Tag Archives: Forgiveness

From Rejection to Intercession

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If someone asks him, ‘What are these wounds on your body?’ he will answer, ‘The wounds I was given at the house of my friends.’ Zechariah 13:6

woundedAfter many years of living on this earth it seems to me that one of the deepest wounds that most people feel is that of rejection. The contexts that inflict the deepest pain are those that involve relationships and friends. Who has not been wounded in the “house of their friends?”

That “house” may be a marriage or family, a place of work, a church, a mission or any other relational context. For this article I’d like to look at our church family, but the principles discovered may well help in handling rejection in all the contexts mentioned.

We are so very much a body of friends in our churches and mission agencies, but our very nature – our fellowship,  has to be closely watched as it in itself has the potential to wound. The happy few, the  “Band of Brothers” on a mission, has the potential in changing seasons to inadvertently exclude and reject. New lamps may be exchanged for old, the pioneer personality gives way to organisational maintenance, and a new generation necessarily grows up with a desire to forge ahead rather than interpret the future through their history.

This seems to be the case when we look at Israel’s Biblical history.

After the inspiring leadership of the Patriarchs, Moses and Joshua,

“another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.” Judges 2:10

The Lord tested the heart of the new generation by leaving the problem of taking the land of promise. Judges 3:1. Each new generation must prove itself by engaging in battle – the inner and spiritual “Jihad” for our context,  and proving character.

Decline inevitably set in and instead of taking full possession of the promise the people were mainly oppressed by their enemies with occasional bursts of revival through various “Judges” who brought the people back to the Lord and their mission.

The great prophet Samuel seems to be one of the last in a long line of Judges. He gave himself to the people wholeheartedly and set them back on track with God. However, like every ministry, he had a sell-by date. He grew old and wanted to appoint his sons as judges, but they lacked the moral fibre of their father, seeking gain rather than God.

“So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” 1 Samuel 8:4-5

“You are old!” – For the more silvery haired amongst us the challenge of adapting to a new season, and surviving the rejection of those you have led, can be devastating.

We read in the text that Samuel was “displeased” !

He prayed and the Lord led him to come to terms with the wound of rejection that was eating him up.

“And the LORD told him: Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.” 1 Samuel 8:7

In the end, all of the wounds of rejection that we endure, all the exclusion that we encounter, falls on the ultimately rejected one, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The naked man lifted up on a cross, the rejected God, sucked into himself all our pain of being left out and marginalised.samuel

How did Samuel survive this season and move on to anoint and bless the new “Messianic” season by discerning and nurturing the gifting in the young David? How can I move beyond my own painful rejection and bitter words to become a blessing?

The key is found a few chapters later in 1 Samuel 12:22-25. It seems that after the initial shock, Samuel has come to terms with the fact that nothing is going to prevent this new season emerging. He has found a place of peace. How?

He has chosen to pray for those who rejected him.

“As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right.” v.23

When we feel rejected we often speak from the wounded overflow of our heart, harshly criticising and judging others. We need to move from this tree of good and evil and feed on the tree of life. Begin to pray and not sin! Then stand and proclaim what is “good and right.”

No easy task, but ultimately the only way to move on and enter a new season.

In fact it seems that the very wound of rejection may even in itself be the catalyst to new beginnings.

At the end of  the Gospel of John, on that post resurrection evening, we find Jesus launching His disciples into a new season. He begins by making it very clear that ministry – all living and loving, will involve wounds.

“…he showed them his hands and side.” John 20:20

In an unmistakable visual he is saying, “This is how the Father sent me – to be wounded.”

And, as Jesus may be speaking to you His own disciple today, he continues:

“As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” v.21 – The wounding is a new sending!

We need so much help to own this. This is why Jesus breathes on us intimately, allowing us to receive the Comforter – the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit puts the very character of Christ within our own flesh in our own time and culture. He brings healing and the potential to forgive, move on and pray for the “house of my friends.”

“And with that he breathed on them and said, Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:22-23

 

 

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Go now and leave your life of sin…

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Is it really possible to “love the sinner but hate the sin?” It was probably St Augustin who first coined this phrase when writing, in parenthesis, to a few nuns: “Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum,” which translates roughly to, “With love for mankind and hatred of sins.”

Is it possible to separate the actual person from their sin? In our righteous anger at sin, are we not in danger of becoming people haters as well?  D.H Lawrence in his short story, Daughters of the Vicar, gives a vivid description of a minister’s decline into such hatred.

“At last, passing from indignation to silent resentment, even, if he dared have acknowledged it, to conscious hatred of the majority of his flock, and unconscious hatred of himself, he confined his activities to a narrow round of cottages, and he had to submit. He had no particular character, having always depended on his position in society to give him position among men. Now he was so poor, he had no social standing even among the common vulgar tradespeople of the district, and he had not the nature nor the wish to make his society agreeable to them, nor the strength to impose himself where he would have liked to be recognised. He dragged on, pale and miserable and neutral.”

Perhaps one of the keys here lies in the “unconscious” self-hatred. The apostle Paul, writing in Romans 7, didn’t seem to see “sin” as a separate entity out there somewhere, but as an intimate indwelling part of his very make up.

“Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”

He hated himself for it!

“For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate I do…What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”

Can we hear the cries to be rescued rising up within and around us?

You don’t throw a stone at a person who wants to be rescued. You throw a life line!

There are only two types of people in the world – man and woman, gay and straight, black and white, rich and poor, good and bad? No…the answer is found in 2 Corinthians 2:15:

“For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”

Those who are “being saved” from the sin and hate, and those who “are perishing.”

