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      Nurturing people in the image of God since 1868.                                                                          POB 397/520 Dry Creek Rd./Smithville, TN

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A SWEEPING COMMAND

John Wesley was out walking one day. While on a narrow path, he met a man who didn't like him. One of the men would have to step aside to allow the other to pass. The other man charged ahead saying, "I never make way for fools." Wesley quickly stepped aside saying, "I always do." What do you do when you come face to face with someone who doesn't like you and who has in some way hurt/offended you? The world still says "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." The result is a lot of eyeless and toothless people, metaphorically speaking. "Fight fire with fire" sounds good until you realize that approach almost always ends up making the fire twice as hot and leaving behind badly burned people. Two thousand years after Jesus died saying, "Father, forgive them" (Luke 23:34), many people continue to believe the lie that the best way to get ahead of those who hurt you is to get even. But, as William H. Walter reminds us, "To carry a  grudge is like being stung to death by one bee." By refusing to forgive we tie ourselves to the event/events that caused the hurt. -And every time our mind goes there we are stung yet again by the same bee, re-living the pain in all its original agony. We fail to realize that carrying a grudge is like a run in a nylon stocking - it can only get worse. Salt water can't quench our thirst, and refusing to forgive won't quench the white-hot emotions of hatred, bitterness and resentment that spring from an unforgiving heart.

Jesus offers a radical alternative in Mark 11:25-26: "Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses." Note the sweeping scope involved in this command: "if you have anything against anyone." Anything against anyone - that just about covers it all, doesn't it? If you have anything against anyone, Jesus directs you to forgive that person. On the heels of that jolting  statement comes another kicker: "that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses." That's straight talk from Jesus. Forgiveness I want and need from God is conditioned upon my willingness to forgive those who need it from me! Lest we think He doesn't really mean it, Jesus adds, "But if you do not forgive, neither wi I I your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses" (see also Matthew 6:14-15; 18:35). Forgivers pay a tremendous price to forgive those who hurt them. Jesus' cross reminds us it is never easy to forgive. But what many fail to consider is that un-forgivers pay an even greater price - God will not forgive them. How could there be a more sweeping command?

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