08 Jun 2015
The late, Brennan Manning wrote this in an essay on Forgiveness in his book, Souvenirs of Solitude. “The proof par excellence of the Christian who has experienced God’s unbearable forgiveness and infinite patience is that he is able to be forgiving and patient with others.” This statement reflects what Jesus taught in the parable of the Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 18:21-35. There, Jesus shares a story of a servant who owed the Master 10,000 bags of gold and could not pay his debt. The Master forgives the debt after the servant pleads for mercy. Upon having his debt forgiven, the wicked servant finds the man who owes him only 100 silver coins. When that man cold not repay the debt, the servant who had just had his enormous debt canceled, threw the other man in prison. The Master finds out and angrily throws the wicked servant who showed no mercy, even after receiving mercy, into prison. Jesus makes the point that how we forgive others will determine how we will be treated.
The point of this story is obvious on the surface. If we, who have asked Jesus for forgiveness for our sins cannot or do not forgive others who have sinned against us, then we will not be forgiven.
But what about us forgiving ourselves, once we have received forgiveness from God. What does this lesson say about the lack of forgiving ourselves? I feel it says the same thing. If we can forgive others, but not ourselves, then we really have not grasped and embraced what forgiveness is all about. If we claim that Jesus has paid the price for our sins then we dare not wallow is the trough of self-pity and self-love by not forgiving ourselves. When we are unforgiving with ourselves it really is a form of self-centeredness. In prison, we might hide behind the idea that “our crimes are so huge that God could never forgive us.” This is reverse pride and needs to be killed. In essence, that statement reveals a prideful spirit that actually uses the severity and heinousness of our crime to puff us up. We have shifted the focus and center of our lives away from God and onto ourselves. This is idolatry, pure and simple and must be confessed and abandoned so that we will be able to move out and use our freedom that comes with God’s forgiveness, to hear the cries of His hurting people and help others.
23 Mar 2015
Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers. “What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riffraff?” Jesus, overhearing, shot back, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.” Matthew 9: 10-17 The Message
Prisoners and ex-offenders love this story of Jesus as He chose to sit down and break bread with Matthew, a tax collector and his seedy companions that included prostitutes and other “sinners” in 1st Century Jerusalem. The religious elite, the church leaders, bristled and were offended at the idea that Jesus would sit down at a table and spend time with these nobodies…this riffraff. To eat with someone in Jesus’ day was an important thing, for it meant that the person accepting your invitation accepted you. Matthew was a Jew who worked as a tax collector for the Romans and therefore considered a traitor by his fellow Jewish people. Yet Jesus sat with him and ate.
We don’t really wonder too much why Jesus wanted to associate with the lower classes of people, for He makes it clear He was there to heal the sick. But do we ever look at this tale from another perspective? Why would the “sinners” want to sit down and eat with Jesus? Surely, they were curious about this man, but He was known to be a religious teacher. Every other religious leader would not make very good company, as they would likely point a finger and condemn these low class folks. So why would they want to have dinner with Jesus?
The answer is found in the way that Jesus dealt with the woman caught in adultery as recorded in John 8:7. There, Jesus challenges those without sin to cast the first stone at this woman. After the crowd disperses without throwing a rock at her, He is gentle, forgiving and kind. He is loving as He says to her, “Go and sin no more.” Not once does Jesus point the finger of accusation, or demand that she write out a long list of sins and a detailed plan as to how she will avoid sinning again. He doesn’t check up on her or make her feel like a slimy worm; something that is good for nothing. Jesus loves her, accepts her and challenges her to change by being gentle, compassionate and kind. How much do prisoners long for those same things and yet do not get them in their lives, both inside the walls and when they are released?
DHT 72 Hour Fund loves these people. They are never asked their crime or made to fill out a pledge to “never sin again.” DHT comes along side of each one and is the same “hands and face” of Jesus that He was to these people eating at Matthew’s house and with the adulterous woman. This is why Jesus attracted followers.
Do we attract followers to Jesus or do we repel them with accusations and judgment? “Let He who is without sin…”