It’s the beginning of a new day. A night of rest and once more we begin our lives.
In the last few days much around us has changed. In Oklahoma more than 24 people are dead from a terrible tornado. The day before that storm they awoke to their new day having no idea what was ahead for them on that day.
Our lives are lived in 24 hour moments….a day at a time. Each new day is an opportunity to live for God because it may be the last of your days…..today may be your final morning here on earth!
So, how to use it…how should we spend our days as if they were our last?
So in the beginning of this new day resolve to do these things:
1. Love God with all your heart, soul and mind.
2. Make things right with Jesus Christ.
3. Love people.
4. Say what you need to say to those who you need to say it to.
Today could be your last day… will you have another chance to make it right?
On a hot July night in 2012, I witnessed the passing of a torch.
There wasn’t a ceremony and no one was there to take a picture to document the event, but make no mistake, what happened that night was something special.
As I made my way through the crowd along the dimly lighted back stretch of Fremont Speedway, trying to get to Brian Smith’s pit stall. I could not help but notice that the people who passed by the “Grace Car” that night were not aware of the magic that was taking place right in front of their eyes.
But I did.
As the adults and race fans were getting the opportunity to see the “Grace Car” up close, Brian Smith, a 26 year veteran sprint car racer from Fremont was kneeling down talking to a young boy. I could see the eyes of this young boy as Brian bent down and talked to him. The look in this young boy ‘s eyes initially was a look of awe. I am sure the boy was amazed that he was actually talking to a real life race car driver and I immediately noticed the look of awe began to sparkle in the eyes of this young boy as the transformation had begun. The torch was passed on to another generation.
No one noticed that Brian had just performed magic. He just transformed a young child into a lifelong race fan. He just made a young fan believe in heroes. One that is not found in the comic book store or on the movie screen. A real life hero… living right here in Fremont, Ohio.
While many drivers lined up their race cars to get them on the trailer and get out of there. Brian was still there… no hurry… sleep could wait… there was more important business to do.
Heroes emerge, sometimes from the most unlikely of sources.
I know this to be true…because my hero found me 40 years earlier at the same little dirt race track in Fremont, Ohio.
For those that don’t remember him, Harold may be just another name in the record books, just another plaque on the wall. To those of us that remember him, he’s a legend, a hometown sprint car racer and a cherished memory.
I first met Harold McGilton in the early 1970’s. I think I was about 11 or 12 years old at the time. It was a chance meeting and though it was a long time ago…I remember it like yesterday. I watched him drive his sprint car full speed into the corners of that wonderful dirt track in Fremont, Ohio and slide through the turn and then fly down the straight-a-way passing cars and winning races. In my mind, Harold never lost a race… there were just times he didn’t win. However, when Harold would win his race.. he just didn’t win, he beat the other drivers.
As a young boy, when I rode my bicycle, I imagined that I was Harold making the heroic and dangerous pass on that final turn to win the race. And when I played with my “Matchbox” cars…I had a special car that was “Harold’s” car. It NEVER lost a race. I am sure there were times when in my mind…I was more Harold McGilton than the real deal. I am also sure that his family had a different perspective of Harold and his life as a hero. After all he was human… just not in my eyes.
Harold McGilton had no way of knowing that when he stopped what he was doing after a race all those years ago and took the time shake my hand on that July evening, at the Fremont Speedway, he would have had such an influence on a young boy from Oak Harbor, Ohio.
Harold never knew my name, nor did we ever talk to each other since that first night I met him. However, Harold “Mac Attack” McGilton had a tremendous influence on me during those early years. He just never knew it. He was larger than life to me and I idolized him and when he passed away a few years ago, I cried.
Tonight as I sit at my desk, I imagine I hear the roar of the engines of the sprint cars as they fly around the track just a few blocks from my home. As I imagine each lap as the cars go around, I wonder if there is another young fan in the stands watching their favorite driver take their car into a 100 MPH slide through the corners of the Fremont Speedway. Much like I was in the early ’70′s, I came to the track one night a young fan of the races and little did I know that I would leave a few hours later with a hero in my life that I would carry with me for the rest of my life.
Brian Smith understands this… he too has heroes. His grandfather and father were racers and heroes that planted a seed in him that he passes on each week to each child he talks to.
