Posted in 2022 Lent Devotions

I didn’t even know

“Mirror of the Passion” Lent devotion for March 31, 2022. Photo by KTMD ENTERTAINMENT on Unsplash

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:39).

I don’t believe we can truly begin to understand forgiveness until we hear these words Jesus speaks from the cross. His own people have rejected him. The crowds called for his crucifixion. Spikes are driven through his hands and feet. He will not be going anywhere until he has died.

In that moment Jesus practiced what he preached. He prayed for those who were hurting him (Matthew 5:44). He interceded for those who executed him, just as Isaiah said he would (Isaiah 53:12). He forgave them.

When I hurt, forgiveness is rarely on my mind. Sometimes prayer is, but I am usually praying for myself. “Make the hurt go away!” Pain takes over my thoughts, words and actions. It blinds me to everything else.

Jesus reacts so differently. His pain shifts his attention outside of himself. His pain opens his eyes to those who have no idea what they have just done. He pleads for mercy – for those who are killing him.

I probably have no idea how many people I’ve hurt. Something I said. Something I didn’t say. Someone I laughed at. Someone I ignored. Some were friends. Some I didn’t even know. Do you think Jesus would pray for me? Or for you?

The bible says that Jesus is interceding for us at the right hand of God. He’s advocating for you and me. He’s working out a deal with God, mediating a new covenant, so that we are forgiven for unknown as well as known sins.

I’ll bet our unknown sins far outnumber the ones we’re aware of. We like to think we’re doing pretty well, while we leave behind a trail of hurt feelings. We may not have hurt anyone, but how many did we fail to help? Far too often we were the problem rather than the solution, and someone had to clean up after us. We’re a mess and most of the time we don’t even know it. Like something caught in our front teeth or a stain on the back of our shirt.

Jesus knows. He’s heard the prayers of the many we’ve hurt and comforted them. He’s had pity on the one’s we’ve ignored. He’s prayed for us. He pleads for mercy – for us.

I didn’t know, Lord. Pray for me.

Posted in Moments of grace

The value of “I forgive you.”

Photo by geralt on

A few months ago I swallowed my pride and apologized to someone because I had hurt their feelings. I said “I am sorry,” and they replied, “I accept your apology.” I was relieved to hear that and we were able to move on.

Thinking back to that moment, though, I believe there is a difference between saying, “I accept your apology,” and “I forgive you.” Accepting my apology simply receives my admission of guilt but gives nothing in return. But when someone says, “I forgive you,” they have given me a priceless gift.

Forgiveness is costly. God’s forgiveness costs the life of Jesus on the cross. After our confession, the words of absolution, “I forgive you all your sins,” are His precious gift to us. “Apology accepted” would leave me wondering how God felt about all this. Forgiveness, on the other hand, leaves no doubt. We’re good!

In a similar way, when I say, “Thank you,” I mostly hear the reply, “No problem.” When I get a “You’re welcome,” I do a double take. “No problem” simply receives your gratitude as if it were no big deal. I simple “You’re welcome” raises the value of your appreciation.

Maybe it’s not a big deal. But since that moment, I have consciously and deliberately said, “I forgive you” and “You’re welcome.” In a time when I am more likely to hear impatient, angry and abusive words, I want people to know I value and appreciate them.

Posted in Grace

Forgiveness is a must

Photo by Gianandrea Villa on Unsplash

“Is it ever OK for a Christian to not forgive?” In a word: no.

I wasn’t present, but I know the question came up recently in a bible class. More than a few folks argued that there are just some offenses and sins that couldn’t and shouldn’t be forgiven.

Scripture is clear: Christians forgive. We forgive because we have been forgiven. When Peter asked Jesus if there was a cap on forgiveness, Jesus said, “No.” Peter asked, “How many times do I forgive someone? Seven times?” Jesus replied, “Seventy-seven times.” In other words you always forgive.

Jesus then tells a story that illustrates his point in Matthew 18:23-35. God’s forgiveness is so extravagant that we must forgive the comparatively small things others say or do against us. His instruction to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” expresses the same directive. Our mandate is to “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). He sets the example; we follow suit.

No one ever said it was easy. Forgiveness is hard. God doesn’t just look the other way or say, “Forget about it.” His declaration of the forgiveness only happens because Jesus was crucified, paying for our sins with his life. In fact, Jesus paid for all sins by his innocent suffering and death.

“But what if they don’t repent?” “What if they aren’t sorry?” Neither changes the call to forgive. Forgiveness is one-sided. You let it go. You don’t hold it over someone’s head. You don’t seek retribution. You do not make them pay for what they have done.

Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting, though. It does, however, give us a different way of remembering without resentment or bitterness. Forgiveness makes it possible to see the one who hurt us through the lens of the cross, which always brings Christ’s compassion and mercy into view.

However, forgiveness may or may not lead to reconciliation. Forgiveness is one-sided. You can intentionally forgive in your heart all on your own. Reconciliation, however, takes two. It requires two people to work to heal a broken relationship. Reconciliation may take a long, long time. Though pursued, it may never happen. You may never get along with someone, even though you have forgiven them.

What about Jesus’ words to his disciples, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld” (John 20:23)? The church pairs these words with Jesus’ teaching about what to do when a “brother sins against you” (Matthew 18:15-20). Much responsibility is given to the church to hold its members accountable for their actions and proclaim God’s forgiveness. In other words, the preaching of Law and Gospel is serious business! Just remember, you are not the church. You are simply a child of God, forgiven and free from your sins. “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8 NIV).

Posted in Ministry

I forgot.

Photo by Anne Zwagers on Unsplash

I forgot.

I just totally, completely forgot. The next morning, I glanced at my calendar and realized I was a no-show for an appointment I made with one of my homebound members several weeks ago. I made the appointment. I wrote it on my calendar. I was aware of it on Monday when I looked over my week. I was also aware of it on Friday when I realized I hadn’t gone.

I never do that. I never miss an appointment. I never skip out on a commitment. Never. What in the world is going on? Here are some possibilities.

  • I’m getting old. Starting to forget things. Do I have to go there? No, this is my blog. I’ll write about that when I’m ready. Unless I forget.
  • I got too busy. I wasn’t home binging on Netflix. I went to a rehab center to visit two members and then on to a hospital to visit another who had just had surgery. I needed to be there, too. Not a great excuse. Just an excuse.
  • I got sloppy. I didn’t set an alert on my calendar. I didn’t write myself a not the night before. I didn’t check my calendar that day. I just kind of slid into the day without checking in with myself.
  • I got distracted. By Advent. Christmas. Helping some guy I didn’t even know get a hotel room. Facebook. Twitter. Reddit. YouTube. Facebook.
  • I’m human. Oh no, I don’t like that one. I aspire to walk on water, turn water into wine, cast out demons and shut down the devil. Only problem is, I strike out over and over. And I don’t like that one bit.

Not long after I looked at my calendar and realized I had blown it, I got an email from the family. They apologized to me for not confirming the appointment. O not you don’t. This was my fault. I apologized to them. They graciously forgave and rescheduled. We’ll get 2018 off to a good start. With a clean slate, a clean conscience, and an overdue visit. And I set three alerts for that appointment!

God’s grace is indeed amazing. But sometimes, yours is pretty amazing, too. Thank you.