Archive for the ‘Forgiveness’ Category

Forgiveness Is a Choice.

Friday, May 11th, 2018

I begin where I always begin discussions of forgiveness: with my assertion that forgiveness is a choice. Neither you nor I have to forgive anyone who has hurt us. On the other hand, we can forgive all who have done us harm. The decision is ours to make. Forgiveness does not happen by accident. We have to make a decision to forgive. We will not forgive just because we think we should. Forgiveness cannot be forced. I have no intention to demand that you forgive, but I will show you how and then the choice is yours. To help you choose, let me show you why I believe forgiveness is in your best interest. This choice exists whether or not someone asks for forgiveness. Each of us can learn to land the planes endlessly circling on our radar screen. When we choose forgiveness we release our past to heal our present.

— Dr. Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good, p. 63

[Photo: Burg Rheinstein, Germany, July 1997]

The Good News

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

Atonement theories are not the gospel. Across the New Testament, while metaphors do appear to hint at the “how” of atonement, the emphasis is not on these symbolic explanations, but on the story itself. Preaching the gospel never meant theorizing how atonement happens but, rather, proclaiming good news: the events and impacts of Christ’s life, death and resurrection.

— Bradley Jersak, A More Christlike God, p. 230

[Photo: Meadowlark Gardens, Virginia, April 3, 2012]

Grace in Community

Friday, April 27th, 2018

Jeff, like so many of us, is changed by the word of grace that he hears in church. He is formed by the Word of God. He is given a place where he is told by others that he is a child of God. He is given a place where he can look other people in the eye, other annoying, inconsistent, arrogant people in the eye, hand them bread, and say, “Child of God, the body of Christ, given for you,” and then he, in his own arrogant inconsistencies, has a frame of grace through which to see even the people he can’t stand. I argue that this wouldn’t just happen alone.

This is why we have Christian community. So that we can stand together under the cross and point to the gospel. A gospel that Bonhoeffer said is “frankly hard for the pious to understand. Because this grace confronts us with the truth saying: You are a sinner, a great, desperate sinner, now come as the sinner you are to a God who loves you.”

God wants you, you in your imperfect, broken, shimmering glory.

— Nadia Bolz-Weber, Accidental Saints, p. 168-169

[Photo: Shenandoah National Park, September 27, 2014]

Let Go of Grievances

Saturday, April 21st, 2018

Today, let go of any grievances that you have toward anyone. Bless them, and feel yourselves opening the door to receive once again. Feel all of the love that comes through this doorway, feel all of the abundance that is coming toward you.

— Chuck Spezzano, If It Hurts, It Isn’t Love, p. 308

[Photo: Riverbend Park, Virginia, April 20, 2018]

Unenforceable Rules

Monday, April 16th, 2018

Often when trying to enforce unenforceable rules we write mental tickets to “punish” the one who has acted wrongly. Unfortunately, if our rule is unenforceable, the only person we end up hurting with our ticket is ourselves. We clog up our minds with these tickets. We become frustrated because things do not go the way we want. We become angry because something wrong is happening. We feel helpless because we cannot make things right.

I am convinced that when you try to enforce something over which you have no control, you create a problem for yourself. That problem gets in your way as you try to figure out what is the best thing to do. It is much harder to know what to do when you are angry, frustrated, and helpless. Making a good decision is tough when you are constantly writing tickets and there is no one to give them to….

We have as much chance of enforcing our unenforceable rules as of getting blood out of a stone. Think for a minute about why trying to do so makes our lives so hard. Have you ever tried to force someone to do something they did not want to do? How successful were you? Have you ever tried to get what you needed from a person who did not want to help? How successful was that? Have you ever demanded your spouse or partner be nicer to you? Were you successful? Have you ever gotten mad at yourself for making a mistake? Did getting mad help? Ever demanded your boss treat you better? Did this change your boss’s behavior? Each of these normal desires is an example of trying to enforce an unenforceable rule. Trying to change what cannot be changed or influence those who do not want to be influenced will meet with failure and cause us emotional distress.

