Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Grace Is Sufficient, Part 2

Matthew 18:23-35 is the passage we focused on in our last post.  The debtor forgiven by his king of a huge debt.  When I shared how that one fit me, it was before my pastor spoke on that very same passage, Sunday morning.  Which makes me think that parable is very much on God’s heart, right now.  My pastor shared some great insights and I’ve seen a few more things.  They’re worth thinking about.  We all need to grow.

Last time, I talked about a situation that was potentially more expensive than it needed to be.  However, in the grand scheme of things, relatively minor.  But my response was not what it ought to be.  When my pastor shared about this passage, he used an interesting illustration that I think cuts to the heart of the problem.  Using a large picture frame, he spoke of creating a very wrong picture of someone when we don’t forgive.  That’s what I want to look at today.

Think about that framed portrait.  It’s what we see when we don’t forgive.  A person’s life covers a much larger territory than what’s in the confines of that frame.  But we’ve limited our focus on that person.  We only see them as what we refuse to forgive.  By seeing only that, we create a situation where we only see a limited image of who the other person is, we limit their interaction with us to within that framework, and we limit how we’ll allow God to deal with the circumstances.  Because God won’t violate our free will.

There’s another aspect of that framed portrait.  We’re so close to it that I don’t think we ever realize which is the front and which is the back of that frame.  So, when we don’t forgive, that thinking carries over to how we see ourselves.  We apply the unforgiving performance oriented viewpoint to ourselves, too.  And we can never measure up.  So, we see only a limited image of ourselves, we limit how we can interact with others (including God), and we limit how we allow God to interact with us.  Again, because He won’t violate our free will.

The last verse of this passage is very telling.  It says, “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.”  That sounds downright condemning and treacherous.  But look at what Luke 6:37 tells us, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:”. 

In a discussion of the previous Sunday morning’s message, I said that it boils down to accountability without punishment.  Don’t get me wrong.  If I rob someone and get caught, I’m going to jail.  Man may do that out of punishment.  But God doesn’t.  God creates certain rules.  If I do a particular thing, there will be a specified result.  But the intent isn’t punishment, it’s restoration.  For every thought or action, there is a natural response. 

If you’ve ever seen the experiment where someone drops Mentos into Diet Coke, you know that the result of the chemical reaction is a geyser.  That’s what will happen every time because there is a rule of nature that combining those substances will always create that geyser effect.  There’s no punishment involved, just natural consequences.  And that’s God’s heart.  If I narrow my view of others or myself to the sins involved, there are consequences of that decision.  Those consequences can spill over onto others.  But they’re not punishment, they’re a result of my choices.  And, as the passage in Luke explains, there are ways to avoid those consequences.

The moment I’m willing to give my brother forgiveness, grace and mercy, that’s exactly when the results of my thinking become nothing short of spectacular!  And, in that sense, I am my own brother, as well.

What are you doing to see beyond that narrowly framed portrait?

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