Posts Tagged ‘forgiveness’

A Christmastime Reflection

December 21, 2017

The story of Jesus begins and ends with forgiveness: Mark’s gospel begins with John the Baptist’s “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4). Luke’s ends with Christ’s parting words “that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations” (Luke 24:47). Christ’s commission to Paul is to open the eyes of the Gentiles “so that they may turn from darkness to light… [and] receive forgiveness of sins” (Acts 26:18).We humans need forgiveness of sins terribly, not just of the “sins” that can be named and counted, but forgiveness and healing of anything that causes self-loathing in us and sends us looking for a scapegoat, because until then our self-unforgiveness and unforgiveness of others – however masked by denial – are toxic and infectious and keep the world mired in evil, false solutions, and consequent despair. Without real repentance and forgiveness, I believe, social and political action are but a band-aid, and religious programs off the mark; but with repentance and forgiveness, one finds the Pearl of Great Price and can help all come to repentance, which I believe is God’s own desire (2 Pet 3:9).

But cheap repentance and cheap forgiveness are dangerous counterfeits to be shunned. If one looks deeply enough into oneself, one may find an “I” so damaged by being sinned against (especially while the “I” was forming) that it cannot truly say either “I forgive” or “I repent.” Or a guilty soul may find such an overwhelming fear of exposure that self-confrontation is blocked and guilt must go unacknowledged. In such cases the only cure may be God’s intervention. One must invite and welcome it as best one can, however frightening or painful it may prove to be. It may help to reflect that it will probably be no more painful to ourselves than the pain suffered by the One who bore our sins on the Cross. He lives, and is will lend courage and endurance to any who lack it, I believe, as generously as He has lent them to me.

Welcome, Christ, through whom, in whom, and as whom only, I believe, can we recovering sinners discover how infinitely we are loved by our Creator. Amen.

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To a Fellow Healer

August 20, 2016

I recently said good-bye to a younger healer with an outburst of parting advice that even surprised me with its simplicity and clarity. It went something like this. (Actually I said far less than this: what follows is what I’d like to have said:)

Don’t neglect your healing gift. If you’re carrying it, you have to be always ready to ask someone who’s suffering, “Would you like me to lay hands on you and pray for you?” (You’ll generally want a third party present, to witness that you didn’t lay on hands in an improper way. Also, before touching them, it’s advisable to ask, “May I touch you here?” and get an explicit consent. If touching them would tempt you erotically, do no more than take their hands in yours, or touch the persons’ bodies not at all, but at most lay hands on their “aura,” the energy-field a few inches from the skin surface.)

Neither force yourself to make such offers. Trust your own sense of when it’s appropriate to make the offer. You may get a sense that the Holy Spirit sent that person to you, or put it into your mind to make the offer. Remember that you’re not a magician and can’t guarantee results; it’s only Jesus Christ who does the healing. But in any case your touch can do no harm.

With practice you’ll develop a familiarity with prayerful mindfulness, and will know when to take your hands away. I always finish by saying aloud, “In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

Most important is to remember that this gift is precious and deserves to be kept in a clean vessel. Pray to be rid of selfish hopes – that your patient will like you, love you, look up to you, or desire you. Try to think of yourself, in this context, as merely a tube trying to reach to Heaven, not very interesting at all. If your patient does show signs of finding you interesting, be compassionate but remain professionally correct, and don’t flatter yourself. Pray that the Lord protect you against temptation.

A very, very important part of keeping the gift’s vessel clean is consecrating your mouth (and your writing hand, and your inward will) to the truth, and to lovingkindness. Mouth, hand, heart – they’re no longer yours, but belong to God; you’re their steward now. You may no longer curse – not to a person’s face, not behind their back, not even by proxy. If someone angers or annoys you, pray that God stop their offensive behavior and correct them. Wishing that they might be ashamed is not an evil wish, so long as you wish that shame drive them to repentance and not destruction. You must wish for the “bad guys” everything that you would wish for yourself and those you love.

If you find yourself smiling inwardly when others “do your cursing for you” by demonizing or belittling others, telling hurtful jokes, or making barbed accusations, remove yourself from the situation – turn off the TV set, end the conversation, excuse yourself and leave the company – and pray the toxins out of your system. Try to be patient, and keep asking God’s help; there are a lot of toxins. These are the social and emotional toxins that pollute the air we all breathe and the water we all drink. But God wills that we be freed of them.

Remember that by agreeing to serve as one of the Lord’s healers, you’ve asked to be developed into someone whose words have the power of coming true. To be entrusted with this power, you must show that you can be trusted to use speech only to bless and heal. You’re being watched – but fortunately, by Someone who delights in forgiving, so ask forgiveness as often as you need to, and delight in your all-forgiving God as God delights in having an all-forgiving child who’s growing increasingly like its Heavenly Parent.

For those who like illustrations, I’m attaching a copyright-free “iaomai” monogram. “Iaomai” is Greek for “I heal.”

I Heal

Black Lives Matter in the Kingdom of God

July 12, 2016

There are many men and women living today who can witness that the kingdom of God is no mere figure of speech, but a real government whose citizenship they enjoy, under whose protection they walk, and to which they’re bound by civic duties they discharge gladly, even when it costs them pain. Whether or not they speak a Christian language, they’ve said in their heart, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,” and their rightful Ruler has graciously responded by so arranging events that they can no longer doubt the exercise of a mysterious and benign oversight over their steps, even if their path may lead through unfair treatment, disease, disability, oppression, and abuse, to the death that eventually comes to us all. Though this may be incomprehensible to people to whom it hasn’t happened, something has occurred to awaken a faith in them that may afterwards be dimmed by setbacks, but can no longer be snuffed out.

A necessary step in this development of faith is a growth of trust in the character of God. We might begin with the intuition that, full though the world may be of injustice, our sense of justice must have been built into us by a Creator who loves justice also. (“He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see?” Psalm 94:9 KJV). Then how can such a God allow the cruel to kill the innocent? We don’t know why God allows what God allows, but our hearts assure us that God never wills evil. For God is love (1 John 4:8), and Love desires what benefits all. If we are made “in God’s likeness,” this likeness includes the freedom to choose the right thing or the wrong; and fear, hate, selfishness and ignorance often tempt us to stray. But faith gives us hope that God corrects wrongdoers, in this life or another, and that God “wipes away all tears from the eyes” (Rev. 7:17, 21:4) of those who have been wronged.

Black lives matter in the kingdom of God, where God delights in all of God’s children, and wishes us all to give one another joy and not grief. This can only happen when long-standing patterns of injustice have been corrected, not by vengeance-begetting vengeance, but by truth and reconciliation. But for this process to begin, someone must go first. And to help create an atmosphere in which it’s safe to go first – I speak especially to my fellow enjoyers of white privilege – you must ask forgiveness of someone you’ve wronged, or extend forgiveness to someone who’s wronged you. It needn’t be across racial lines; it can be your own parent, partner or child. If you engage in a predatory or oppressive practice, even one as “mild” as hurtful speech about absent third parties, you must stop. Contagious hard-heartedness has spread far enough. It’s time for a contagion of tenderness.