THIS show of power will surprise you . . .

How can you expect me to forgive them?

Few experiences in life hurt us more than betrayal at the hands of family or someone else we trust–it’s almost too much to forgive. In the Old Testament, Joseph experienced that kind of betrayal.

Jacob doted excessively on Joseph, his favorite and youngest of twelve sons. Remember the coat of many colors that Jacob gave to Joseph? And it wasn’t just the fancy coat. Joseph was indulged and spoiled, and his father made no attempt to hide his favoritism.

But I doubt that Joseph knew he was spoiled. What young person knows it? And what adult will admit that we are privileged beyond what is fair. It’s quite rare, for people of privilege to recognize our unfair advantage. We might not have created the advantage, but it’s there.

handswblack515We see it all the time–the unfair advantages related to racial injustice, inequity in pay and employment opportunities, and in so many other instances, when one person or group of people–or even a nation–is advantaged over others. Even if the advantage is a result of birth or other circumstances beyond our control, as it was for Joseph, that unfair advantage takes its toll.

It’s no surprise that Joseph’s brothers felt tremendous jealousy and anger in response to Joseph’s favorite-son status. In fact, they wanted to kill  him–but decided to sell him into slavery instead. Joseph was taken by slave traders to Egypt where he ended up as a servant in Pharaoh’s household.

From favorite son to Pharaoh’s slave at the hands of his own brothers. What could be a more bitterly unfair betrayal?

We all know that life is not always fair. Just this week, we are reminded of how pernicious and unfair life can be:

  • Robin Williams
  • Ebola
  • Gaza, the Ukraine, Iraq
  • Children at the U.S. border
  • The community of Ferguson, Missouri
  • . . . the list seems endless, today.

Injustice exists–it thrives in the world today. As Christians, it’s how we respond to injustice that sets us apart from so many others. How we respond speaks volumes about what we believer about our selves, others, and God. Sometimes we have the power and the wherewithal to resolve injustice, to make things right. But too often, resolution is not within our sphere of influence.

When we cannot change that which is unfair and wrong, sometimes we take a page out of the life of Jesus and try doing what he did. Remember how Jesus got visibly angry at the inappropriate behavior of the moneychangers in the temple, the ones who cheated the people? Jesus overturned the tables and chased them off. Unfortunately, Jesus’ angry demonstration did not change the temple money-changing system; they were back the next day. But Jesus spoke-up against the unfairness.

I don’t know about you, but time and again, this week, I’ve thought, “THIS is wrong.” This is WRONG–wrong and very sad. But unlike Jesus, I have not made my opinion known in the public venue. Most of us don’t know how to respond: often we cannot and sometimes we will not. Then again, we are not Jesus. You and I rightly struggle to discern what’s the best public response to injustice and unfairness. There is no easy answer.

Joseph, in the Old Testament story, must have struggled with how to address his brothers’ betrayal. After all, they sold him into slavery and he ended up in Egypt. But then came a great famine that lasted for years. And eventually, the brothers found themselves in Egypt, too, attempting to purchase grain from Pharaoh, grain for which they must negotiate with none other than Joseph.

Joseph recognized them, but the brothers had no idea it was Joseph. When Joseph couldn’t stand it any longer, he burst out with the truth, telling the brothers that it’s him, their long-lost brother, Joseph. Instead of rejoicing with Joseph, the brothers were terrified that in his present position of power, Joseph would take this opportunity to get back at them, to get even for selling him as a slave.

But somehow that day, with his brothers before him, Joseph was able to reach beyond his own pain, beyond his memories and anger, even beyond what is fair–to the point of love and forgiveness for his brothers. Joseph was ready to forgive and move on with his life, a life that included his brothers.

Forgiveness is incredibly powerful–much more powerful than retaliation. Forgiveness transforms not only our life, when we do the forgiving, but forgiveness also has the potential to transform the life of the person we forgive.

But how do I forgive someone who is not sorry for what they did–someone who doesn’t admit they wronged me? We just DO it. We forgive.

That’s exactly what Joseph did. He forgave his brothers, though they never asked. He simply forgave them, because it was the right thing to do–and it gave him back his family.

In the long run, forgiving is not something we do because we must. Forgiving is not something we do for the other person’s sake. We forgive for our own benefit. Through forgiveness, we remove our self from the role of victim. When we forgive, we at least have a chance at mending the rift and becoming brothers and sisters. When we forgive, we free our self from that wrong and we can move on to incredible freedom.

