6 Seek the Lord when he can still be found;
call him while he is yet near.
7 Let the wicked abandon their ways
and the sinful their schemes.
Let them return to the Lord so that he may have mercy on them,
to our God, because he is generous with forgiveness.
8 My plans aren’t your plans,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
Pastor Darryl Burton’s tragic, triumphant story of unjust arrest and imprisonment shows that we don’t move past events like that by simply using our natural strength. The prophet Isaiah described the power of God’s generous forgiveness: “God’s ideas and God’s plans are often different from ours…. [Israelites] have to give up their formulation of how they should be restored, give up their plans, and believe that the word of promise and commission that God has issued will indeed produce its fruit in their restoration as a people. They don’t have to hesitate about doing so; God will be quite happy to pardon them.”*
O Jesus, I’m not God—but you can shape me to be more and more like you. I offer my life to your re-shaping hand, because in the end your forgiving way of life is the best way of life. Amen.
* John Goldingay, Isaiah for Everyone. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2015, p. 212-213.
** T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner, ed. The New Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000, p. 222.
We recently moved into a new house and before the sod could be installed we received a heavy rain that washed mud into the neighbor's yard. Possibly we should have been proactive and asked the builder to put more barriers in our yard to prevent this from happening, but in any event our neighbor ended up with a layer of mud on some of his grass. When I saw my neighbor out working in the yard and apologized, he told me "You don't need to apologize. It wasn't your fault." While it was probably preventable, he's right. We didn't set out to mess up his yard and garden and we really appreciated his understanding attitude.
At some point in our lives we are all going to be hurt by intentional or thoughtless actions of others. I recently spent a weekend with longtime friends where one of them shared how she had been deeply hurt by the intentional words and actions of a family member. There was no doubt she had been wronged and it's very unlikely that the person who inflicted the pain is ever going to apologize. She realizes that for her own good she needs to forgive this person and accept that they aren't going to change their ways, but finding the will to forgive and move on isn't something that comes naturally to most of us. Only when we look at the many times we've missed the mark and grasp the fact that God forgives us time and time again do we begin to find the will to extend the same grace to others. Reflecting on God's amazing grace greatly helps to put things in perspective and slowly let go of the grudges that will otherwise make me miserable.
I think most of us listen to Pastor Burton's story and wonder if we could ever be capable of forgiving such a great injustice. But it's obvious that forgiving those who so deeply wronged him has allowed Pastor Burton to close the door on the past and move forward with his message of hope and grace.
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