Life has really changed. With all of the amazing connectedness we have through social media, we are more alone than ever. We see people via Facetime but we cannot touch them. We “chat” without talking. We “like” without truly feeling emotion, we “follow” without knowing where we are going and we “join” without ever going anywhere. As a result of all of this non-active activity, when someone crosses us in any of these virtual environments we can snap back at them in so many ways with without having to actually face them. We tweet, post, Instagram, email, text – all with anonymity. Funny, Jesus specifically taught us to “turn the other cheek” - not to virtually smack them upside their head! What does turning the other cheek even mean and how do we apply it in both our real and virtual worlds? Is this teaching of Jesus still as relevant and powerful as it was centuries ago?
Everyone has had and will have the experience of being wrong, of making mistakes and of not understanding something well enough to properly represent it. Everyone! The question is not about what to do IF these things happen; the question is how do we handle it WHEN these things happen? Making mistakes and being wrong are never comfortable experiences, but they are priceless in their value if we allow them to be. So, how do we allow them to be priceless? When we are wrong, do we face it or ignore it? When we make a mistake, do we 'fess up or bury it? Further, how can we identify the thought and behavior processes that bring us to wrong conclusions and actions so we can avoid repeating the same old mistakes over and over again?
We all do wrong. We all hurt other people. Sometimes the hurt we deliver is the result of oversight, ignorance or immaturity, or careless words and actions or sloppy and selfish thinking. We hurt someone, but we don’t really mean it. Sometimes the hurt we deliver is a result of anger or vengeance or jealousy and we absolutely mean to create havoc and turmoil. Either way we do hurt others and we therefore do need forgiveness. So how do we receive forgiveness from others and especially from God? What do we have to do or say or think for forgiveness to take hold? How can we truly know that we are forgiven? Is forgiveness really worth the effort?
We live in a time of great contradiction. There are voices that shout, rant and insist for all in our society to embrace and accept everyone no matter what their choices in life are and no matter what their actions in life may be. Their message in many ways is framed as one of love – love for those who are opposite, love for those who are different. Then there are those like myself who say that while I am willing to accept and love people regardless of their choices, I will not embrace anything I believe is not moral or righteous. I will love the person but not the action. For this I have been called a "hater" by those who preach that you should embrace those who are different than you. Jesus told us to love our enemies, but what exactly does that mean? Am I not loving enough? Do I need to change?
We all know that Jesus taught us to forgive. If your brother trespasses against you seven times in a day, Jesus says to forgive. Okay, while this may be difficult, we can see its value and strive to live up to that standard. But, but what about when someone commits a horrible crime – what about when someone guns down in cold blood, innocent God fearing people in church – at a Bible study? Is the same lesson of forgiveness relevant? Do the teachings of Jesus include forgiving those who are simply and purely evil in their actions?
Sometimes in the overwhelming flow of life we can forget the simplest things. We get so caught up in a “me first” – and sometimes a “me only” mentality - that it never even crosses our minds to stop and consider some of the most basic and healing attributes available to humankind – kindness and mercy. What is mercy? How does it work? If we were to apply mercy on a regular basis, would it change our world and more importantly, could it change the way we see our world?
Everyone hurts someone at some point in their lives, whether it is intentional or not. Many of us carry the scars of past disappointments, broken trust, or just plain tragedy with us for our entire lives. Even though we know what forgiveness is, sometimes it seems too hard to truly exercise it because it seems that if we forgive, then we are somehow letting the other party off the hook. Is this true? Stay with us as we look into what forgiveness is and what it is not and try and get our arms around one of the greatest earthly powers that God ever gave us!
Anger, revenge and grudges! Sometimes our tolerance for others wears thin and we just want to...why we just want to let ‘em have it! Let ‘em know the heat of our wrath and the consequences for what we see as their wrong-doing and misbehavior. We want them to know that they can run but they cannot hide, for the long arm of justice will prevail! Now that that’s been said, the question is, SHOULD that be the way we think and act? Is there ever a time when we as Christians “take off the gloves” and show the full force of our dissatisfaction? This weekend, being the ninth anniversary of 9/11, we thought it appropriate to not only assess our position nine years later, but also to try and understand some current events and put it all in the context of God, tolerance, hard-heartedness and forgiveness.
There are many views of the character of God. Some see Him as angry, wrathful and impatient, while others see Him as just, loving and merciful. Whatever your viewof His character, it is certain that we live in a world where things are NOT fair and people by the MILLIONS suffer for things they did not do. So, what does that do to our understanding of God? If He is all powerful and all wise, why does He allow such injustice, suffering and chaos? Has God abandoned us? Has He forgotten us? Does He even care about us? Did God make mistakes with His creation – did He create a world that “got away from Him” and now it’s too late to change things? Stay with us as we look into the myriads of difficulties in our world and try to understand where God is in all of this. Should we forgive God? Is it even our place to forgive God?