but Christlike by exhibiting hate, malice, arrogance and the like.

Bill Hybels, founder and senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill, has been speaking on Matthew 25:31-45. This is part of Jesus’ final teachings as he prepares his followers for life on their own without his physical presence with them. He taught on watchfulness and using your talents wisely. Now he discusses how God will judge you at your resurrection.

Come you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me… Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.

Salvation is a gift of God’s grace. Our first act is to acknowledge God and ask to partake of that gift. But God expects much of us. Not to just sit still in his grace and condemn others. He expects us to get off our butts and bring love and grace to those whom we meet.

As I typed these words, I realized that there are some who like to separate themselves from others. They might narrowly define what Jesus means by “members of my family.” But the Old Testament and New Testament are united in stating that God’s desire is for all humanity to know him. Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan precisely to show that we must think beyond the boundaries of our tribe.

These words also challenge me. I give money. I give time. I try to serve others where I am. But is it enough? Am I squandering the talents God gave me? How about you?

Judge or Judge Not – God Knows

October 7, 2010

American society currently, at least the vocal part, seems to be in a rush to judgment. So many people want to sit on the Lord’s throne and make pronouncements as to the worth or salvation of everyone–well, everyone except themselves and maybe their friends. This may be true to a small extent in other societies, too.

Reading James’ pastoral letter, he warns us not to judge others. That is God’s job. Every time this verse comes up for discussion in one of my small groups, we have one guy who always speaks up and says, “I don’t agree. We have to judge others.” To which I always reply, “There’s judging and then there’s judging.”

I think James is saying, do not take upon yourself to be the final judge–the person you meet at the end of your life who either says “Welcome, good and faithful servant,” or says, “Depart from me,” and casts you into Hell. In English we can use the same word for making a decision in a legal sense and for discerning the goodness or correctness of other people.

This latter interpretation is a necessity for everyday life. You must evaluate everyone you meet with whom you may have some interaction and decide (judge) whether you should believe them or not. If someone comes to you and says “I have discovered the exact time of the end of the world,” you could apply your knowledge of the Bible where Jesus says, “No one knows the time, not even the Son.” Based on this, you would make the judgment not to believe this person.

Now my friend in the small group may border into the group of Christians with whom I have the most trouble with–those who think they have discovered the Truth through one Bible verse and proceed to sit in final judgment (or so they think) on the salvation of others. Even others whom they have never met, and so cannot even begin to look into their souls and their lives to see if they are upright and walking with God. I cannot bear that burden. I cannot be that presumptuous. I can discern others and choose whom to believe and whom to befriend. But I’m content to let God do His work in that regard. The only thing I can do is use my talents to show Him to others. That’s probably the best attitude for you, too.

Rush to Judge Others

September 27, 2010

We live in a time, I don’t know, maybe like other times in human history, where people are so quick to judge others. I know Christians who perfectly know the mind of God and can point out exactly who is going to heaven and who isn’t. Of course, for them, the game played is about heaven. I’ll never forget a Mad Magazine cartoon from when I was a kid that talked about the first preacher who moved to Hartford, Conn. (then the capitol of the insurance industry) and sold “fire insurance.”

The book I’m currently studying is “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas a Kempis. This contemplative from the Middle Ages wrote, “If a man would weigh his own deeds fully and rightly, he would find little cause to pass severe judgment on others.” These certainly reflect the voice of Jesus–speck in someone else’s eye, log in yours; he who is without sin cast the first stone.

If you spent more time in your morning prayers reflecting upon where you fall short and asking God for help, you would approach the day with an entirely different attitude than when you, like the Pharisee, begin the day with the prayer, “Thank you God for making me perfect.” When you look inside yourself and see the sin that lurks in both things you do and things you are capable of, you’ll understand why relationship with God through Jesus is key to salvation–not so much from the future hell but from the hell of today.

Why live bitter, resentful, judgmental? Why not live free to love God and love other humans? Throw off the chains of your limited, fearful view of God and enter into relationship with Him.

How to handle obnoxious Christians-or anyone

September 10, 2010

Ever notice that sometimes when you’re going in too many directions and barely keeping your nose above the metaphorical water your body, tired of being ignored shouts, “Stop!” ? I’ve pondered my next post on this blog from many angles. In the evening of 8/31 as I prepared for a quick drive up to Cleveland for a meeting. Then from the perspective of laying on my back on the garage floor Wednesday morning 9/1 when the muscles in my left leg told me rather forcefully “you ain’t going nowhere, buddy”. Then I received one of those dreaded calls that one of my friends was about to die from cancer.

Even I could finally stop the frantic space and just rest a little. Even in the early morning pain when the pills haven’t done their job and I can’t sleep. Slow down, breathe deeply, focus — on God.

