Rose or Stinkweed?

I think one of the most difficult challenges for anyone in dealing with people, is the act of forgiveness.  When wronged, most would like to harbor vindictiveness and even vengeance.  Getting even for being wronged can motivate snubbing, gossip, confrontation and even murder, to name a few.  I know people who have become angry, bitter, filled with hatred, and finally mentally and physical ill for a lifetime because of unforgiveness.

Even Christians struggle with forgiveness, and we are the ones who should be a light to all others in that department.  It’s what we’re supposed to do.  Playing a part in the question of forgiveness is the mystery of Grace.  The unmerited favor of God that saves our soul is not dependent on any quality we possess, or acts we perform, but simply on the finished work of Christ Jesus on the cross.  Except, I think that this amazing grace may come with some conditions.

In Matthew 18:21 and following, Peter asks Jesus if he should forgive his brother up to seven times?  Jesus answers, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times,” or in other words, forever.  Jesus then goes on to tell the disciples The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant.  In summary, a king forgave his servant a debt that was impossible to pay, while in turn the servant would not forgive his fellow servant an infinitesimally smaller sum.  Whereupon the king rescinded his generosity and had the servant turned over to the jailers to be tortured until he paid back all that was owed.  The lesson taught is in 18:35 where Jesus states, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

In understanding this parable it doesn’t sound like He is speaking about a temporal situation, but of eternity.  The Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9-13) seems also to tie God’s forgiveness of our sins to our forgiveness of others.  So what if we fail to forgive others, does God then not forgive us?  Would our eternity then be with the jailer (Satan) where we will be tortured forever (Hell)?  What if we have no idea that in our heart there exists unforgiveness?  We feel we have a right to resent someone for saying something or treating us in a certain way.  That type of reframing is a way for our fallen minds to excuse the reality of sin that exists.  But praise God that the Holy Spirit has a way of cutting through the deviousness of our own thinking and convicting us of our sin, that is, if we listen.

I believe Christians are supposed to walk in a continual state of forgiveness (Col. 3:13).  Along my journey I have known some who exhibit this spirit, but not as many as one would think.  We have in our circle one who does walk in forgiveness, and is an inspiration to all of us.  Mychal Massie, speaker and writer, recounts an interview with Alveda King, niece of the late Dr. Martin Luther King.  Dr. King and Alveda’s father were both murdered during the civil rights movement.  Her spirit of love prompted the question of why she seemed not to harbor hatred for whites in light of the tragedies in her past.  Her answer was, “Oh Mychal, don’t you know that I’ve got Jesus?”  Great answer.  The Holy Spirit in her life produces a heart of forgiveness.

I have ongoing discussions with friends about things sacred and profane.  One big issue is the nature and extent of grace.  One person often, in my opinion, sort of excuses “just being human” by playing the grace card.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer called it “cheap grace,” and John MacArthur, “carnal Christian.”  Saving grace, and grace alone, is the wonderful mystery of Christianity.  But Scripture makes a distinction between Jesus being Savior, and being Lord.  In Luke 6:46 Jesus asks his followers, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you.”  How long can we not do what Jesus tells us to do and still remain under saving grace?  Forgiveness may fall in that category.

The late Dr. D. James Kennedy related the story of a young girl who gave her definition of forgiveness.  She said forgiveness was, “the fragrance of a flower when stepped on.”  I recalled the rising fragrance of my mint patch whenever I was working in it.  Just moving around the plants and leaves caused them to release their great fragrance.  The more they were disturbed, the greater the fragrance.  So then what happens to us when we get stepped on or “slapped around” a bit?  What kind of fragrance do we emit?  As Dr. Kennedy asked, in such situations, “Do you smell like a rose, or stinkweed?”

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. The timing of this wisdom was perfect for me, Dad. I’m going to go scrub the stink off and try again to smell pretty again. 🙂

  2. I think we all need regular cleansing along the way. Sometimes I need to walk slowly through a car wash.

    Dad

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