Monday, February 16, 2009

Day 13 – Choose to Fellowship, Choose to Forgive

When Jesus commanded, Love each other as I have Loved you” – John 15:12, he gave us the power to love in a new and better way. In Chapter 13, Tom Holladay begins to outline the four choices that we must make to receive this power.

1. Choose to Fellowship:

What is fellowship? defines fellowship as, “the companionship of individuals in a congenial atmosphere.” In other words, spending time with people you enjoy. But there is more to fellowship than just hanging out with friends. Jesus expects us to use our fellowship time in a positive manner. Fellowship is done with people who are trying to follow the same spiritual path and will support and guide you along that journey. They will be the people who love you as Jesus loves you.

2. Choose to Forgive:

In Ephesisans 4:32, Paul writes,
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
In this section, Tom asks two questions:

1. What does it mean to forgive?
2. Who are you trying to punish by choosing not to forgive?

Forgiveness can be hard because we confuse it with forgetting. To forgive someone does not mean you have to act like it never happened. But it does mean we have to let it go and not hold on to the bitterness or desire for revenge. I know from my own life that this can be a struggle. I can think of a couple of individuals that I used to work with who wronged my in ways that I am still dealing with to this day. At times, when I think back on those things, I sometimes imagine what it would be like to get even with them, even though it has been 3 years since the incident. I need to let go of that resentment and seek true forgiveness. It is foolish for me to hang on to that bitterness. I doubt either of the individuals even recalls what they did or how it affected my career decisions. I am the only one still feeling the pain.

Jesus doesn’t pull in punches when it comes to the importance of forgiveness. In one of the many parables Jesus used as teaching examples, he told the story of a king who wanted to settle the accounts with his servants. One of the servants owed the king the equivalent of millions of dollars and could not pay. When the judgment was given that all that the servant owned, including his wife and children, were to be sold to repay the debt, the servant begged for mercy and promised that with time he would repay the debt. The king took mercy on the servant and canceled the debt.

When the servant came across another man who owed him money, the equivalent of a few dollars, the servant attacked the man and demanded he pay back the debt. The man begged for mercy, but the servant refused and had him throw into prison until he could return the few dollars.

When the king heard what had happened, he was very distressed and called the servant back in. “You wicked servant. I canceled all of your debt because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you? The king then turned the man over to the jailers to be tortured until he paid back all he owed.

Jesus concludes this eye opening parable with, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

We should find the strength to forgive others in the fact that Jesus has forgiven us. No matter what, God promises, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” – 1 John 1:9. If Jesus, being sinless and perfect, can forgive us, shouldn’t we, at the very least, be able to forgive those who have wronged us.

I know true forgiveness is more than just saying, “I forgive you.” I need to let it all go. I hope and pray that I can do a better job of that, not only for my relationships, but ultimately so that I am not the one God refers to as a “wicked servant.”

Day 14 - Choose to Accept, Choose to Sacrifice

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