Faith and relevance in the 21st century

Category: Forgiveness

Love – no fear

“There is absolutely nothing about shame and honor and fear in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

“The god that most people fear, the god who can’t wait to punish and torture you in an eternal hell is not the God of the Bible.”

I need to have this drummed into me over and over again. And I suspect many of you do too. This article will hopefully help.

Love – No Fear · Christianity Without the Religion/Plain Truth Ministries

1 Corinthians 13 is a chapter many have come to know as the “love chapter” of the Bible. 1 Corinthians 13 is arranged in three separate sections, two of which we will briefly examine: The first section, in verses 1-3, is about love as being indispensable.

The poison we drink to kill someone else

The insanity of resentment is that it is always about us, it is always us that is hurt by it (because often the person we are resenting doesn’t even know about it), yet we think that our resentment is going to show them how wrong they have been.

On top of that is the fact that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I think it was Einstein who said that we can’t solve a problem with the same mindset that gave us the problem in the first place.

When I resent someone, it is really all about me. The other person has generally done nothing wrong, and even if they have, my resentment is still all about me. It is about how hurt I feel about not feeling heard or understood.

There is something in me that rages against the injustice that nobody understands. And sometimes that’s true. Too many people have not been listened to and heard as children, and it comes out as destructive behaviour in adulthood.

Martin Luther King said that violence is the language of the unheard. He didn’t condone the violence, but he did understand it. There is a huge difference. We can’t do anything about times in our childhood when we should have been heard but weren’t, but we can do something now.

I found a meme the other day that said that change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change. That’s when we will deal with resentment and be able to forgive.

When I let go of resentment, by changing my attitude to one of thankfulness, or by praying for the person I am resenting, I am instantly liberated from my slavery to self-obsession. That’s the power of forgiveness. My burden is lifted and I feel free again. And I realise anew that this is how I want to live. I look forward to being reminded about this a few more times tomorrow.

Book review – Drop The Stones


Sometimes you read a book and you get a sense that you want to be the sort of person the author is writing about. Drop The Stones is just such a book.

The author, Carlos Rodriguez, is a pastor, teacher and blogger who loves to write about his love of Jesus and of the grace he brings to broken people. This, his second book, is about the grace and forgiveness we see Jesus display in the story of the woman caught in adultery in John 8:2-11. Interestingly, this is a story that almost didn’t make it into the gospel narratives, and some think it may have been added later. Whether it actually happened or not, it is entirely reflective of the love and grace of Jesus and gives us a wonderful look at just who Jesus is. And it is this that Rodriguez wants his readers to discover.

The book is divided into three sections. It looks at the story through the lens of the woman caught in adultery, the Pharisees who wanted her stoned, and Jesus who refused to condemn her. The emphasis of the book is on the fact that each of us can see ourselves in all three characters at different times in our lives. I know I certainly can and have, and the author is the same. That is actually one of the attractions of this book; Rodriguez is disarmingly honest and humble about his own weaknesses and where he has failed to be Christlike in his attitudes and actions at various times in his life. At the same time, he is glowing about others, especially his wife and others in his church community.

The other attraction of this book is that each chapter is only a few pages long and is generally told as a story of someone who has shown the love that Jesus showed to the woman. The shortness of the chapters makes the book easy to read and get into.

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Are grace and truth mutually exclusive?

Just watched this brilliant sermon by Josiah Conner from CityLife Church from a few weeks ago. He gives a fantastic explanation of how grace and truth come together in the person of Jesus. Josiah does this by using the illustration of the story of the woman caught in adultery.

Here are some gems from the sermon:

  • “Grace and truth are not competing ideologies, they are complementary parts of the full person of Jesus Christ.”
  • “If we realise that grace and truth are not ideas, but are manifest in a Person, then we’re open to transformation.”
  • “If grace doesn’t offend you, chances are you haven’t heard it right.”

Porn – the ultimate misconnection

Recently ex-porn producer Donny Pauling was in Melbourne talking about the reality of what goes on behind the scenes in the porn industry. Here are some of the frightening facts that he and others from an organisation called Guilty Pleasure presented:

  • People in the porn industry deliberately get themselves onto Christian email lists because Christians click through to porn ads faster than anyone else.
  • Playboy owns some of the most hardcore sites in the industry.
  • Psychology Today magazine in September had an article about teen boys who get hooked on porn. By the time they were in their twenties, 33% of them couldn’t get an erection.
  • If Christians alone stopped using porn, it would reduce the profits of the porn industry by 40%.
  • In anonymous surveys, 90% of Christian men, 70% of women and 50% of pastors admit to looking at porn in the last 30 days.

This and other information can be found in the video below:

[vimeo ]

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A response of gratitude

One of the things we tend to lose when we focus so much on following Jesus is the fact that he died for our sins. We lose sight of the forest for the trees. Jesus’ death on the cross served a number of purposes, which are ultimately tied to the fact that he died for the sins of the world.

CrucifixionSin has long been a dirty word in much of the church. It smacks of condemnation and conjures up images of hellfire and damnation. But what Jesus did in dying on the cross for our sins is just the opposite. Think of the worst things you’ve ever done. Sin has consequences; that’s just the way life is. We really do reap what we sow. If we sow destruction, we reap it; if we sow peace and love, we reap that. Sin in my life has produced tears, pain, agony, shame and despair. How can anyone not take that seriously? How can anyone dismiss that as not so bad? Anyone who does is not in their right mind. A definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. If we don’t take our own sin seriously and want to get as far away form it as possible, we will inevitably make the same mistakes again and again.

