Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Thought for Thursday 12 March 2015

“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.  Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor, defend the fatherless, and plead for the widow.”  Isaiah 1:16-17 NKJV

Just prior to this proclamation and affirmation of the Law of Moses, the prophet handed down some rather harsh words that seemed to declare the Law void: “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle.  I do not delight in the blood of bulls or of lambs and goats” (Isaiah 1:11).  On the one hand the Law speaks very plainly; on the other, not so much.  After all, these sacrifices had been commanded by The Lord, but now The Lord is saying “enough”.  What gives?

The religious practices of the faithful have no meaning to The Lord if the “faithful” are unwilling to have and show any care or concern for their “neighbors”.  Even those who today boldly proclaim that “I know The Lord loves me and has forgiven me” without looking deeply within may be speaking prematurely – or kidding themselves – if they hold something against someone else.  That is, someone had done them harm for which they refuse to forgive – and yet declare themselves forgiven. 

It’s a nice thought, but there is no biblical justification for it.  In fact the very words of Jesus deny this sentiment: “If you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive yours” (Matthew 6:15).

Someone once said forgiveness is only for the strong and the brave; that it is the weakness of cowards and fools who refuse to forgive others.  Though we may not consider ourselves cowards or fools, we must still acknowledge that forgiving someone who has harmed us or facing someone we have harmed is perhaps the hardest thing of all.  We have to get over our pride, stand on our own two feet, admit our wrong done, and face the reality that we are not as perfect or always right as we might like to pretend.  Forgiving someone who does not deserve to be forgiven (at least in our eyes) makes us seem weak and vulnerable.

It takes no effort or thought or strength to hold a grudge, but it takes godly strength to “cease to do evil, learn to do good”; to “seek justice, rebuke an oppressor”, or plead and advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves.  All these things, however, are required of us from The Lord if we expect to find and receive forgiveness for our own past.  Christians are fond of saying, “We don’t have to do anything to receive The Lord’s love”.  While there is a kernel of truth in that The Lord made Himself vulnerable for us at the Cross “while we were still sinners”, it is not even close to true that we have to do nothing!  We are indeed commanded to do … for those who cannot do for themselves.  It is our doing that helps others to understand and believe the Good News, not our empty words or religious practices!

Our relationship with The Lord began with forgiveness, but our relationship with the people of the Church (and Christ!) continues and grows even stronger as we forgive those who have harmed us – and actively seek forgiveness from those we have harmed.  It means we seek the well-being of others before we worry about ourselves.  If we refuse to believe this takes real strength, it may be because we’ve not really tried it!

Let go of those things holding you back.  Offer forgiveness.  Beg forgiveness.  Use the spiritual backbone we’ve all been given, and stand tall in the name of the One who stood tall for us – even as He made Himself completely vulnerable.  The Bible says there is no greater love than this.  Surely we can agree there is no greater show of strength than this.



No comments: