Shootin' the Breeze

and random targets

Archive for the tag “forgiveness”

Chain of Thoughts

“Forgive us our trespasses AS we forgive those who trespass against us…

“Love one another AS I have loved you…

“Love your neighbor AS yourself…

“Do unto others AS you would have them do unto you…

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do….”

 

Advertisements

Amazing Grace

Members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina have amazed me with their gracious forgiveness.  Many family members of those killed at the church last week appeared in court to face the gunman and communicated two important statements.  They told the gunman of their pain from his murdering of their loved ones and they told him that, as Christians, they would forgive him.  What powerful witnesses!  If they can forgive when anyone would understand if they did not forgive, I ought to let go of my hurts to forgive those I have such trouble forgiving.

The rioters in Ferguson, Missouri could learn a lesson from the fine people of Charleston, South Carolina, who practice what they preach.  Bless their broken hearts!

Sorry Ride

I did not have a bicycle yet, but I wanted one.  I did not know how to ride a bike yet, but I wanted to.  My cousin, Don, four years older, had a cool bike.  It was quite a bit bigger than my tricycle.

Don lived on a street that was on a hill.  I knew about gravity, just not what it was called.  I had a wagon that rolled down hill but not up hill.  Sleds work on the same scientific principle.

So, I pushed the bicycle up the hill a few houses.  Don’s house was second from the bottom, right before the busy cross street that connected to the highway.  Don’t worry, I knew better than to go on the highway.

It was difficult to get onto the seat and to reach the pedals.  In fact, that might have been the problem — difficulty reaching those silly pedals.  Of course, one does not need pedals for a tire to roll downhill.  One does need pedals to apply the brakes on the type of bicycle Don had.  I am not sure that made a difference.  My trike did not have brakes.  Neither did my wagon nor my sled. I did not know to push back on the pedal to brake. Of course, that would have required long enough legs.

Somehow, I got onto the seat of the bike and got the bike to head down the hill.  Excellent balance I suppose.  Brains, not so much.

As the speed accelerated and the highway approached, I had to figure out how to stop the dang thing.  Brilliantly, I crashed the bike into a tree.  Unfortunately, the collision damaged the bike and also my self esteem.

There was no hiding what had just occurred, nor who was at fault.

Don came out of the house.  He was very nice, very forgiving.  My parents were less understanding.

Among other things they said, they told me to tell Don that I was sorry.  That was easy.  I was sorry.  I was very sorry.  I was as sorry as I had ever been in my life.

It was wrong of me to wreck Don’s bike.  I did not intend that result, but I was responsible for that damage.

Recently, an adult friend who caused damage to our friendship explained that he did not mean to hurt me by what he did.  He was not remorseful because his motive was pure (like mine in not meaning to wreck the bike).  So I told him that, regardless of intent, damage was done.  Then he said that he was sorry.  I appreciated it because it seems that I am not as nice as Cousin Don, who forgave even before the apology.  He is more Christ-like than am I.  It is easier for me to forgive a person who says he is sorry.

Jesus Died For Your Sins Too

Jesus was harder on the Pharisees than he was on other sinners, such as the woman caught in adultery.  To her accusers, He said, “He who is without sin throw the first stone.”  He did not say that she was not guilty and deserving punishment, but made the point that her accusers deserve judgment as well.  And, He said to her, “Go and sin no more.”

The problem with the Pharisees was that they did not see themselves as sinners.  They believed that they were better than “the general public.”  That self-righteousness bothered Jesus, as he knew their hearts, not just that they followed rules religiously. 

Jesus praised the Publican who prayed, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.”  That is a better prayer than, “Thanks, Lord, for making me better than other men, such as that Publican over there, who does not follow the rules that I proudly follow.”

The poor Pharisees struggled, it seems, with the sin of pride.  Their attitude of superiority troubled Christ.  The woman caught in adultery was forced to recognize that she was a sinner.  The Pharisees did not see that they were sinners.

Lord, we acknowledge that we are sinners and are grateful for Your loving mercy. 

We are in need of repentance, like the penitent thief who was crucified next to Jesus, and was told, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

This week we remember the sacrifice of Jesus Christ dying on the cross for us.

We remember the rest of the story as well — the Easter message of Christ’s victory over death. 

Sinning Boldly

beautoy

Rather than focus on my own faults and shortcomings, I prefer to bring to light the flaws of others around me.  Today my subject is the raw materialism, dishonesty and other sins of my dog, Beau.  I will also touch on my wife’s struggles with forgiveness.

Beau has been the subject of other posts since he joined our household in January.  I invite you to go to the archives under animal stories in order to get a better picture of his personality and our resulting troubles.

While many faithful Christians were giving up some things for Lent, Beau was bent on acquiring more and more new earthly possessions.  While others accepted the grace of undeserved forgiveness by Christ, Beau seemed oblivious and, instead, sinned boldly.

Martin Luther asked a theological question when writing about God’s grace that we do not earn but are offered nevertheless.  “Are we then to sin boldly, that grace may abound?”  The answer is “No.”  Beau did not read that far.  He took the “sin boldly” remark out of context and adopted it as his mantra.

