December 8, 2015
I have a pastor friend who is of the opinion that ministers should never show or talk about weakness and sin in their own lives. I think his basic idea is that we ought to be models of how to deal with all things “Christian.” There is a part of me that would like to be that person. I would like to be a “super-Christian;” always knowing what to say and what to do; never allowing sin to get the best of me; not allowing my brokenness to be visible; always maturing in the faith and moving toward Jesus. Yep, I would like to be that person… sometimes… and then there are most days. There are the days when I know myself all too well; the days when I wonder if Jesus really had me and others like me in mind when he died for sin. Or was He really thinking about so many others whom I admire and try to emulate?
Occasionally I have those moments when past events come into my memory that cause bile to rise up in my throat. Severe injustices that were done to me or to my children come to mind. Often by people (too often adults) who really should have known better; people who had their own selfish agenda in mind and didn’t care if they were placing lifelong PAINFUL memories into the minds of children or young adults. I don’t know if you know what I mean… do you?
Usually these thoughts come to me at a time of weakness… particularly spiritual weakness. It doesn’t often take much to get me there… getting blindsided by criticism does it. Watching people I love get hurt over and over again does it. Being tired and emotionally worn out does it. Again, do you know what I mean? Sometimes when these old circumstances (or new ones) fire up the memory banks, I can get downright ANGRY! I know that anger is not a sin (necessarily). And I am reminded that Jesus himself got really ANGRY on occasion; angry because of injustice and angry because the religious leaders of the day were misleading or taking advantage of “the people.” The very people they should have been guiding and caring for, they were leading down paths of destruction! (One of the big fears of my life, I should add.)
It’s interesting to note that the following story is one of only a few that is mentioned in all four gospels.
12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”
I have had many people yell at me over the years but what must it be like to have Jesus screaming in your face as in Matthew 23?
13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. 
15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides! Etc…
All of this and yet I am stuck with this dilemma: It’s okay on occasion to get angry particularly about wickedness and sin, but what do we/I do with that anger? I mean, if it’s 40 years later and I’m still struggling, is that sinful? I suspect it has something to do with forgiveness, don’t you?
I find that forgiveness is one of the GREAT dilemmas in the Christian faith. Most of us say or think we have some sense of how it works or what it is but I suspect we do not… not for a minute… or a second. And I also think that many of us might say that we “forgive” people readily or regularly. Really?!?! I imagine we might be deluding ourselves when we say that.
Here is my reality. (Does this sound familiar to you?) I had no models in my life growing up of “forgiving” people. Do you know what I mean? I have no memory of ANYONE about whom I could say, “They were people who were known for their ability to forgive others.” Don’t get me wrong; there may have been people I knew who forgave others, but no one who was “noted” for it. The opposite quality however, was in abundance. I could make lists of names of folks who harbored anger, bitterness, and loathing in their hearts and minds toward others… for decades and for many until their last breath! It negatively affected their lives, their children’s lives, and the lives of others they claimed to love. Maybe this was just my experience and you have no idea what I’m talking about. If so you are blessed!
If leading people astray is one of my great “fears” then the following passage “HAUNTS” me.
Matthew 6:15: But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
I believe fully in God’s grace. That it is not “earned” but it is “bestowed” out of God’s abundance of love. That being said, we do have a responsibility to live lives pleasing to God and within the confines of His desires for us. Do you know this passage from Philippians?
Philippians 2:12: Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,
I’m working on this forgiveness and anger thing… It’s pretty scary… and I’m trembling.
Yours in Christ,