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Movie Review – The Descendants

In this movie set in the beautiful islands of Hawaii, George Clooney plays brilliantly the role of Matt King, the father who could probably relate a bit to the suffering of Job. His wife has just had a boating accident, is in a coma and is about to die. He then finds out that she had been having an affair. And to top it off, the guy she was having an affair with is about to make a bucketload of cash on a property sale that King is working out with his family.

The Descendants portrays the dignified response of a man and his family who are experiencing immense suffering. Despite his impending loss and and recently exposed betrayal, King conducts himself with honour, confronting the man who was sleeping with his wife and allowing him to pay a last visit to her on her death bed. King could have punched his lights out, but he didn’t. And, regarding the property deal, in the end he allows virtue to triumph over cold hard cash by scuttling the deal through his refusal to sign the relevant documents for the sale. King chooses the right way over the more tempting and exciting profitable way. He chooses to keep the property in the family, as the family’s descendants would likely have wanted, much to the chagrin of his cousins who are gobsmacked at his seemingly irrational decision.

This movie shows that character is more important, long-lasting and satisfying than quick gains and cheap shots. King’s seventeen year old daughter, Alex, is also impressive as she follows the example of her Dad in her quickly developing maturity. She lovingly looks after her younger sister, Scottie, and helps their Dad track down the infidel who has been sleeping with his wife. Alex’s immature friend, Sid, is another one who goes through a redemption of sorts as he realises the lack of tact of some of his earlier comments – particularly to Elizabeth’s parents – and pays the price for it. Being a young man about to enter early adulthood, Sid could have chosen to remain defiant and be stubborn and do things his way. But instead he learns from his mistakes and becomes a valuable support to King and the family, to the point that King himself comes to him one night to ask his advice about how to handle his multiple life challenges.

I have been reading Proverbs recently and, as many would know, there is plenty of great advice in that marvelous book about living a life of wisdom. I remember when I read the early chapters of Proverbs as a young man myself, that I had the profound realisation that that is the type of person I want to be. The main characters in this raw and emotional movie provide a real-to-life example of living out much of the sage advice of Proverbs to young men, and indeed to people of all ages and backgrounds.

Dignity, relationship and virtue are the enduring qualities of life. They are what will ultimately win out. They are what will triumph over short-term gain, revenge, and quick riches in the end, if not in this present life. The Descendants is testament to the riches of the wisdom of Proverbs over the riches of this life, which will pass away and prove worthless in the end. Recommended.

Costly forgiveness

Some telling comments on forgiveness:

“ Counselors tell us to forgive people lest we become embittered and twisted. Thus forgiveness itself becomes a fashionable therapy, all about me.” – Kim Fabricius in Ben Myers’ blog

And this from Tim Gombis:

“Forgiveness is so profoundly powerful and beautiful… Forgiveness doesn’t ask for guarantees… Forgiveness takes the risk… Forgiveness doesn’t fix everything… Forgiveness doesn’t guarantee a Disney ending… Forgiveness doesn’t clean up the whole mess… Forgiveness remains difficult, complicated, risky, and profoundly beautiful.”

This is so powerful, and central to how we view the Gospel. So often we see the benefits to us in living the way of Jesus, thereby making it all about us. It’s the same with the idea that we can’t love others until we love ourselves; it subtly turns it around to make it all about me, which is the very antithesis of the Gospel. As someone said once, Jesus spoke about self-denial, not self-fulfilment. The paradox is that we do gain life by denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Jesus, but that is a by-product, it is not the end goal. When we make it the end goal, whether consciously or sub-consciously, we are not being loving.

I really like Gombis’ take on forgiveness. Forgiveness forgives regardless of the outcome, whether the person accepts the forgiveness or not. I think a major reason we have got ourselves into the mess of subtly turning the Gospel around is because of a misguided theology that talks about rewards and ‘crowns’ in heaven. In a self-obsessed culture, we have made the Gospel the same, but just in a more subtle way that is done in the name of love.

This is probably why a friend of mine gets blank looks from his theological students when he talks about taking up the cross. They have probably never been taught about unconditional commitment to Jesus. I have particularly found as I have read the Gospels and the letters of Paul that suffering is a way of life and that commitment and perseverance is what is stressed. Hebrews also talks about the heroes of the faith (Hebrews 11) who didn’t see what they wanted but who fought the good fight anyway. They did it because the followed Jesus, because it was right.

The irony of taking up the cross and following Jesus is of course that we do have joy – the joy that is not dependent on circumstances, and the contentment that Paul talks about. Something I realised recently was that Jesus spoke about the joy that he had just after he was betrayed by Judas at the Last Supper (John 15). I find that fascinating. Peter also speaks about joy unspeakable to a people that were apparently suffering greatly, and James talks about counting it all joy when you suffer all kinds of trials. Not what you hear in today’s society, including most of our churches.

The point I am trying to make is that joy is a by-product of following Jesus. Love is always pointed towards others. It is self-denying, self-sacrificing, and in the process, life-giving. Forgiveness is of course about love; it is about wanting the other to be reconciled, so that they can know life. The joy we gain from that can then be shared. We don’t do it to get joy; we do it out of care.

Of course this is often misunderstood by many Christians as being morbid when God wants us to enjoy life. I agree that God wants us to enjoy life and to experience His joy. But joy is never gained when we seek it. The great paradox of Christian faith is that we die to live, that joy comes out of dying.

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