Saturday, September 18, 2010

Making Mole Hills Out of Mountains

In life we all face challenges, some of which may feel heavy enough to crush us. These challenges may come in the form of our health, finances, relationships, or perhaps our work. Sometimes we assess the level of difficulty and decide to walk away. Other times the matter is so important to us we will attempt it even if it means certain failure. Thankfully, life is also filled with those things that are a pleasure because of the ease of facing them. These are moments of great joy, which we would prefer to always be experiencing. However, we are also a foolish people, making what should be easy into a difficult and challenging moment.

I am convinced that some of our worst moments of our lives are due to our own stupidity. We can often be our own worst enemy. There are some simple things in life, some basic things, that we have complicated and made into a huge mountain to block our spiritual and mental growth. One of these things is the ability to forgive. Forgiveness should never be a struggle for us unless we turn it into a struggle. I think part of the problem for many of those who struggle with forgiveness is that they are too focused on themselves, perhaps thinking too highly of themselves. Forgiveness happens when you place greater value on the person you are forgiving then on yourself. Our society and culture is not wired this way any more. Now we promote "me-ism".

I praise Jesus every day that he did not think like this. Here he is, God, the Word made flesh, the most important and significant one in all of time and throughout creation, and yet he placed such value on us that he made himself less than us. Perhaps you can't see it like that because you are too familiar with the story. In order to take our place on the cross Jesus had to put a great deal of value on us, to give up his life for us, to face torture and an agonizing death so that we could have life, so that we could receive forgiveness. Understand , we were the enemy of God. We were in rebellion, living in a state that was opposite to the character he had created us for. We had no value. We were rebellious trash that deserved only death. Yet, Jesus reached through all of that, lifted us up, put himself down, forgot all the pain we were causing him, and offered us forgiveness, if we would accept it. Consider for a moment what happened at the scene of the paralytic man who has brought to Jesus by his friends.

Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven." (Matthew 9:2)

For us the obvious need of this man was the use of his limbs but Jesus sees what we cannot. Instead of dealing with the flesh Jesus saw that the greater need was the heart and he forgave the man. Perhaps this was like cooling water on a burning soul, wracked by years of guilt and torment. His greatest need at that moment was to hear the words "your forgiven". For some people they are mere words but for others who are longing for them, they are like a key unlocking the prison cell. Now consider how stupid we can be:

At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, "This fellow is blaspheming!" (Matthew 9:3)

According to where they were stuck in their traditions and understanding, according to their ignorance and limitations, this looked like blasphemy. Are we any different from them? The Church developed an attitude of penance because forgiveness should never be given without a payment, or so our leaders thought at the time. Stupid. Taking the fundamental belief of grace and sticking it at the back of the closest because of a need to make forgiveness cost something. As individuals we are no different. We refuse to forgive because the person did not apologize or did not grovel enough. We refuse to forgive because we are hurt so deeply. We refuse to forgive because the person has not earned it. We want to see them dance to our piper before we offer what should be offered freely. This attitude put Jesus off:

"Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...." Then he said to the paralytic, "Get up, take your mat and go home." And the man got up and went home. (Matthew 9:4-7)

Obviously it is easier to forgive than to pull of such a physical miracle. Jesus was making a point here that the entire crowd missed. What was it that amazed them, the ease of forgiveness of a tormented soul, or the repairing of the limbs?

When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men. (Matthew 9:8) 

The thing they were in awe of was the authority to heal not the authority to forgive. We are a crazy people turning the easy things of life into mountains. You probably disagree with me thinking that forgiveness is not an easy thing. Forgiveness is not easy only if you are self-centered and thinking too highly of yourself. If you have true understanding as a follower of Jesus Christ you know that the priority in the Kingdom is to love God and to love others as yourself. You should understand that we should be doing to others what we want done to ourselves. If we are mature then we understand that forgiveness is something we are all desperate for so we should be willing to offer it freely. Getting in the way of it spells disaster for ourselves. Remember the attitude the Apostle Paul said we should be maintaining:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
 Who, being in very nature God,
      did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
 but made himself nothing,
      taking the very nature of a servant,
      being made in human likeness.
 And being found in appearance as a man,
      he humbled himself
      and became obedient to death—
         even death on a cross!
(Philippians 2:3-8)

We need to spend some time repenting before our holy Father, confessing our lack of forgiveness and asking for a renewed heart. We have to get off the center stage and allow Jesus to be there along with all those people he loves and dies for. It is in understanding his love for everyone, ourselves included, that we begin to understand the importance and ease of forgiveness. It is important to us and to those who we love and those who consider themselves our enemies. Without maintaining an attitude of forgiveness we will not be able to see the face of Jesus and it is not a difficult thing. Resist the temptation to make a mountain out of this thing that is easy to do and that brings relief to so many. Today, forgive as you yourself want to be forgiven.

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