I have said this many times, in my life, I have traveled around the world. I have met a number a professional athletes, politicians and famous people over the years. I have even had the honor of meeting two U.S. Presidents and shaking their hands. All of these people would be considered heroes for many people, but not for me. I did not have to travel all around the world to find a hero. He found me at a little dirt track in Fremont, Ohio.
For those of you that say that there are no real heroes in life.
I say you just don’t know where to look.
Come out and bring your children to Attica Raceway Park on a Friday Night or Fremont Speedway on a Saturday and you just may find one.
While I am thrilled at the miracle of these young women escaping 10 years of being kidnapped, I am sad to hear the sad details of what they have had to endure.
I look forward to the day, and it is coming, when sin, death, sorrow, tears, war and violence will be a forgotten memory. There will be a day when God redeems the creation we have destroyed. More and more, as I read the news and am saddened by what I see, I look forward to that day. The day when all is made right, when Jesus is Lord of all.
Some say that day will never happen. Many can’t imagine a world without all we live with, but it’s coming….it’s near….soon the idea of death, of war, of violence or sexual abuse will be as foreign to us as the absence of it seems right now. I long for that day when all will be made right. I long for the day when there will be no more sad news weeks.
I was halfway through the race and I was increasingly aware of a sharp pain in the bottom of my right foot. I am sure the adrenaline rush of the excitement of being in competition had masked any pain at the beginning of the race. But with every stride, the pain was growing in my heel. The nerves were sending little messages to my brain. I was interpreting those messages and they were informing me that not only was there “something” in my shoe, but it was a sharp and painful “something”.
If this was a practice session, I would have stopped at this point and taken the time to remove my shoe and dump the “something” on the ground. But not today. No, today I was racing and I was running fast and I thought I had a great chance to win the race, so I continued to run because I didn’t want to take the time to stop, untie my shoe, take it off, shake loose any object in the shoe, put my shoe back on, and then tie the laces again. I chose to ignore it and continue running.
But ignoring it didn’t work. I tried to pretend it wasn’t there. I tried to move forward without dealing with it. I first tried to spring ahead, but the pain revealed its power.
I have felt this kind of thing before.
It was a tiny pebble in my shoe.
With each stride the stone began to grow. With each step, it seemed to get larger and more painful. I then began to flex my arch and rotate my ankle a little, thinking I could “bounce” the rock to another part of my shoe and eliminate or reduce the pain. That actually worked, but only for a short while. After a few steps, the now sized “boulder” would “bounce” back to another painful spot.
As the pain continued to mount, my running pace started to slow down. Soon I would be overtaken by other runners and any hopes of winning the race were now dashed. But I could still place pretty high in the meet so I continued to run.
Pressing on now became a challenge. It was me versus “the stone”. I’m sure to anyone who was watching, it must have looked very weird: running on the outside of my foot, then the inside, then the heel, then the toes. The harder I ran, the more I felt its sting. Before long, the payoff wasn’t worth the pain – and I stopped. As long as that rock was in my shoe, running wasn’t an option. I took the time to clear the stone and as you already have guessed, when I did finally take off my shoe, the “boulder” wasn’t much more than a tiny pebble. It was barely visible. How did this irritant get into my shoe in the first place? I was so angry because I really was in position to win the race and now I had to deal with losing, not to mention the pain in my foot as well.
As I reflect on this event that took place close to 40 years ago, I think about the applications of this to my life in general. How often do I neglect to deal with the small “pebbles” that work their way into my life because I am just too busy to stop or think I can work around them? So much better to deal with them as soon as they arise.
I was thinking that my shoe is like my mind. I am not always quick to deal with issues early on and most times I would rather than let it bounce around and eventually become a bigger problem than they ever needed to be. Sometimes, to be very honest, I think I have actually allowed those pebbles in my life because I did not want to deal with them in my life. Prideful thoughts, vengeful thoughts, self-hatred thoughts, “poor-me” thoughts, worry, bitterness, anger, lust, jealousy… there is no end to the list of pebbles that could work their way into my thinking.
The Scripture admonishes us to not let these pebbles hang around. For example, we are told to not let the sun go down on our anger. That means, if you have a pebble of anger in your mind, deal with it before it consumes you. Hebrews 12:15 addresses how a root of bitterness can grow up to “cause trouble and defile many”. I’ve seen the fruit of bitterness in people’s lives and it can destroy them…often starting with the smallest and most insignificant of a pebble, but then growing and festering until it consumes them.
In James, we are reminded of how these small things, left to themselves, will follow a devastating path: So, let us consider how to “take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor 10:5) and stop at the first sign of infiltration and remove the little pebble. The rest of our walk or run will be so much more pleasant!
You can’t run with a rock in your shoe. You can try, but you won’t get very far.
It stopped me dead in my tracks. I couldn’t believe something so small could be so powerful, but it was.
I wonder what is hindering me from getting where I want to go?
What have I been ignoring, fooling myself into thinking it’s too small to affect me?
What is the pebble in my shoe?
Thinking it through, I am able to name some things that have held me back for years, and others that have held me back for days. But here’s what I realized. It all matters. We give our power away to anything we choose to ignore. And that choice could be what keeps us moving forward or standing still.
What is the thing that’s holding you back from running at full speed in life?
You can keep pretending it’s not there.
You can accept its limits on how fast and how far you can go.
Or you can deal with it and get to running.
What are going to do with the pebbles in your shoe?
King David wrote it so beautifully in the book of Psalms when he said…
But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord,I say, “You are my God.” My times are in Your hand – Psalm 31:14-15
There are opportunities to fear, to panic, to worry, especially after a terrible tragedy like the one we all witnessed in Boston.
Each of us will make a choice about how we respond to the attempt by wicked men to create terror.
Each of us will choose a way to deal with events like this. Some will simply rationalize and convince themselves this could never happen to them. Others will become fearful, worrying about everyone and everything.
Each of us will make a choice.
When terror knocks at the door, when tragedy happens, when fear overwhelms….we each deal with it in a different way. How will you deal with the anarchy of a fallen world? What will you trust? Who will you trust?
“As for me”…what a great way to introduce King David’s decision when terror and death approached his life. It’s a declaration of trust in God whatever happens. As for you…when terror approaches you how will you respond? Who will you trust?
This is an acknowledgment that this post has taken a considerable amount of time to write. Not because it was too long or that the subject matter was too deep to explain properly. I have struggled with writing this one. The reason why is the same reason that I have 175 to 200 posts that are written that I will probably never publish or post on this site. More than likely they will forever be locked away in a file cabinet never to be read by anyone, only to be thrown out with the trash after I am gone from this world.
The reason? Words are easy to write, it’s living up to those words that is hard.
I have learned that you own every word that you write. You cannot not really take them back like many do with the words we speak. Many times we fly off at the mouth and say things that we shouldn’t and it seems as if a person can gain forgiveness a lot faster if they verbally ask for it. It is like all a person has to say is, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.” and for the most part people forgive and forget. Also, people have a tendency to “hear more” than what was actually said and can twist your words around to make something worse than what it was. People also choose to “hear what they want to hear” and not really acknowledge what was really said. Just a take a look at our political environment of today. People only hear what they want to hear and disregard the rest and that is true on all sides of the political spectrum.
That is not how it works with the written word. The written word is a permanent reminder of what you said. You cannot deny nor can you take back those things you write down. In a court of law, the best evidence is that which is written down and documented.
The challenges are even greater when you write about spiritual matters. I am convinced that anyone who consistently writes about their relationship with Jesus Christ is prone to have the microscope placed squarely in their lives. It comes with the territory. Every word that tells of success or failure in your walk with Jesus Christ is there for everyone to read. As I reflect on the past fours years or so of writing this blog, it never occurred to me that I would experience the trials and struggles that would come my way as a result of trying to get my life back on track and be used of God once again.
I would sit at my desk each night and old wounds would re-open with each written word.
Like the burdens that we pick up and carry with us each day, I would do the same with the pain I was experiencing. I would use my words to share the pain that I felt in my heart. I would share my lack of faith. I would express my struggle to forgive others. I took considerable time to share my inability to forgive myself for my failures. I would pour my heart and my thoughts into expressing the lack of forgiveness that I was not receiving from other believers.
I would try to be open as much as I could without naming names.
It was all leading up to the point in early December of 2012. I was sitting down at my computer just thinking about how I could write something that would ease the pain for another day and find a way to focus on the meaning and depth of grace that God had placed into my life. As I sat there staring at an empty page, I had this overwhelming feeling come over me. I can’t explain it exactly… I just simply had nothing to say.
