As we move into the 3rd month of our I AM Powered study, I AM Forgiving takes us on a dangerous journey. “This is not your grandmother’s bible study!” one woman declared. True. We are not meeting together for fuzzy affirmations & rumor-soaked prayers. We are committed to transformed lives! And when you have to present a topic as earth shaking as forgiveness, it is best served with milk & homemade chocolate chip cookies over a picture book story. Yes, on the 2nd Tuesday of the month, it just seemed appropriate to have a story hour at the Public Library where we meet. “Dangerous Journey” is a picture book version of John Bunyan’s classic tale, “Pilgrim’s Progress”. As Christian runs the race marked out for him, through some of the most seemingly dark & disastrous deterrents to anyone’s faith, I think we each saw the span of our own lives from a bird’s eye view. It was the disappointing discovery of 2 characters I had met along my own path that bolstered my resolve to forgive & be forgiven. Wicked & Worldly had been my friends. ..close friends, I believed.. .until that misunderstanding. Matthew 18 teaches us the 4 simple steps to restore a relationship:
1. I reached out to Wicked and also to Worldly one 2 one. With beautiful cards, letters, & phone calls I sought to make peace. This could have been resolved and we would have been restored by forgiving from the heart.
2. Wicked, brushed off the offer, refusing to acknowledge her role in bullying my family, and my close confidante, Worldly, sought vengeful insult by ignoring me-turning her whole family against my own, breaking our childrens’ friendships with each other. I realized that meeting together as accountability witnesses would not be.
3. We 3 were part of a community I believed to be sound & wise, professing to be founded upon a biblical worldview. My husband and I humbly prepared to meet with the leadership to discuss this restoration, according Matthew 18, for the purpose of protecting future families from this lack of respect for the scriptures taught & testified to and tacked onto their mission statement. We were again met without love, “If you don’t like it here, then leave.”
4. When restoration is refused, the scriptures advise us “to treat them as tax collectors.” The beauty of this step is not to treat them pharisaically as outcasts, but as JESUS treated tax collectors, with LOVE & FORGIVENESS. Jesus invited Himself to Matthew, the tax collector’s house for dinner.. .and nourished the dinner party with a story. Jesus’ ways were certainly not the Pharisee’s bible study!
Do you remember this powerful scene in the movie, JESUS of Nazareth-when Peter & his sworn enemy, Matthew (this very Matthew who wrote this very passage) are united in forgiveness?
In this scene, we hear JESUS telling the parable of the prodigal son. We should be WATCHFUL as that father who was wronged by his youngest son, and ready to forgive the moment he returns. If God’s love then does not motivate us to be restored to our family & friends, then let us be mindful of His WARNING in the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35).
Easter is the perfect time of year for us to REMEMBER Christ’s horrific, earth shaking execution on behalf of our sins and RISE with His birds eye view perspective, saying, “Father, forgive Wicked & Worldy, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Are you thinking, uncomfortably, of the Wicked one who brushed you off? Are you the Worldly one who has sought revenge instead of restoration?
After story hour, with crumbs of humility we considered the Homework Challenge:
1. On SIDE A of sheet of paper, list the names of each person (living or deceased) who has offended you since birth.
Throughout the month, each day as you pray your memory verse, insert a name from this list. Remember, right thinking and doing will lead to right feelings. “Father, forgive ___________, he/she does not know what he/she is doing.”
2. On SIDE B of that paper, list the names of each person who you have offended.
Throughout the month, pray for strength to enter upon a dangerous journey, asking God to prepare the heart of each precious person on the list and an opportunity to ask forgiveness of that person. Send a beautiful card-be simple & sincere-not rehashing their part in the offense, only asking forgiveness for your own.
Be prepared for 1 of 3 responses:
Rejection | Revenge | Restoration
3. At the end of the month, destroy the paper completely, for as JESUS said, “It is finished”, and His forgiveness is forever, “as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us.”
Do you accept this dangerous journey toward the ABUNDANT LIFE Christ came to give?
Do you feel “walked on”? The steppables in this photo are some of the most rigorously growing plants in my garden. They are creeping throughout the grass like a glorious carpet. Although we walk, run, & play on them all summer, they continually spread & bloom these teeny, delicate, & most lovely of flowers. Even “walked on”, may you continue to grow & bloom!!