Tag Archives: forgiveness

Except for these chains

When was the last time you thought to yourself – about some athlete or celebrity in legal trouble, an ex who wound up in a bad relationship, or a former boss or co-worker who lost their job – “serves ’em right, they got what was coming to them“?

You probably don’t have to dig too far into the ol’ memory banks, because we humans are a spiteful bunch. We forgive, but don’t forget, or we forgive conditionally, only after we’re compensated for whatever slights have been leveled against us.

In the book of Acts, Paul paints the picture of a different kind of forgiveness, though. One that evokes the kind of grace our Heavenly Father shows us.

Accused of the crime of… well, of being a Christian, Paul slyly uses the courtroom of King Agrippa to preach a sermon. Surprised, the King laughingly says that Paul’s confidence is so impressive it might actually convert him to Christianity. Paul responds: “I would wish to God that not only you, but all who hear me this day might become such as I am, except for these chains.”

Paul has been beaten, arrested, and dragged into court by these people, and still all he wants for them is their salvation. He doesn’t pray that God would visit their aggression back on them. He does wish to trade places, so they could see what it would feel like to be so persecuted. Instead, he prays that they would have all of the good that he’s experiences, but none of the bad.

I pray that I’d be big enough to wish the same for my transgressors and enemies. I pray that if I someday meet my gradeschool bullies again, or the girls that broke my heart in high school, or the guys that got the jobs I really wanted, or the lady that cut me off in traffic, I’ll be willing to share my love of God, but not the pains of the world.

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I Wish I Was More Like My Dog (and I’m Glad God Isn’t At All Like Me)

Yesterday April got home from work to find that we’d absentmindedly left our dog Samson inside all day. (I thought she was going to let him out, she thought I was, yadda yadda yadda.) She also found a delightfully odorous present that he’d left on the living room rug.

The great thing about Samson – and all dogs, really – is that they don’t hold grudges. Not against people, and not even against themselves. Sam’s a great dog, well-behaved and obedient, and he’d never make a mess in the house unless he had no other option (which he didn’t). He was bothered by what he’d done: he paced around and was hesitant around us for awhile. But by last night, all was forgotten. He was his old self again, nuzzling us for attention while we sat on the couch, waiting hopefully in kitchen while we cooked dinner.

I wish I was more like Samson. For me, one of the biggest obstacles to God’s grace is my inability to forgive myself. When I screw up I beat myself up over it for days, weeks, or longer. That does bad things to my relationship with Christ. I start to question how he could love me when I’m so rebellious and selfish and distracted from his love. Then I get caught in a self-destructive loop of feeling bad about what I’ve done, losing faith in God’s grace, screwing up more because “I might as well, I’m a lost cause”, and then feeling bad all over again. I’ve said it before: I think loving yourself is among the biggest steps you can take toward loving and being loved by God.

The me-as-Samson metaphor breaks down eventually, as most metaphors do, because in this situation the role of God would be played by me. And I’m nothing like God. I couldn’t help but get a little frustrated by Samson even though I knew it wasn’t his fault. (He didn’t get in trouble, by the way, just to clarify.) And I’ll make some changes to make sure another similar incident doesn’t happen again. God, though, is infinitely patient with us, and he does more than forgive our sins. He forgets them, as if they never happened. He is also steadfast and unchanging. He will treat us with the same grace and love and expectations tomorrow that he did yesterday.

I’m working on loving myself more, so that I can experience God’s love more fully. And among a multitude of other things, I’m thankful that he is a loving father rather than an obedience instructor (or impatient owner). I wish I was more like my dog, but I’m glad God’s nothing like me.

(Yep, I just got a message of grace and self-love out of a story about the dog pooping in the house. I think I’ll just sit back and wait on that book deal now.)


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