Without words. There were no more words that I could share that would ease my frustration of being on this long journey to find out what God has in store for me. I couldn’t believe it. I was simply without words to express what was going on in my heart and in my head.
After four years of writing had I finally come to the end of the words I needed to write? Was I done? Had I said everything I needed to say?
At that time, I had over 410,000 people visit my blog and I was averaging over 10,000 visitors a month. I had witnessed the blog grow far beyond my wildest dreams. God had really blessed me with the opportunity to share my faith and I received a lot of encouragement along the way from other believers. I have made friends that I will never meet in person until I get to heaven as a direct result of this blog. I also have had my share of detractors. There are those that have taken the time to be extremely critical of things I would write. For the most part, I didn’t know those who would be so critical, but I have to admit there are a few people I once called a friend that have made known their displeasure in me and in the things I write.
Over the course of the next few weeks in December I had deleted many of my posts and dis-connected all of the links to other blogs. I was sure that I was going to move on to something else… I just wasn’t sure what that was. Immediately the volume of visitors to my blog disappeared. The 10,000 readers per month are now running about 2,200 per month. It seemed as if overnight I lost 80% of the people who visited my blog. I was shocked at how quickly it changed, but I did not blame them for it. I was without words to share and I, in fact, told people I was going to stop writing.
I have loved writing for as long as I can remember. It is something that I have always done. But it is hard to keep a blog going for an extended period of time. It probably is one of the hardest things I have ever done in my walk with Christ.
It is common aspect in the blogosphere. Dead, unfinished, incompleted blogs that were started with good intentions. People who get the idea that they want to start a blog and start writing. Some with the delusional idea that they even want to write a book. It starts with the premise that they believe they have something to say, something that will be a help and will be an encouragement to another person. It is done with all the vigor and excitement that they can muster. The ideas are just flying all over the place. They sit down and empty themselves into a post and when that first post is revised a 1,000 times they finally post it and in many examples it usually isn’t that bad.
Then the problem starts. It doesn’t take them long to realize that writing is hard. They spent so much emotion and personal information in that first post that they find,as they sit at the computer, they are staring at an empty page. If they are lucky, they may post a few more and then it happens. They quit.
As it does for the vast majority of those that start a blog it sits empty and eventually deleted because of inactivity. It is like the one-hit wonder of a rock band. They get one good song and they can’t seem to get past it and eventually the creativity is just a rehash of the original song. They all just start sounding the same.
That was what I was afraid had happened to me.
I love writing and the words have come pretty easy to me over the years. As I stated earlier, what I have discovered is that words are easy to write, it is living up to those words is what is hard. I do not want to deceive anyone, especially my family because they know if my words match my actions.
Four months have now passed since all of this happened and I have posted a few times over that period of time. I have come to the realization that I have been focused on the results of what this blog was doing in terms of reaching other people. I was getting caught up in the “ministry” side of what this blog could do. While that has value to me, I now realize that I had strayed from the original purpose of this blog. The words that I write are intended to keep me accountable. I have to write and I have to post because it keeps me on track to “live up” to the words I write. It doesn’t matter if anyone else reads these words because the words are directed at myself.
Simply put… writing over the past four years has been quite the learning experience. I have grown in good ways and God has helped me change my perspective on a few things that I would not have learned if I had not been writing. I am not the man I was 20 years ago when I failed in my marriage and lost my ministry. I am convinced that my story is one of caution. Caution for all, because if it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. It is a journey that is more common than anyone wants to recognize.
If you’ve also made mistakes in your life and you long for restoration and wholeness, I hope you’ll come along and share my journey. But please understand…these are my words and I am accountable for them. They tell my story and my journey.
My story… follows a well-traveled spiritual pathway that leads from sin and failure right up to the Cross of Calvary, where our Savior died so we could know forgiveness, grace, and unconditional love. That’s where you’ll find me today, gathered with all the other people who are scarred by their past but who’ve been forgiven, redeemed and gratefully clinging forever at the foot of the old rugged cross.
You will have to forge your own path and tell your own story… with your own words.
