Tag Archives: Forgiveness
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Stagecoach: When a Woman of Bad Repute Finds God’s Love

4 Feb

When a Woman of Bad Repute Finds the Love of God

The other night I saw the movie Stagecoach for the first time. It was not only an action Western that served as the vehicle conveying a young John Wayne to stardom. It was also a complex character study of a cast of diverse people who end up sharing a stagecoach west through dangerous Apache country.

Writers and directors can do lots of wonderful things when they throw together diverse people who would not normally meet. This has been done in lots of movies (Bus Stop, Key Largo, etc.).

In this particular movie, John Wayne is Ringo Kid, a prisoner who has escaped but who has a heart of gold. He was imprisoned for being in the midst of a blood feud between two families. He has a year or so to go on his sentence and willingly goes back with the marshall who is on the stagecoach . . .

Meanwhile, he falls in love with a woman of ill repute who is on the stagecoach. His love, in a Hollywood way that comes very close to presenting Christ’s redemptive love, turns her around and makes her a woman who will be a good wife for him when his sentence is finished.

As the above blog post shows, when a sinner collides with the love of God, freedom ensues, just as it does when the sinful woman in the movie comes in contact with Ringo Kid’s love.

Love, God’s love, even as reflected in imperfect man, is the strongest force in the universe.

It is love, God’s love and God’s grace, that make us whole. What the law could not do for us, God did, by loving us through Jesus Christ.

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The Command to Forgive . . .

8 Jan

Luke 6:38, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”

This verse is quoted a lot to teach us that, in Christ, we have a principle that we will be blessed back in the same measure that we are generous . . . 

We know that not all of the gospel accounts of Christ’s life are chronological.  We know that because Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the synoptic writers, don’t always put events in the same order.  For example, Matthew 12, a parallel passage to this one, reorders some of the events.

However, thematically, God the Holy Spirit inspired these exact words (in the original language) in the order they are written.  So there is always a need to check context when we study to see what the Holy Spirit may be saying there.

This verse comes immediately after the admonition to not judge and to be full of forgiveness.

It comes a few verses before the famous cry, “Why do you call me Lord and not do the things I say?”  And the story of the man who builds a foundation-less house that falls.

So, in the midst of wanting to be generous and receive generosity in return, there is that troublesome matter of also needing to heed the warnings to not judge others (the Bible defines sin for us and we are told to speak against sin, but judging the motives of another’s heart is just plain presumptuous) and to forgive others when they wrong us.  These are commands which the believer cannot “magic” out of the Bible.  They are Christ’s very words.

Forgive others when they wrong us.  This will happen.  We live in a fallen world.  The only question is whether we will spend our lives accumulating grudges or forgive, as we have been forgiven from on high!  

Letting Go of Grudges

20 Dec

This mama’s story is awesome. Learning to forgive in the face of a real and measurable hurt to her child. Forgiveness is hard, but it is a requirement.

Sowing Mercy

“When we forgive, we are released from the bondage of the grudge.” Dr. Stephen LeBar, Pastor of Jenison Bible Church.

Grudges, or the longterm withholding of forgiveness, occur when our sense of justice has been offended. I may feel that I have not received the respect I deserve, the fruits of my labor, or someone I love has been hurt. We have been wronged, and we simmer with resentment. Grudges can also harm our own health and affect the people around us. They cause trouble and defile those around us.

“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:14-15

When my oldest daughter was nearing kindergarten age, we noticed…

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R.I.P., Nelson Mandela!

6 Dec

R.I.P., Nelson Mandela!

Forgiveness and reconciliation are not an exact science. None of us practice these disciplines perfectly. But that does not negate the need to try.

Nelson Mandela tried to live a life of forgiveness and reconciliation.

When he got out of prison after 27 years and became South Africa’s leader, there were many who urged him to “get a pound of flesh” from the whites in South Africa to make them atone for the sin of the apartheid system and for imprisoning Mr. Mandela.

He refused those calls and tried to set up a government that would benefit all, not just one race.

He could easily have caved and tried to craft a nation where blacks were now advantaged, as they had been downtrodden before.

For his leadership in this area of forgiveness and reconciliation, I honor him today.

God Let Me Off the Hook; Will I Do the Same For Others?

6 Jan

Matthew 18:32, 33, “Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?”

God gave me the best teaching on forgiveness between Christians, as I was waking up just now. His rod of justice had to fall somewhere to punish sin. It was poised over my head, over all of our heads. But it fell on Christ instead.

We all are made in God’s image and we all hold a mini-rod of justice. We understand justice very well, but mercy not as much.  That is the part of being made in God’s image that comes to us at greater cost.

People who sin against us stand there, like little kids cowering before our blows. We can go ahead and hit them, not with justice because Christ already paid for that sin, for all sin. We can hit them with retribution, and no one would fault us for that.  They have truly sinned against us and deserve human retribution.

But it is not good for us to stand there as a mini-god with a mini-rod of justice. When we do, we only show we don’t understand very well what God did for us in Christ.

And we cause another child of God to tremble and cower before our blows.

We don’t understand everything; He does. Can we trust Him to make things right in the end and just lay the rod down?

A Tale of Two Forgivenesses

7 Dec

Isaiah 44:20,  “He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, [Is there] not a lie in my right hand?”

This has always been my favorite verse for teaching on idolatry of the heart, and the self-deception we all have.

