At church this morning, the overall theme of the service was forgiveness. Also, someone from an organization that serves veterans spoke to us, particularly about the problem of veteran homelessness.
Where am I on forgiveness? Well, I do try to get rid of bitterness
and malice within myself, with God’s help. The pastor this morning
quoted Ephesians 4:31: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and
clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice”
(KJV). I do this within the context of prayer. I do not do so
perfectly, but I try.
I do not try to revive or initiate relationships with people I am mad
at. Some may say that means I have not truly forgiven these people.
Well, they’re entitled to their opinion. Maybe I should work on being
less touchy. At the same time, sticking with certain relationships is
not the answer, I don’t think. Alternatively, I do not believe that
cutting people out of my life is the answer, either. But I do not know
what a sensible middle ground between these two extremes would be. Some
say that I should confront people about their faults. That can be
productive, but it can also backfire, so I tend to avoid doing that. At
the moment, I just try to work on getting rid of bitterness—-to see all
people as people of worth, whether I choose to dive into a relationship
with them or not, and not to allow bitterness to consume my day.
The pastor was saying that God’s forgiveness is unconditional. Do I
believe that? Well, I can think of plenty of biblical passages that
seem to indicate otherwise: that say that God forgives us if we confess
our sins and repent, or that God will not forgive us if we do not
forgive others. I sometimes get the impression that God in Scripture
wants us to be more forgiving than he himself is: we’re supposed to
forgive others seventy times seven, but God places all these conditions
on us receiving forgiveness from him. I think, though, that, somewhere
within me, I picture God as someone who does not hold my past against
me, who gives me more chances than I can count. Then what about those
biblical passages suggesting that God has conditions for us to receive
his forgiveness? I see them as educational tools on God’s part. God
wants us to take moral inventory, and also to love others
notwithstanding their flaws. Is my way of reconciling and applying all
this stuff in Scripture perfect? Some may say that I am trying to bring
God’s high standard down to my own level. Well, everyone who wants to
apply Scripture to his or her own life has to make interpretive moves,
to decide for himself or herself what is the best or most productive way
to apply Scriptural principles, with their diversity and complexity. I
have not found beating myself up to be that edifying to me personally,
so I tend to adopt a more charitable interpretation of Scripture.
Others can read the same text and arrive at different conclusions,
I was thinking of something else this morning. It is easy for me to
discourage myself from doing good by saying that I am already bad, and
so any good I do would not count before God. If I am unforgiving or
imperfect, do I have a right to do good? But the speech from that
person from the veterans outreach group helped me to think about this
differently. What is important is for me to focus on the needs that
should be met: for example, there are veterans who live in their cars or
do not know where their next meal will come from. Any money that can
go toward that need will be helpful to them, even if that money comes
from someone like me with spiritual or personal hang-ups. What is
important is that I give, not to earn brownie points before God or to
count as a truly good person, but to meet a need. Will I give to the
veterans’ outreach, beyond what I gave this morning? Well, I will
consider it. Let me say that I will not let my hangups discourage me
Those are my rambling attempts to work through issues for today!
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