Beau has a problem with stealing.  Maybe I should say that he does not have a problem with stealing because his conscience does not appear troubled by stealing.  We have a problem with him stealing.   Beau is a thief.  He is not just a sneaky burglar.  He is also a daylight robber.  As I just said, he lacks a conscience.  He lacks remorse.

Many dogs truly show remorse.  When their owners find, for example, that someone ate the kitty treats, they might say, as we do,  “Sadie, what did you do?  Did you eat the kitty treats?”   Our Sadie puts her head down and looks both guilty and sorry for her sins.  She is remorseful.  She is repentant.  She has a conscience.  Beau, on the other hand, literally smiles at the memory of stolen treats, wagging his tail unabashedly.

beaulaughing

Beau frequently picks up my wife’s slippers and shoes in his busy mouth.  You are thinking that he gets them to bring to Miss Sugar.  He is, after all, a Labrador Retriever.  You are thinking wrong.  Beau retrieves, certainly, but for his own selfish purposes.  He picks up a shoe on his way out the door, hoping we won’t notice.  When we try to grab his treasure from him, he gleefully dodges.  He thinks he is funny.  Sometimes we don’t.

He does appreciate his collection of bones, toys, and other material possessions.  He reminds us of the dog in the insurance commercial on TV that keeps a bone in a safety deposit box at a bank, except Beau does not trust banks.  Beau brings a rawhide chew toy with him most of the time.  Sadie will jump into the truck without hesitation.  Beau will poise himself to jump, remember that he should bring his toy, get it, and then jump in with it, so as not to leave it behind.  He probably projects that since he steals, others also lack morals and someone might steal from him.

beaupossessions

When we had Rover, rest his soul, I wrote about how Rover shared his finds by decorating our yard with skulls and bones and quilts.  He gladly shared.  Beau does not share.  He puts his treasures in his crate, where he sleeps at night, even treasures that are not his, such as Sugar’s slippers with the leather soles.  (Sadie does not sleep in a crate, by the way, she has the run of the house because she can be trusted.)

I counsel Sugar to forgive Beau for his trespasses.  It is a perilous spiritual battle when one’s dog endangers her immortal soul.  I, on the other hand, do forgive.  If only Sugar would follow my sterling example.  If only she would accept my constructive criticism and emulate my religious perfection.  Perhaps she will read this blog and see the error of her ways as I shine my light before her.  Or not.

Mothers’ Day is next month.  I will suggest to Beau that he should replace Sugar’s slippers as a present.  Blessed are we peacemakers!

Welcome to the General Public

In the original Rocky movie, when Rocky wanted to take Adrian ice skating, he was told that the ice rink was closed.  He asked, “Is it closed to everybody or just to the general public?”

When Jesus taught his disciples to pray what we call The Lord’s Prayer, which includes asking our Father who art in heaven to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” was he intending that only those twelve individuals pray that prayer or was it meant for the general public as well?

Like Rocky, I don’t always want to be part of just the general public.  Maybe I don’t want to forgive those who trespass against me.  Nevertheless, I do recommend that those in the general public ought to be forgiving.  I like to be forgiven by others and certainly I want to be forgiven by God.

Of course, Christians believe that Jesus died for the sins of everyone, to redeem everyone.  Everyone is in the general public.

Unfortunately, we do not always behave as we believe.

Have you had the experience of telling a fellow Christian that you have been hurt by that person and instead of being asked for forgiveness, such as a simple, “I am sorry,” had that person explain to you why you should not have been hurt?  Disregarding your feelings.  Or explain why you deserved to be hurt.  No remorse.  No apology.  Why?  Because the “hurter” will not accept blame and is unrepentant.   Too good.  Too superior.  Too “Christian?”

On the flip side, have you asked a Christian brother or sister to forgive you and been ignored?  Or refused.  Imagine a fellow sinner withholding forgiveness  from someone whom Christ died for.  How can any Christian be too good to forgive another?   Isn’t that disregarding what Christ has accomplished on the cross?

Apparently, such Christians are blind to the applicability of Jesus’ words to them.  Apparently, they do not see themselves as part of the general public.  Apparently, they deem themselves special.

Jesus was upset by similarly self-righteous attitudes by the Pharisees of his day.  He said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you put burdens on others that you yourselves are unwilling to bear.”

Feeling superior about one’s righteousness might be comfortable for such persons, but I fear they missed the point of Jesus’ gospel.  They would be well-advised to acknowledge being part of the general public because Jesus came to save everyone.

Abraham Lincoln said, “God must especially love the common folks because he made so many of them.”

The Wrong Stuff

My previous post, The Right Stuff, referred to courage and loyalty, as contrasted with the evil of damage to family relationships by those who hurt relatives that they should love.  This is on a related but more specific subject of how the Catholic Church treats Christian people who have endured the heartbreak of divorce.  I call it The Wrong Stuff.

My understanding of church doctrine and policy is that a divorced Catholic may continue to go to communion unless and until that person remarries.  The result is that a Christian who desires to partake in the Eucharist is excluded for the reason of entering into a committed relationship, i.e., another marriage.

