Tuesday, March 9, 2010
As I tore through a quick tangent on forgiveness today, I pointed out that our excuses to postpone forgiveness (need to see the fruits of repentance, need to be more spiritually mature, don't want to be a hypocrite and forgive when I don't feel like it) don't hold water with Jesus' teaching in Luke 17. Due to a horrifically fast-moving clock in our classroom, I didn't have time to take you over to Matthew 18 and look at the unforgiving slave.
You all know the story - the slave who is forgiven a massive debt by a merciful king, only to turn around and demand payment of a day's wage from a fellow slave. The point of this story is driven home with Christ's conclusion: "And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart."
Ouch. That one hurts.
Just to clarify, Jesus wasn't threatening our salvation. He's NOT saying that if we have unforgiving spirits to those around us that we will have to suffer the price of our own sin eternally. What He IS saying is that to the extent that you live with a forgiving spirit here on earth, God will be willing to forgive your daily sins.
There's always a consequence to sin. God doesn't take away the consequences, only the penalty. But the severity of the consequences can be greater if our character requires it. Let me explain.
See that darling picture above? This was taken shortly after the twins were adopted as six year olds. Notice the wild eyes on Alex. These were common eyes for the first two years of their existence in our home...for both of them.
They loved to play soccer and we have a large, open space in our basement where hundreds and hundreds of hours have been spent playing soccer, baseball, basketball, tennis, 5-run and other inventions of my husband. And though they came in a small package, the twins were fierce competitors. They didn't let their size dictate the outcome of the game. Their aggression often scored them a lot of goals.
The problem was that their aggression and desire to not be discounted because of their size had turned one of them into the playground bully. I would receive calls from the teachers here and there that Nicole had once again, as a first or second grader, bullied a fifth grader off the soccer field in tears. She wasn't in tears...HE usually was. Yes, HE. She was ruthless. A fearless, tireless opponent to whomever had the ball.
She also played this way in the basement and it frustrated her siblings to no end.
One day Dave came up with a great idea. He pulled Calvin, our oldest and one of the kindest, most gentle-hearted children that walked the face of the earth, aside and told him that every time Nicole had the ball playing soccer in the basement, he was to swipe her feet out from under her and put her on her bottom. He was 13, she was 7. He wasn't thrilled with the idea, but agreed. So the game began, Dad was the "ref" and Nicole was going to learn a lesson the hard way.
The first foul brought a "play-on!" from the lips of the ref (Dave) and Nicole was visibly mad at the call, but she jumped back on her feet and continued to play. 45 minutes later, tears streaming down her cheeks and her bottom aching from the falls, Dave stopped the game and knelt down before the embattled warrior. He explained to her that playing with a bully is never fun for anyone. Soccer was much more than scoring. It was about self control and about allowing your talent to shine rather than hurting people to win.
She got the point and I never got a call from a teacher after that. Well, at least not about bullying...
It was a hard lesson to learn, but in the same manner that she was treating other children, she was given a taste of her own medicine and it soured in her mouth. This is Jesus' point. If we are unwilling to forgive and restore relationships after the great forgiveness and restoration afforded us by the Father, then God is going to give us a taste of our own medicine and not restore us when we sin.
What does this look like? Lack of fruit production. No peace. No joy. Constant impatience. Ill-temper. And the list goes on and on. You're not going to produce the fruits of the Spirit that we all long for if we have broken fellowship with the Father. It just ain't happening.
So, amidst our look at Joseph and his brothers, how do you think he'll do on the forgiveness test? If you gather together Joseph's example and Jesus' teaching in Luke and Matthew, does that provide a bit more motivation to live with a forgiving spirit?
Oh, fine. I'll answer for you.
Yes, it does.