Posts Tagged ‘forgiveness’

Advent 2: Space for Grace

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Mark 1:4)

When reading the Bible, we have to be careful to avoid reading what isn’t there.

This past Sunday, it would have been very easy for me or any other preacher to put words in the mouth of John the Baptist.  In accounts we find in other Gospels, he takes on the crowds, but in Mark’s version, his message is simple:   get ready, for a powerful One is on the way.

If we read Mark and stick to just what we find in the text, we find a presentation of John as an unusual but not necessarily off-putting guy.  Apparently, people felt comfortable enough to go out to the wilderness, hear him, and receive his baptism.  We find a man who carved out a spiritual space, so that people could make their own personal space for the Messiah.

Could you have space for grace out here?

Creating space.  A lot of what we do in church is just that.  We put all the right elements together so that people will have space, freedom, or even permission to experience new life in Christ.  We make space for grace.

I’m sure I’ve told this story before, but I was amazed a few years ago when our campus ministry Bible study group created a “space for grace” for a student who came in looking very upset.  We set aside the evening’s topic to focus on helping her.  We talked about the hurt she was carrying, and almost in unison, we said it’s OK to let it go.  I think we all left feeling that the Spirit had occupied our hearts.

I think John the Baptist was on to something in his ministry.  People really do want to confess and repent.  They may not use those terms to describe what’s going on in their hearts, but they crave a space to let things go and receive forgiveness.  They seek a space for grace.

How can we provide that space for someone else, and witness to God’s grace once the space is made?

Advent Day 21: Forgiveness

Advent Day 21

Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’  Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.  (Matthew 18:21-22)

Today, work on forgiving someone.  If you are new at this, start small.  Begin with something that has had a very minor impact on you, not a major wound that has changed the direction of your life.

Here’s an example.  My office is off-campus, so at least once a week I go on campus to spend time with students.  Often I’ll see undergraduates handing out flyers or advertisements as I go to the lunch spot.  One day a student was handing out flyers for a religious event sponsored by another campus ministry.  I read the flyer and thought, “Arrgh!  Why didn’t I think of this?  This sounds great!”  For a moment, I was jealous and angry that someone else had this good idea first.

Well, I thought about it, considered some ways I could improve on the idea if our group ever did it, and let it go.  Now, what happened here wasn’t much of a sin, if at all.  No one set out to hurt me on purpose.  I chose to be jealous.  Still, I felt a need to forgive myself, and to “forgive” the other person for being so smart.

The questions I asked myself that day can be used for many of the “small” sins and hurts that we inflict on one another.  Give these questions some thought.  (Again, if you have a huge wound in your life, you may want to take a different direction; get some help from a trusted wise person if you want to begin the process of forgiving someone who severely wounded you.)

  • Who hurt me?  Was it really intentional?
  • Have I really been insulted or disgraced, or is my feeling of hurt something more like jealousy?  It could be a combination:  for example, feeling insulted when a respected professor doesn’t like your idea, and being jealous of that professor’s power.
  • Does it do me any good to hold on to the hurt feelings?
  • Next time a similar situation happens, could I choose to react differently?  (In the case of the professor, I could choose to bolster my next idea with more references.)

I think all these questions can go “up the ladder” to more difficult situations as well, but again, I recommend starting small.  Most of us have a tough time forgiving others, which is why Jesus preached about it so much!

Today’s daily Scripture reading from the PC(USA):