— Dr. Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good, p. 49

[Photo: Duart Castle, Isle of Mull, Scotland, July 12, 2003]

Closing the Book on Vengeance

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

Jesus didn’t come to bring vengeance; he came to close the book on vengeance. Jesus announced the Jubilee good news of pardon, amnesty, liberation, and restoration. Jesus doesn’t bless revenge; he blesses mercy and teaches that the mercy we show to our enemies is the mercy that will be shown to us. God does not allow us to hope that the book of divine vengeance will be closed for us but left open and inflicted in full upon others. This is not how it works in God’s economy of grace revealed by Jesus.

Does this mean there’s no divine judgement? Of course not. Certainly there is divine judgment, but it is a judgment based on God’s love and commitment to restoration. The restorative judgment of God gives no warrant to a schadenfreude yearning to see harm inflicted on others. Jesus has closed the book on that kind of lust for vengeance.

— Brian Zahnd, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God, p. 44

[Photo: Kilchurn Castle, Scotland, July 14, 2003]

Seeing Clearly, With Compassion

Monday, April 9th, 2018

Real love allows for failure and suffering. All of us have made mistakes, and some of those mistakes were consequential, but you can find a way to relate to them with kindness. No matter what troubles have befallen you or what difficulties you have caused yourself or others, with love for yourself you can change, grow, make amends, and learn. Real love is not about letting yourself off the hook. Real love does not encourage you to ignore your problems or deny your mistakes and imperfections. You see them clearly and still opt to love.

— Sharon Salzberg, Real Love, p. 16

[Photo: Keukenhof, Holland, April 17, 2004]

Punished By Our Sins

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

This view of sin and punishment is perhaps not as commonly held now as it was in previous generations, so I’m not sure how many people believe that God is holding a big grudge against them for being bad. Sure, some still believe that in heaven there is a list of good behaviors and bad behaviors and therefore to know that God forgives your sin is to know that God has erased the red marks against you and therefore is no longer mad, which means he won’t punish you.

But honestly, I’m much more tortured by my secrets, which eat away at me, than I am concerned about God being mad at me. I’m more haunted by how what I’ve said and the things I’ve done have caused harm to myself and others than I am worried that God will punish me for being bad. Because in the end, we aren’t punished for our sins as much as we are punished by our sins.

— Nadia Bolz-Weber, Accidental Saints, p. 130

[Photo: Sunrise, South Riding, Virginia, March 16, 2015]

Transcending Revenge

Friday, March 30th, 2018

While many Christians from the traditional view would say that the holiness of God consists primarily in moral purity and revulsion against sinners, the prophet Hosea defines God’s holiness in terms of God’s unrelenting mercy towards sinners. The Lord says through the prophet, “My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath” (Hos 11:8-9). It is highly significant that the reason God gives for his compassion and refusal to come in wrath is precisely because he is “the Holy One” who is far different from mere mortals. Far from God’s holiness requiring that God punish people eternally, Hosea affirms that God’s holiness is actually what compels God to refrain from wrath and to have mercy. What makes God holy, or different from human beings, is that God has the capacity to transcend revenge and offer mercy.

Similarly, Jesus defined God’s holy perfection, not in terms of vengeful and retributive justice against sinners, but in terms of all-inclusive compassion and love. It is often overlooked that when Jesus tells his followers to be “perfect” as God is perfect, this statement comes right on the heels of Jesus’s command for his followers to love enemies because this is what God does.

— Heath Bradley, Flames of Love, p. 18

[Photo: Oregon Coast, November 10, 2015]

In Accordance With the Bible

Sunday, March 25th, 2018

The goal, over against the Platonizing distortions, is the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham to give the worldwide inheritance (see Rom. 4:13) to his entire single family. The problem is not the general problem of human sin or indeed of the death that it incurs. The problem is that God made promises not only to Abraham but through Abraham to the world, and if the promise-bearing people fall under the Deuteronomic curse, as Deuteronomy itself insists that they will, the promises cannot get out to the wider world. The means is then that Jesus, as Israel’s Messiah, bears Israel’s curse in order to undo the consequences of sin and “exile” and so to break the power of the “present evil age” once and for all. When sins are forgiven, the “powers” are robbed of their power. Once we understand how the biblical narrative actually works, so as to see the full force of saying that “the Messiah died for our sins in accordance with the Bible,” the admittedly complex passage can be seen to be fully coherent.

— N. T. Wright, The Day the Revolution Began, p. 241

[Photo: Sunset from Chincoteague, Virginia, October 22, 2016]