The Church rationale, as it has been explained to me, is that the Church does not recognize civil divorce, which means the divorced person is still married (in the eyes of the Church) to the otherwise former spouse per civil divorce law.  Such a divorced Catholic may partake in communion.  However, remarrying another means that same Catholic is not “really” married to the new spouse because he or she is “still married” to the original one  and thus living in sin with the present spouse.  All that is not based on reality or legality.  It is just a technicality, not even a rational theological reason, in my opinion.

One reason I call it a technicality rather than a deeply held religious belief is that the solution is so hokey.  The Catholic trick is to get an annulment —  not a legal annulment, but a special church annulment.

A legal annulment requires certain findings such as lack of capacity to marry (a minor or mental incompetent) or fraud or failure to consummate the marriage.  Otherwise, a civil divorce is more appropriate rather than a legal finding of there being no marriage.

A church annulment may go much farther.  Those processing the annulment often find that a marriage which was certainly consummated between two people legally able to marry, who may have lived as husband and wife for many years, and which marriage might include the birth of children, magically becomes void.  By void I mean a finding that the couple was never truly married.  That finding is based on hindsight.

How does one get a church annulment?  By going through a process that begins with paying a fee of a couple thousand dollars.  Pardon my disrespectful language, but it is intellectual “baloney” because usually the process declares invalid something that was valid in every sense.  The marriage ended but that is quite different from a declaration that it never existed, that it was void ab initio.  Think how the children of an annulled marriage feel.  Did they not really “happen?” The Church says that these annulments do not “bastardize” the offspring. Why not? Be consistent. If the finding is that their parents were never married, by definition, the children were born outside of marriage. Truly, I cannot follow the logic. Maybe that is because the combinations of explanations are not logical.

I understand why the Church is opposed to divorce and wants to hold that marriage should be a lifetime commitment.  I believe that too.  However, we are all aware that a person can honestly desire to stay married but the spouse does not.  That is like one hand trying to clap.  We are also aware of abusive relationships and marriages in which one spouse is adulterous.  A faithful Catholic can be a victim of such a situation.

Rather than support that victim, the Church does the opposite by barring her or him from communion if that Catholic finds another to love and marry;  that is, unless the money is paid and the hokey process followed.

Consequently, the Church is excluding sincere Christian people whom it proclaims to love.  The Church proclaims Christ’s love and the forgiveness purchased by His death on our behalf and His resurrection as victory over sin.

There is another inconsistency that defies my understanding.  That is, at the Last Supper, Jesus’ words of institution, which are quoted at each Mass, included “Do this in remembrance of me.”   How can the Church exclude sincere Catholics from doing what Christ invited and commanded us to do?   Communion is central to the Mass, yet certain attendees, i.e., divorced Catholics who remarry without first getting the prior marriage annulled, are excluded. (Of course, Mafia members in crime families can commune as long as they go to confession and are not divorced, even if they do not stop their criminal enterprises.) The reason Catholics who remarry without an annulment are not forgiven like other sinners who can commune is because by staying married to the new spouse, one is “unrepentant.” Those “civilly married” Catholics are advised to stop living as husband and wife and instead live as brother and sister (without sex) until complying with the church annulment process.

Christ did not say eating the bread and drinking the wine as His body and blood is to be forbidden to sinners.  That would be contrary to why He died for our sins.  (Wasn’t Judas a participant in the Last Supper?) Why exclude  divorced people who remarry or any sinners for that matter?  We sinners were told to do this as a sign of faithfulness, as acceptance of his sacrifice. 

The Catholic Church’s condition of excluding those who fail to go through its peculiar annulment process seems to be unfair in comparison to other sinners  who are welcome to commune. Is it because divorce and marriage are public but secret sexual affairs and criminal enterprises are, well, secret? Some of the priests who celebrate Mass are themselves guilty of sexual sins, yet bar divorced Catholics who remarry without an annulment.

On the one hand, Jesus was strict about what constitutes sin, such as saying even lust is the equivalent of adultery.  His point was that all have sinned.  Isn’t that why He died for our sins?  Isn’t that how we were redeemed into a right relationship with God, as something we did not deserve on our own?

Why exclude Christian people who long to follow the invitation of Christ to commune in remembrance of Him and who accept the meaning of the sacrament?  I have raised this question on Catholic websites and in personal conversation and correspondence with priests.  I have been provided no persuasive or satisfactory or even rational explanation. See inconsistent examples above.

A friend of mine made another point that I will share here.  He said that it is Christ who is the Host for the Eucharist, not the Church.  Christ offered His body and blood and He also gave and gives the invitation to come to His table in remembrance of His sacrifice.  The Church’s rules about banning Christians seeking to respond to the invitation are perilously contrary to Christ’s invitation.

I do not believe I am a heretic.  I am a searcher who loves the Lord.  I trust in Him and His forgiveness for my salvation.  I do not understand the exclusion of divorced Christians from communion for the reason of having remarried without the artificial annulment process  declaring a prior marriage invalid (rather than simply over).

I invite comment on this post if you can present sound theological reasons.  If you find any reference to annulment in the Bible, please point it out to me.

Post Navigation