“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
I’ve been stopping and starting this blog all day now, not sure exactly what to write on the topic of “forgiveness,” for that is the topic of tomorrow’s sermon and the “prayer” we’ve come to in our journey through the Lord’s Prayer, having looked at “Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread” last week. There is so much to say on forgiveness; where oh where to begin?
I then decided to take a “writing break” and go to the AOL main page that comes up when I want to surf the web. On that page, amidst all the headlines of the day’s news vying for my attention, was one I just couldn’t resist learning more about no matter how important it may be that I keep moving ahead to get this blog to you soon to prepare you for tomorrow’s worship.
The headline read: “Dentist Pulls All of Ex’s Teeth Out.” YIKES!
Sure enough, the story is about a 45-year old guy in London (where, I’m guessing – or at least hope – they have excellent anesthesia) who apparently dumped his 34-year old dentist girlfriend but for some unknown (as far as I’m concerned truly unknowable) reason decided to visit her office when suffering a toothache. Sure enough, as he reclined before her in his examination chair, fully doped up (at least that’s what I’m assuming), all the anger and bitterness and words breaking the Third Commandment that led to their parting returned with a vengeance as she proceeded to yank out his 32 pearlies. She then wrapped his head in bandages and told him if it right now felt like he was without teeth it was only the anesthesia wearing off. What a rude awakening of every sort awaited him. Not the least of which was having the guy’s new girlfriend dump him because she apparently “can’t stand a guy who doesn’t have any teeth.”
The article, taken from the London Daily Post, ends by saying, “The dentist is under investigation for medical malpractice and abusing the trust of a patient. She could face three years in jail for the alleged stunt. The spurned boyfriend plans on saving money to get ‘indents or something.’”
Sooo, here we have a cautionary tale, ripped from today's headlines (pun sort of intended), about not only the dangers of doing hurtful, unforgivable things to others but also the dangers of not finding a helpful way of working through your anger over the unforgivable, so your retaliations not only don’t land you in jail but also spare you from becoming a most un-flattering subject of water-cooler and cocktail party conversation.
Seriously, the inability to forgive others is crippling (pun not intended here, btw). No matter how justified we may be in seeking retaliation against another for what they have done we need to find healing before we hurt again – before we hurt others or, just as ruinous, hurt ourselves. Christians are commanded to forgive, as the parable we will be looking at tomorrow (in Matthew 18:13-35, the “Parable of the Unforgiving Servant”) emphatically proclaims. But it’s not just because we’re Christians and God tells us to forgive that it’s so important we do it; it’s because the only person we can ever change is ourselves and if we want to move on to a better, healthier and happier life after unfair tragedy has struck it won’t happen if that better life is contingent upon recompense from or revenge against our perpetrator. We have do get over it regardless, work through it, let it go, heal to the point we can actually wish our enemy well.
Jesus, Paul, and so many other Biblical thinkers tell us over and over again forgiving others is necessary for peace, and forgiving others is possible because God’s love has that kind of power. Forgiving others is so possible and the love needed so powerful Jesus ties it into our request for forgiveness from God. In the Lord’s Prayer, it’s only after we’ve forgiven others (and, for example, refrained from pulling their teeth out no matter how easy and justifiable it may be) that God will forgive us for all the things we do that could/should cause God to pull his hair out. (If indeed God has hair.) It doesn’t even matter that, as Jesus says, God has already forgiven our sins before we ask (as alluded to in the Parable of the Prodigal Son). It’s SO important that every time we come before God acknowledging we’ve screwed up we also remember the obligation we have to forgive those who have screwed us over. It’s not fun to remember this, but a discipline we NEED to develop. Not only do we minimize the possibility of a criminal record when we remember we have to forgive, but we give ourselves the chance to truly free ourselves from the bondage of bitterness that seeks to enslave us all, and for the whole of our lives.
Tomorrow we have ONE SERVICE, at 10:00 a.m., and our missionary from Macedonia, Carol Partridge, is going to be preaching on the subject of forgiveness and, especially, the “Obstacles to Forgiveness” that the Balkan peoples to whom she ministers the gospel continue to overwhelmingly face (pun not intended here either). I hope you will be able to come and worship and learn and…potluck together following worship! Bring your favorite dish to pass and we’ll experience a bit of the Messianic Banquet together.
Yes, I know, there are a million “punny” lines I could use to end this blog, especially as we’re ending here on the subject of eating. The mind indeed reels seeking references to the need for teeth and/or the grace of eating with lack thereof, but I’ll just leave things now to your fertile imaginations, since I’ve been working at this blog for the balance of the day and need serious flossing of both the mental and dental variety.
I look forward to seeing your beautiful smiles tomorrow morning bright and not so early! J Pastor Jane.