I can’t seem to get the thought out of my head that Jesus went to the cross, all the while knowing what was ahead of Him. The Bible said He went gladly “for the joy ahead” but I see in the garden a dread as well, a dread of what He would suffer.
I don’t know about you, but knowing what awaited me (if I were Jesus) would have had me looking for a way out and yet He went willingly. There was such a love for mankind, for you and me, in His actions that he faced the death with anticipation.
I wonder, as He stood before Pilate, silent while being accused, I wonder what He thought.
Did He look ahead to the joy of the victory?
Did He rejoice in God His Father? What were His thoughts?
I believe He was…
Thank you, Jesus, for accomplishing my salvation through the cross. I am so thankful that the dread of the cross did not change your path. I’m so glad that with joy you looked ahead to the salvation you would accomplish. Thank you. I look forward to the day when I can bow in your presence and praise you for your great love.
It’s ironic to me that the week ahead is the greatest celebration of the Christian world as we remember the greatest tragedy of all time. I struggle for words to describe how I can celebrate with joy a time of great tragedy and loss, but I do, we all do if we know what that terrible day meant.
In the week ahead we will intentionally remember the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, His burial, and finally celebrate His resurrection. All events of time and history. All critically important not just for the church, but for the world He came to die for and save.
There is an interesting passage found in Colossians 1:15-28 that gives a panorama of these events in such a unique way. It has long been a favorite passage for me as I celebrate the gift of life given to me by the death of Jesus Christ. Here is Paul’s grand overview of the tragedy, the glory and the hope found in Jesus Christ:
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.
The Creator becoming a Man, dying on a cross by the hands of His creation, rising again and providing forgiveness and life for the very ones who crucified Him. The empty tomb provided us the hope of life and an eternity with our living Savior. It’s an amazing picture of the great love and grace of God…that He would do all of this because He loves us. How could we ever doubt His love once we have looked at the cross? How could we doubt His power when He rose from the chains of death?
And finally, at the end of time, there will be a day when He will be worshipped by all of humanity from every nation, tongue and time as we all bow and declare this hope:
Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church: Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; 26 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: 27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:
What a wonderful God! How amazing that he could take the greatest tragedy of time and turn it into the greatest glory anyone will ever see.
Thank you, Jesus, for what you were willing to do to save me and show me the love of God for me. Thank you for the gift of eternal life that is found in You. My hope is built on nothing less than Your death and resurrection. You turned Tragedy into Glory and gave us all Hope.
I’ve been thinking about the clutter of my life…the things that are around me that I bought or gathered to make life easier. It seems to have actually made my life harder!
How is it possible that things accumulated over time can actually make life harder? It’s the clutter of things that most of us try to maintain, that most of us really enjoy, and yet I’m realizing that my “stuff” has become my burden as well…all the stuff I have gathered now has taken over certain areas of my life.
This week, a few of us at work talked about the desire to “have things”. Not just about the desire to have things but to have that which we never use. There are so many things that I wanted and thought I needed only to realize that I have rarely used that item I coveted. With the accumulation of all those things we find life harder, more difficult. I thought about it this morning and realized I have boxes in my garage that haven’t been opened since I moved into our house 14 years ago! Why do I keep this stuff? What’s in those boxes? What stuff is hiding there for me to discover anew?
All this to think about the challenge of our discussion…the challenge to “deaccumulate” our lives. I wonder how much of the stuff of my life I could actually do without? I wonder how many things I really “need”?
I thought about the fact that you can tell what’s important to a person by what they do when they know they are going to die. As we close in on Easter and spend a few days reflecting on what Jesus did, I wondered, what is it that Jesus did before he entered Jerusalem during His last week? He knew that He was going to die and one key story that is told in the Gospels, right before Jesus declares to the disciples that He is heading to Jerusalem, is the story of the Rich Young Ruler.
Luke 18:18 The rich ruler asks Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responds by telling him he must keep the commandments. The rich ruler tells Jesus he has kept them all. Then Jesus says, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Then the rich ruler became sad because he was so rich and did not want to let go of his material possessions.
Jesus was making His preparations to give up everything for you and I on the cross. Jesus also wants us to give Him everything. He wants us to give Him total control of our life. If He asks you, are you willing to give up all that you have for Jesus?
Jesus typically pushes us out of our comfort zone.