Actually, Jesus did not suggest that in the face of every injustice we should overturn the tables in the heat of anger. The scripture implores us to be on the side of the poor and the oppressed and Jesus showed us what true advocacy looks like: Loving the Lord God with all our heart, mind and spirit—and loving our neighbor as our self.

Jesus also said that we should always, always . . . FORGIVE.

In a world that is so overflowing with jealousy, selfishness and anger, we pray that Christians will demonstrate a Christ-like response in today’s most precarious situations. Sometimes our response will include the modern-day equivalent of overthrowing the tables in the temple. Often our Christ-like response will simply be to turn the other cheek. But always, ALWAYS we are called-on to forgive.

After all is said and done, it is forgiveness that makes things right, and it is forgiveness that restores peace and family relationships.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it – always.”  - Mahatma Gandhi

It’s NOT about correct BELIEF . . .

embracing-an-adult-faithMarcus Borg says, “Being Christian is not very much about believing in the sense of believing the right things, even though the notion that it is about believing a set of teachings or doctrines is widespread. That is a relatively recent distortion of Christianity.”

Read more about “What IS a Christian.

Borg says that Christianity is not about “right beliefs.” It is about a change of heart. 

What do YOU think it means to be Christian?

What do YOU think makes a person a Christian?

I invite your comments.

The Chicken or the Egg?

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“What came first—your understanding of music theory or your love of music?

Is it necessary to master the technical aspects of how music works before we realize how much we love singing in the shower or that we can’t get a certain melody out of our head?

We seldom fully understand a subject before our passion ignites—whether it’s music, sports or something else we love.

Thank God, the same is true of our Faith. God is beyond our human understanding—but, we don’t have to understand all the theories and theologies about God before we experience the benefit of our faith. Intellectual comprehension is not a prerequisite to a rich spiritual life.

If you want to experience music, that deep-down-in-the-core-of-your-being music—
then just start singing.

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If you want to experience the unfathomable love and forgiveness that is God—well, your community of faith is a very good place to let that experience grow.

Our relationship with God does not rely on anything but God–and God is more than willing to connect with us. God is present, always, everywhere and certainly at your place of worship on Sunday morning.

Don’t miss out.

 

The Pursuit of Indebtedness

“Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. . .”
They are words that capture the very essence of what it means to be an American.

Americans are so accustomed to financing our “Pursuit of Happiness” that we may not recognize how debt snatches that happiness right out of our hands.

Debt stress—as they call it—takes a dramatic toll on our mental, physical and spiritual well-being, and it plays havoc with our relationships.

Debt may well be the number one killer in America today.

Here is a list of 5 ways to reduce debt stress (from Reader’s Digest, of all places)

  1. Give money the right value in your life.
  2. Recognize credit creates a false sense of freedom.
  3. Build your “self-control muscle.”
  4. Don’t shop when you feel down.
  5. Beware of the “what the hell” effect (the tendency to buy more to feel better about being in debt.)

Remember, in many ways–whoever owns our debt, owns us.

(This post was inspired by the Old Testament prophet Amos–Chapter 8.)

Was the Zimmerman Jury CORRECT ?

justiceTruth is, I don’t know how to assess the Zimmerman trial verdict.

I have to think that jury did its best regarding the judgement. I can only imagine how difficult it was–but my confidence in the jury’s effort and intention does not make it any clearer to me whether justice prevailed or not.

I know our legal system is flawed – what human system is not?

I know that prejudice and racism exist, and that we all have to struggle to rise above our harmful biases every day.

I know that justice, fairness and love do NOT always win – in this life.

But, still, I do NOT know how to judge the outcome of this trial.

That Travon Martin was killed is a tragedy. That much I know! I continue to pray for everyone involved – which includes our entire country.

Praying-HandsAs the courts of this land continue to sort through this matter, I pray five things:
1 . . . that justice will prevail, even if I don’t recognize it,
2 . . . that the injured parties on both sides will find healing,
3 . . . that those who have lied will repent and know God’s forgiveness. (No doubt there have been damaging lies, though I may not know who/what.)
4 . . . that each of us will “forgive those who trespass against us.”
5 . . . that we, as a nation, will figure out how to stop killing each other.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Amen.