The only hope for all of us is to cry out, often, to our merciful Saviour to spare us from ourselves.  He will answer that prayer.  But we have to be prepared to “live in the light” He gives us and to confront and actively put to death those parts of ourselves that live in rebellion against Him.  He will show us where they are.  We need to make them die.

One area that I have lived long enough to see multiple times is the area of strained relationships within a church or parachurch organization.  We like to say that Satan targets churches (and para-churches) in order to destroy Christian unity.  But so often we have no idea what Christian unity looks like and couldn’t build it if we tried.  His Word tells us what it is, but we ignore His Word, to our detriment.

And our flesh gets in the way, oh so badly gets in the way.  An older friend of mine once joked “Satan could sit in his bathtub drinking a mai tai and I would still have issues because my flesh is a greater enemy to me than he is.”

She was right about almost all of us, and very wise to say so!

An example I will give, building a composite from various situations I have seen, so not picking on any particular person or place, is the example of Christian forgiveness.

Let’s say that Person A and Person B, ministering together in a church, have reached such an impasse that they have to do a Paul and Barnabas act and split up.  Maybe they both leave the original church and go on to two different ministries.

Person A forgives Person B from his heart and, after expressing that he will pray for him and his new ministry, goes on, with not a word to anyone else.  Oh, his wife knows the details and a few close friends probably can figure them out because they have walked in on conversations inopportunely in the past.  They have put the pieces together in their own minds as the months have gone by.  But this person keeps his silence, regarding forgiveness of private things as a private matter.

Person B, on the other hand, also expresses forgiveness when with Person A.  However, he keeps rehearsing his issues with Person A to anyone who will listen, as the months, and then years roll by.

In fact, he often couches his discussions with, “I forgave this person but he ripped my heart out and I can never get past that” sorts of remarks.

See what he is doing?  He is:

A) making private matters of forgiveness public.

B) using the old saying “I can forgive but I can’t ever get over the hurt” (which is, technically, not Biblical forgiveness at all).  There is a principle that the more you talk about something, the harder it is to get over that thing, so much of what we claim we cannot get past are things we will not get past.  In fact, if we are totally honest about that saying, it enshrines our emotions as god, by saying that we are trapped forever by an emotional response we had to that person in the past.  God says, very simply, we are to forgive others because He forgave us for a whole lot more than we need to forgive in others.  That is at once the easiest thing to say and hardest thing to do, but He says we must do it.

C) painting himself as the righteous one in the scenario, by saying over and over again that he forgave things that occurred to him.  Person A forgave, too (and actually exercised his forgiveness in a Biblical way) but, if we are not careful, we can start suspecting Person A of evil because we never heard his side of the story.  The Bible says it is easy to side with the first person who talks to us about a situation (particularly if we never hear the other side).

D) being a drama queen.  Using phrases like “ripped my heart out” or “hurt me so deeply I can never forget” gives us no idea of what Person B himself did in the scenario.  He may have done even worse things, but he is not mentioning those.

We all want to be like King David’s son Absalom and gather a crowd of people around us when we are in conflict.  We want people who will side with us.  But when we feed our fleshly nature that way by making conflict a popularity contest, we cut off the possibility of hearing or knowing the other half of the story.  And we guarantee that we remain blind and deluded.

God is so good that He will offer us chance after chance to get this right.  If we have blown off one relationship this way, He will bring us other strained relationships, and then more after that, until we pass the test and treat these relationships Biblically.

You see, the thing is that usually the people involved in strained relationships within a church are truly Christians.  They may get nasty with each other and accuse each other of not being truly saved, but usually they are.

They just would rather feed their flesh, feed on ashes.  They would rather indulge their need to be right than follow the clear words of Scripture about what to do when relationships are strained.

May we stop doing that!

Grace is Better!

17 Sep

This thought comes from some discussion I have had with multiple friends over the last few months. We have all read the scripture where Jesus says that he did not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it. (Matt. 5:17)

A great example of this is found in Matthew 18:21, 22

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

We have heard this passage used in teaching on forgiveness, and that is certainly applicable. However, I believe that the real thrust of the passage is on Grace vs. Law. Peter, understanding the Jewish law, knew that he was required to forgive three times. He, being a spiritual man and understanding that Christ was greater than the Law, more than doubled the requirement to seven. We, too, are often guilty of augmenting law to make it seem like grace. Jesus came back with seventy times seven (490x) completely obliterating the law and defining unlimited Grace. We, like Peter, often try to define what we are required by scripture to do. Often, if we deem ourselves spiritual, will even go above and beyond those requirements and often hold others to our arbitrary definitions. But all these righteousnesses are only filthy rags in the sight of God.

Our augmented view of the law does not produce unity. To the contrary, it produces division. If I think we should forgive our neighbor seven times, and you think it should be ten, but your spouse thinks that two is plenty, I will look down at them for their lack of spirituality, while disdaining your “false piety.”

In the Grace vs. Law argument, there are those who would say that because of Grace, we are now allowed to ignore the law. This is not the teaching of Christ. Nor is it found anywhere in the Scriptures. Rather, Grace compels us to go farther than the law ever would have asked us. Where the law says that we should not kill our neighbor, Grace says to love him as much as we love ourselves. Where the law says we should not steal from our neighbor, Grace says that we should give of our own substance to help him. Where the law says we deserve to die for sins committed against our Creator, Grace stepped in and took the punishment for us. You see, what Jesus was teaching in Matthew 18 is that when we withhold Grace from someone, we are forgetting what He has done for us, but it is when we show persistent and unwavering Grace to another, that we most closely resemble Jesus.

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