1 The one whose wrongdoing is forgiven,
whose sin is covered over, is truly happy!
2 The one the Lord doesn’t consider guilty—
in whose spirit there is no dishonesty—
that one is truly happy!
3 When I kept quiet, my bones wore out;
I was groaning all day long—
every day, every night!—
4 because your hand was heavy upon me.
My energy was sapped as if in a summer drought.
5 So I admitted my sin to you;
I didn’t conceal my guilt.
“I’ll confess my sins to the Lord,” is what I said.
Then you removed the guilt of my sin.
6 That’s why all the faithful should pray to you during troubled times,
so that a great flood of water won’t reach them.
7 You are my secret hideout!
You protect me from trouble.
You surround me with songs of rescue!
9 Jesus told this parable to certain people who had convinced themselves that they were righteous and who looked on everyone else with disgust: 10 “Two people went up to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed about himself with these words, ‘God, I thank you that I’m not like everyone else—crooks, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week. I give a tenth of everything I receive.’ 13 But the tax collector stood at a distance. He wouldn’t even lift his eyes to look toward heaven. Rather, he struck his chest and said, ‘God, show mercy to me, a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, this person went down to his home justified rather than the Pharisee. All who lift themselves up will be brought low, and those who make themselves low will be lifted up.”
Asking God or others for forgiveness, and accepting it, starts with being honest. Often our first challenge is to be honest with ourselves. Most of us are expert at rationalizing even our biggest failings. But we repeatedly see in the lives of public figures that even if we know we’ve missed the mark, we think we can hide that from others, even from God. The psalmist wrote that keeping silent, trying to hide the truth, drained him of energy and life.
Lord Jesus, show mercy to me, a sinner. Forgive me and grow me beyond both the sin of contempt for others and the sin of self-contempt. Let me live in the atmosphere of your forgiving grace. Amen.
* Hamilton, Adam. Forgiveness: Finding Peace Through Letting Go (Kindle Locations 281-282, 287). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.
The Scripture today makes me
think of a couple different stories of forgiveness--one today, and another
Bible story. The first is something that I saw represented this past weekend:
Darryl Burton hosted a Gala as he launched his new ministry, Miracle of Innocence
(Wendy Connelly spoke more into this in her GPS Insights yesterday). What
astounded me here was the number of men and women who had exercised forgiveness
to an exceptional degree--each of these 14 people had been wrongfully
imprisoned, with a total of 299 years taken away from their lives (that’s an
average of 21 years EACH!). To be honest, I don’t know that I could ever humble
myself enough to forgive such an unjust loss.
But this Scripture makes me
think of another set of verses found in Acts 16, where Paul and Silas are in
prison. As they are praising God, an earthquake shakes and all the prison doors
fling open. But instead of fleeing (as you’d expect anyone who is suddenly
faced with the chance of freedom would do), they sit and stay in place. They looked
at the guard (whose punishment would have been death for escapees on his
watch), and took into consideration his needs well above their own. To me, this
is such an extreme act of forgiveness. Even at their lowest point, being in
prison, they still thought of others above themselves. And because of this act,
they were lifted up--invited to dinner by the guard himself.
This is how I see the Miracle
of Innocence organization. All of these people have already given of their time
(more than almost any of us could ever say), and their lives. Yet they see a
need so much greater than themselves that they have forgiven that loss of time,
and are now giving even more time to help others.
And that ties back to today’s Scripture in Luke. The tax collector has humbled himself to that point that he sees others as greater than himself (where typically tax collectors would see the opposite). But he leaves the temple feeling fulfilled and redeemed. And that’s forgiveness (or, at least, part of it)--humility to the point that you can see your needs as less than those of others. It’s freeing for not just others, but even for yourself.
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