Saturday, 5 May 2012

Perfection Part 3

Mat 5:43  Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
Mat 5:44  But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
Mat 5:45  That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
Mat 5:46  For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
Mat 5:47  And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
Mat 5:48  Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Those words sound nice as the pastor reads them in front of the congregation, and everyone nods their head and smiles at the person in the next pew. And then everyone goes home, and looks with scorn on the young woman with a child out of wedlock, or the homosexual and his "partner". Easier said than done....

What does it mean, to "love your enemy"? Does it mean you agree with everything he or she says and does? Does Jesus agree with everything I say and do? I should freely exclaim that is not the case at all. Then how can I quote those verses above and say we are to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect?

I was watching a talk show while I was working out yesterday, and there was a woman and her daughter who had lost another daughter because the daughter's ex-boyfriend and his new fiance murdered her viciously. The mother and brother of the fiance was on the set of this program, sitting quite a distance apart from the mother and daughter. They also connected by video to the fiance daughter/sister at her prison where they say she will be for the next 18 years. The fiance said she was sorry. Honestly, she didn't truly seem sorry to me, and her words still sounded like she didn't feel like it was her fault. On this show they described how she participated in the murder. They described how she joined the all day vigils while they were searching for her, and helped in the searches. The mother and daughter told of their heartfelt anger and their doubt in the truth of the sorrow and asking for forgiveness because the fiance's mom never apologized until the time of this broadcast, and that the boy's mom and dad immediately came to her to say how terribly sorry they were. The mom, brother, and fiance had ugly looks on their faces, and were not attractive to begin with. It was easy to dislike them, and think "They aren't sorry! They are guilty as sin and are not a bit sorry...but somehow just want to get sympathy for their terrible daughter/sister" ...and then I remember the parable:

Mat 18:21  Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
Mat 18:22  Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

Mat 18:23  Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
Mat 18:24  And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.
Mat 18:25  But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
Mat 18:26  The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
Mat 18:27  Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
Mat 18:28  But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.
Mat 18:29  And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
Mat 18:30  And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
Mat 18:31  So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.
Mat 18:32  Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:
Mat 18:33  Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?
Mat 18:34  And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
Mat 18:35  So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.

I might be able to fake it....but if I were that mom or that sister, I confess that I would have a really hard time forgiving that girl and her family. It came out (and she denies it) that she was the primary instigator in the murder. She did not want the girl alive because she thought her fiance might still have feelings for her and wanted the ultimate proof that he no longer loved her. But she is asking for forgiveness, regardless of how terrible the circumstances and how much we may dislike her, she is looking for forgiveness....and so thinking on the words of Jesus, and the impossibility of my own fleshy reaction to this situation, I would ask, as His disciples asked Him in another situation:

Mat 19:25  When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? 

and the answer from Jesus:

Mat 19:26  But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

I have my people that I am struggling with to forgive. They have not asked for my forgiveness, but should that stop me from having a forgiving heart?  Does that mean what they did wasn't wrong? Does it mean that I agree with what they did and accept the wrongs as right? No. It just simply means that I know what they did was wrong, and I let it go to God, and say with Jesus: "Forgive them Father for they know not what they do"


  1. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

    Even before we were sorry, or asked forgiveness.

    This takes TREMENDOUS grace from God, I agree.

    I was reading some info on Jeffrey Dahmer the other day, and I read this quote he gave at his trail:

    'It is now over. This has never been a case of trying to get free. I didn't ever want freedom. Frankly, I wanted death for myself. This was a case to tell the world that I did what I did, but not for reasons of hate. I hated no one. I knew I was sick or evil or both. Now I believe I was sick. The doctors have told me about my sickness, and now I have some peace. I know how much harm I have caused... Thank God there will be no more harm that I can do. I believe that only the Lord Jesus Christ can save me from my sins... I ask for no consideration."

    For all the heinous things he did, he calls upon the name of the Lord.

    1. I had heard that his parents are Christians, what a terrible thing to endure, for all of them. I wonder if he was a "weaker brethren" that succumbed to sin out of weakness having it continue to spiral downward? This is so sad.

  2. I think that the questions that you have been asking lately about forgiveness, love, and confronting sin are difficult but important, and I have learned a lot from your posts on these questions. I want to reiterate a suggestion that I made earlier - I think that Jesus commands us to confront sin, but that we are to do this in a loving way. What this means is incredibly complicated, and I doubt that there is one way of going about all this that would work in all circumstances. That being said, I think that it might be helpful to think about parental discipline. Parents need to learn how to criticize the bad behavior of their children and even punish them while communicating that they love their children despite their bead behavior. Christ does this toward us, parents do this toward children, and Christians can do it toward others. We can confront someone for sinning while letting them know that we still love and care for them, and that our love for them is not dependent on their being sinless, which is impossible for any of us. We can also acknowledge that we too are sinners, and that we are confronting the sin in question not to assert our own righteousness, of which we have none apart from Christ, but rather because it its right to do so. Of course, how this plays out in practice will depend a lot on the circumstances. Sometimes, we may not be called to openly criticize the sin. Suppose you have a grown child who comes to you and confesses that he has a drug problem which he caused some damage to his life. Your child probably already knows your position on drug use. What the child needs is love. There may be some occasion or need to speak openly about the evils of drugs, but that might need to wait. The important point is this - by not openly denouncing drug use when your child comes to you, you are not supporting drug use in any way. Why? Because you will have already communicated your position on drug use to your child. This is all hypothetical of course, and different situations call for different responses. The point I am trying to make is that while we may often be called to openly criticize/denounce a particular sin, we may not always be called to do so, but that doesn't mean that we are approving of sin when we don't vocalize our opposition to it in an open and direct way. Phew! How complicated this all is! I hope that I have said something useful here. I'm just brainstorming - I'm certainly no expert on any of these things. Anyway, thanks for the post.

  3. Susan, there is something else that I would like to add to the discussion. You have mentioned a few complicated relationships with friends/co-workers. I don't know whether this will be helpful, but I think that you might want to draw a distinction between (a) forgiving someone for a wrong they have committed against you and (b) resuming normal relations with that person. In my experience, relationships are often damaged when one person in the relationship wrongs the other, and while the wronged person can forgive the person who committed the wrong, the person who committed the wrong may need to take some steps to help repair the relationship. In other words, you may be willing to forgive in the sense of relinquishing anger; but, if the other person betrayed your trust etc., then he or she may have some obligation to do something to restore that trust, something that you cannot do for that person. Thus, I don't think that you should necessarily feel that you have done anything blameworthy if the relationship is still damaged - forgiveness is sometimes a two-way street. I don't know if that helps at all, but I thought that I'd throw it out there anyway.

    1. Thanks Leslie,

      That is the part that I'm having trouble getting a handle on, you hit the nail on the head :)

    2. In a few days I'm going to put the subheading of "complicated relationships" into the post labels section so that it will line up all the posts which touch on the problems I've been trying to sort out...which will also help me to go back to them as I need to continue to pray about this, and later revisit these things with a new perspective....

    3. I will pray that the situation improves. Ugh. Relationships can be so difficult.


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