Sunday, October 25, 2015

For The Forgiveness Of Sins

"For The Forgiveness Of Sins" - Jesus, on the night in which he was betrayed

How much comfort we take in those beautiful words.  We hold tight to the forgiveness of sins.  We breathe a sigh of relief at the thought of forgiveness. It is even a new covenant: the forgiveness of sins.

But it is not the forgiveness of our sins that is promised by itself.  It is the forgiveness of sins -not just ours but sins in general.  We take it personally and so we should; yet we take it  as if it were ours exclusively.  The picture is bigger than that.  What Jesus is accomplishing is bigger than that.

How often does he tell us, in one way or another, that forgiveness is for everybody?  Forgive as you are forgiven; the merciful will be shown mercy; we love because God first loved us. He is reconciling the whole world to himself.  Are we with him on that?

It is almost guaranteed that someone will claim that this amounts to earning our salvation.  It is nothing of the sort.  God forgives us when we have done nothing to earn it.  If that means anything to us, we will do the same for others.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The greatest commandment: why forgiveness follows from it

Have you ever thought about what it means that the greatest commandment is love? Think about the disputes that Jesus got into with the Pharisees. In particular, think about all the disputes over the Sabbath. Jesus used the example of how priests sacrifice on the Sabbath. The law of sacrifice and the Sabbath are in conflict every seventh day. If the priests keep the Sabbath exactly as written then they would have to skip the sacrifices; if they perform the temple service then they break the Sabbath. But the temple service is greater than the Sabbath, so the priests perform the temple service and are blameless with regards to the Sabbath.

Or consider the example of circumcision. Under the Old Covenant, every male child must be circumcised on the eighth day. If the eighth day falls on the Sabbath then those two laws are again in conflict. If the child is circumcised on the eighth day the Sabbath is broken; if the Sabbath is kept then the law of circumcision is broken.  The covenant is greater than the Sabbath, so again circumcision is performed even on the Sabbath, and those who perform this service are innocent of breaking the Sabbath. When two laws conflict, the greater commandment is kept.

Now consider that the greatest commitment is to love God, and the second is like it, to love our neighbors.  It follows then that we forgive each other. What is forgiveness except for love being taken into account as greater than our sins?

More could be said about the place of repentance in the heart of the one who acted without love and sinned against his neighbor and so broke God's greatest law in the first place. There is no need for forgiveness unless the law of love was already broken by the one who needs forgiveness. More could be said about the value of the law in teaching us how to love and how to reconcile justice and mercy. (After all, the greater part of mercy is love and respect for the wrongdoer, and the greater part of justice is love and respect for the wronged.) And how can we show the wrongdoer respect without endorsing the evil itself, unless the wrongdoer repents? If the wrongdoer repents in truth, he will lead the way in seeking to make things right for the anyone who was harmed by his actions.

All that said: the commands to love are greater than the other commandments.  So it follows that the true penitent is always met with love. That is why we approach God with confidence. That is why the people that we know should be able to approach us with the same confidence. Once they have abandoned whatever harm they are causing, their welcome will be sure. Because love is greater than their sins.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Is "selflessness" a good thing?

I've often heard people discuss being "selfless" as if it were a virtue. And yet it is not the same thing as love. Hermits may be selfless (or not), they may deny themselves, but that is not love. No one is blessed by it. No one is helped by it. No one else's life is made warmer or brighter or deeper by it. No one has their distress or loneliness relieved, or adds to their bonds of fellowship. Is there any gain in self-sacrifice for its own sake? The difference between selflessness and love is the difference between Eleanor Rigby and Mother Theresa.

The God-honoring alternative to selfishness is that we should love each other.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Meditation: God as light

Let there be light.
God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:5
Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105
God is light. The beginning of creation, the most beautiful, the most needful. It allows us to see, to recognize. On a path, light does more than show the way. More than that, it shows safety, shows danger. Still more: light causes some of the dangerous things to flee.

Light shows us other things in their beauty. And more: It increases their beauty. Consider the drop of water caught in the light, or the cloud caught in the light. The light makes other things more beautiful. Consider the endless cycle of beauty by which God has marked each day: there was evening, and there was morning, each new day. The days are set apart not just by the changing of the light or the clocks, but by fresh displays of beauty. Consider an ocean or lake with the light shimmering on it. For things considered valuable: one of gold's beauties is how it reflects the light. Gems are valued for how they catch the light, and the craftsmen develop their skill in how to catch the light. Some things are made beautiful simply by catching the light.


In appreciation of the value of things left unsaid, I'll stop there.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Essential Bible Verses on Stress or Anxiety

  1. Cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you. - 1 Peter 5:7
  2. Aren't two sparrows sold a penny? Yet not one of them shall fall to the ground without your Father. Even the hairs of your head are numbered. So don't be afraid; you are more valuable than many sparrows. - Matthew 10:29-31
  3. Who of you, by worrying, can add a single hour to his life? - Matthew 6:27
  4. Look at the birds of the air. They do not plant or harvest or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Aren't you much more valuable than they? Matthew 6:26
  5. Consider the lilies of the field. They neither toil nor spin, yet not even Solomon in all his splendor was arrayed as these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, you of little faith? Matthew 6:28-30
  6. If God is for us, who can be against us? - Romans 8:31
  7. Who will bring an accusation against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is it that condemns? - Romans 8:33-34
  8. I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8:38-39
  9. When you pray ... your Father knows what you need before you ask him. - Matthew 6:7-8
  10. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7