For most us, our comfort is found in how much money we have. If it’s not money then it is related to money, like possessions or other things money can buy. Are you willing to give God your possessions? What about your title at work? What about your dream to be a famous musician, sports star, investor, writer, etc.? Are you willing to give God a percentage of your money? Are you willing to give up your success? Are you willing to give God your retirement funds?
Jesus invited 12 men to leave everything and follow Him. That same call is given to each of us today.
What “should” we let go of today? What “can” we let go of? What “can” we live without?
I can’t answer for you… but I know my life (both physically and spiritually) needs a thorough Spring Cleaning. I need to get rid of the “stuff” that keeps me from being what God wants me to be.
“And He said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” Luke 9:23-24
This past week I was making my World Famous Stuffed Pepper Soup. The words, “World Famous” is a joke. I joke about that because it is neither known around the world nor is it famous. Anyway, one of the ingredients that I add to my soup is onions. As I was peeling the onions a thought crossed my mind.
I began to think about the fact that forgiveness is a funny thing . . . it doesn’t happen all at once. It comes in layers, like an onion. First, you peel off a layer and shed a few tears, and you think you’re done. Forgive and forget, right?
Then out of the blue, after a few days or weeks perhaps, something reminds you of the offense and you realize you haven’t forgotten it after all. So again, you have to choose to forgive. You peel another layer off the onion. And shed a few more tears. And think, Whew, finally I have forgiven that offense.
Nope, not yet.
Because months later, you might discover that an unwanted root of bitterness is springing up within you (Hebrews 12:15), and you’ll be peeling off another layer of that onion, shedding a few more tears, going back through the process of forgiveness all over again.
Allow me to clear up a possible misunderstanding out there. Yes, Jesus taught us to forgive those who hurt us (Mark 11:25-26). And yes, the New Testament is replete with commands to refrain from anger and to love our enemies and to pursue peace with all people. Forgiveness is absolutely essential to a Christ-centered life.
But Christians who say that we should be able to forgive effortlessly those who hurt us, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world, are CRAZY.
Forgiveness is not natural. It’s hard. It requires the intentional focus of every part of your being–your thoughts, your speech, your actions. You have to practice a LOT of self-control. You have to release a LOT of hurt. You have to keep bringing your broken heart to the One who heals you.
In other words, you can‘t do it alone.
You need Jesus Christ.
Forgiveness is NOT for the faint of heart. Contrary to popular belief, forgiveness is NOT a sign of weakness.
If you’ve ever been betrayed or offended, you know that it is a much times harder to forgive than it would be to seek revenge. It is mush easier to tell the world of your hurt. To vindicate yourself. To get people on “your side.” To make the offender suffer in some way.
Because let’s admit it: to be unforgiving is clearly the easy choice.
When the apostle Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”, I wonder… do you think it’s possible that Peter was thinking about how often he had to forgive the SAME offense over and over?
Now to Peter’s credit, seven times was pretty generous. Jewish law at the time said you only had to forgive someone three times. (Three strikes, and you’re out!) But Peter… he doubled that and added an extra one for good measure. SEVEN TIMES! I get this vision of the apostle’s burly chest swelled with pride at his astonishing pronouncement of his own ultra-spirituality.
“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied (can’t you imagine Peter’s smirk fading here?), “but seventy times seven!” (Matthew 18:21-22).
Seventy times seven? A whopping 490 times?
This isn’t a math problem. (We shouldn’t keep score.) It’s Jesus’ way of saying that there should be no end to our forgiveness. Like the parable Jesus told next in Matthew 18 to illustrate His point, the offenses people commit against us–however heinous or malicious or painful–are infinitesimally miniscule compared to our sins against a holy God.
To have a right understanding of forgiveness, we need a right perspective of God’s holiness.
So as those forgiven by God, we are commanded to forgive others.
YES… Even if that forgiveness is for the SAME offense. Over and over. Peeling off layer after layer. Pouring out tears upon tears.
Every time that offense comes back to haunt us or hurt us, we can–and for our own sake, we must–choose to place it, with God’s help, into the nail-scarred hands of Christ.
“When we forgive someone, we’re not minimizing the harm they caused nor condoning the sin they’ve committed. We’re simply choosing to place the offense into the nail-scarred hands of Jesus Christ.” –David Jeremiah