We desperately need a Saviour – and like St Paul we can cry, “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

The ultimate fragrance of salvation and forgiveness of sins was released from the crucified body of Christ as His blood paid the full price for all of mankind’s sin. God’s absolute hatred for sin fell on the sinless innocence of Christ.

We can be rescued by faith in Jesus!

This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance(and for this we labour and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, and especially of those who believe.” 1Timothy 4:9-10

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

The lifeline of Jesus is available to a perishing world.

There is a beautiful story of Jesus’ encounter in the gospel of John 8:1-11 with a woman caught in adultery.

The religious establishment is poised to stone the sin – and no doubt the woman along with it! Jesus exposes their own need to be free from sin, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her,” and the stones are quietly dropped.

He alone has the right to throw, but he extends stone less hands of embrace to the broken lady. She looks up with a brow used to habitual beatings from men and is astonished to meet the forgiving gaze of Christ’s love. “Neither do I condemn you.”

She feels his strong supporting hand pull her gently to her feet, a pure masculine touch that is all give and no take. For once in her life she finds acceptance and grace. She can learn to live again.

Having manifested the surpassing power of his love, He speaks the word of truth over her negative lifestyle.

“Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Having encountered Jesus, that must have been the one piece of advice she really wanted to take!

This is the position the church, the Body of Christ, must take up to reach out to the perishing and broken. Put your stones and hate on the back burner and liberate the perfume of Christ’s grace and forgiveness through the Gospel message.

And with all the love shed abroad, don’t forget the essential advice to turn away from sin and live close to Christ.

So, immensely love the sinner, and create a discipling context for the turning away from sin.

I’ve added a video to finish which is a bit of a mixture of many Biblical passages but which sums up the essence of Christ’s forgiveness.

 

Empty Pockets…

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A few days ago I discovered an old overcoat and began to go through the pockets. It’s amazing how much stuff you can accumulate, or stash away. I pulled out some old tissues, a few bits of paper covered with some old scribbled messages, a used train ticket and a very smelly bobble hat which hadn’t been worn for years!

What do you keep (or lose!) in your pockets?

As we have just celebrated the Jewish new year, I wondered how much “excess baggage” I might be carrying into this new season? Annually, on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) the orthodox Jew would symbolically empty his pockets of his sins at a river or running stream, casting them into the water while reading the following verses from Micah 7:18-19.

 “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance?

 You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.

 You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”

 Make sure you go into the future with “empty pockets”.

The apostle Paul certainly knew the “lightness” and enthusiasm of the empty pocket journey when he wrote in Philippians 3:13-14:

“Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Press on to what is ahead. You may have many goals, but make the knowledge of the Holy a priority.

How easy is it to “forget what is behind?”

Depending on our circumstances we may have to come to terms with all sorts of tragedies and incoherences. Some events may seem to cast too profound a shadow into our future to be easily forgotten. Some theologians talk about the ultimate “attrition” of memory in heaven as a fulfillment of redemption.

Redemption will be complete only when the creation of “all things new” is coupled with the passage of “all things old” into the double “nihil” of non-existence and non remembrance.”  Miroslav Volf – “Exclusion & Embrace”

Our own human efforts and psychology will always ultimately fail at the challenge to forgive and forget. It is only the love of God, incarnated and dynamic, flowing out into the world through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross that has the means to genuinely clean out the pockets of this world.

Our challenge is to embrace this love in humble faith and submit to its crucifying overflow into our own life experience. We too need to learn to love.

The famous passage on love in 1 Corinthians 13:5 makes an amazing statement about one of love’s qualities saying that:

“it keeps no record of wrongs.”

 Love doesn’t take an inventory. (logizomai in the original Greek). It wipes the slate clean. Obviously, for there to be “closure” on many events we need to consider issues of truth and justice, but, just as Christ was willing to reach out to us “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8), so we can cultivate “a will to embrace” the other and see beyond the differences and the offence.

As we journey deeper into grace for our own lives so we can call our fellows (and enemies?) to travel with us.

“Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13

 A new season is like a new birth. This “new birth” is named in many cultures where the year is given a name. What will you christen your year?

Miroslav Volk recounts the story of a Muslim woman who, during the war in Bosnia, suffered terrible abuse and affliction. When she became a mother she named her newborn son “Jihad”, seeing in him the means to enact revenge on her enemies.

Another birth is recounted in Genesis 41:51. This time Joseph, the dreamer, the one who knew such cruel rejection from his brothers, the one who suffered unjust accusation and prison, is welcoming his first-born son into the world. What does he name his child? Revenge…Bitterness? No!

“Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh (derived from the Hebrew “to forget”) and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.”

 Manasseh points us to a far greater firstborn son, Christ himself, who, as a suffering lamb, carried the sin of the world on his shoulders and bore away our troubles and community strife.

Why not christen your year “Manasseh?” At the beginning of each new season, leave behind your troubles. A “father’s household”, speaks of family, or church. Some of the deepest wounds can be inflicted in the “house of my friends.”  (Zechariah 13:6) Allow the Lord to ease you into a “generous amnesia” concerning such communal hostilities so that you may speak kindly to your brothers (Genesis 50:21), amazing yourself with grace and bringing healing words of redemption.

Happy…empty pocketed Manasseh…New Season…or, owning a special “Yom Kippur” blessing, we might say:

“Gmar Chatimah Tova” – May you be inscribed (in the Book of Life) for Good ! (Literally: A good final sealing.)