I’m contemplating attitude. What’s my attitude about life right now? How do I approach small setbacks? Then news started hitting. Pastor of a small church in Florida (I think) decides it’s a great time for a publicity stunt. He’ll burn a pile of books he doesn’t like and generate a lot of attention (I think that idea was tried in the late 30s and early 40s in Europe–didn’t work too well). Well, he got a lot of attention, but problem in a connected world is that one small-time opportunist can create havoc for thousands. He literally could fan the flames of hatred and put the lives of thousands of Americans in danger half-way across the world. Is it time for growing responsibility? Or are we headed toward another era of hatred and warfare such as the Nazis incited?

Problem is, the guy claims to be a Christian (I leave the judging to a higher authority). So how do you deal with an obnoxious Christian? Well, how do you deal with an enemy? With love, right? So…

Jon Swanson is one of the best writers I read on these subjects. Try this on for size.

Grieving About Separation

August 25, 2010

My heart breaks when there is separation–when couples separate, when peoples decide to separate into hatred against each other. This week I’ve heard two talks based on stories from Luke’s gospel. One was based on the story of Zacchaeus, the “wee little man” of kid’s song lore. He was a tax collector and “sinner.” The other talk was actually based on three stories in response to the religious leaders’ criticism that Jesus hung out with “sinners.” The three stories from Luke 15 regard the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son.

Now, when one group labels another group “sinner,” that must mean that there are two groups–them and us. They are sinners, while we are, evidently “not-sinners.” We’re perfect, in touch with God, in fact blessed by God. They are not. Jesus said that is not true. God loves sinners and fervently wants to “find” them. In fact, God says everyone is a sinner. In reality, there is only one group–sinners. That’s all of us. When we forget that, then sin has entered us.

I thought about this after reading a couple of news reports this week. First was a Lutheran pastor who has separated from his church because they are letting “sinners” into the ministry. Sorry, but I think I detect a couple of sins by interpreting his comments–in him. He’s classifying people into the good guys (him, of course) and the bad guys (people he doesn’t like). Instead of bringing healing, like Jesus did, he is bringing division. And I think division grieves God’s soul.

The other item is the hatred popping up in New York because a Muslim group wants to build a cultural center in lower Manhattan. One group says that having anything to do with Muslims in the area is an affront to the memory of those who died in the tragic attacks of Sept. 11. But that is to divide people again–and probably falsely. There are Muslim (or call themselves that anyway) terrorists. They have perpetrated some horrendous deeds. On the other hand, there are Christian terrorists (or call themselves that anyway) who go around killing people they don’t like. No one reading this would say all Christians are terrorists because we have a few who go over the edge. Likewise to call all Muslims terrorists because of a few is a travesty.

These divisions grieve me. I have friends from around the world who are spiritual, but from within their home religious traditions. To classify them as less than human or less than spiritual grieves the heart. Only when we can be like Jesus and get over those classifications and realize we’re all in this together will we start the healing process that will bring everyone to God.

The theology sounds simple–it’s them vs. us. But the reality is, in the words of the comic strip Pogo, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Balance Needs Focus

August 13, 2010

Yoga is a discipline of bringing body, mind and spirit together. Psychologists, even those who observed humans 5,000 years ago, know that one sign of illness is when your emotions, mind, body are out of balance and working at cross purposes. One classic Yoga pose that is often the picture used when someone discusses it is called tree pose. This is a balance pose where you stand on one leg, the foot “rooted” to the ground. The other foot is placed on the inner thigh of the “trunk.” The hands are above the head with palms together.

I try to hold this pose for at least 10 breaths. What you discover is that the trick is not balance, per se, but focus. You must clear your mind, focus your eyes on a stable object then concentrate on your breathing.

I’ve been writing a lot about focus lately, because I’ve discovered it is key to a spiritual life. My study of Mark has reached the last 3 chapters where Mark tells the story of Jesus’ last couple of days on earth as a human. I’ve been contrasting Jesus (our model) with Peter (someone with whom we can identify).

Except for the interesting story about his cursing the fig tree, Jesus faced his coming trials and knowledge that his friends would desert him with tremendous focus and balance. His stable object of focus was God. He never wavered from his life with his father. And he kept his balance. Whether being grilled by the ruling council of his religion or by civil authorities with the power to kill him, he was a model of balance. He did not lash out at his accusers–even though the accusations were not true and even contradictory.

Peter, on the other hand, lost it. His emotions swung from blustery “I’ll never desert you” to “I never knew that man.” He lost his focus out of fear. But do not condemn him. Can you say that you have Jesus’ perfect courage? Look inside yourself. What would you have really done in his place? Stand up in the face of the crowd and be killed, too?

Then Peter came to self-realization. He saw into his own mind, body and spirit. He wept. This was a moment of realization. You cannot truly live with God until you realize deeply that you don’t have that focus on God. We also know the rest of the story. Jesus said he would go ahead of them to Galilee after he was raised from the dead. He did. And he met Peter. And he blessed Peter three times to counter the three denials. And Peter realized his focus, his strength, and his balance. And he became a great leader.