Sunday, June 24, 2018

No Trespassing

But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:15

I was pretty upset at a friend, which is an an anomaly for me unless I am hormonal, which I am not, so I have spent a little extra time this week processing my indignation.   I feel like I was justified in being upset at a Christian friend who made a comment that demeaned and belittled an entire group of people in front of my kids. I first said something like, "You are joking right?"   I had known this friend for years and couldn't imagine such a comment would come out of their mouth. Being a little more blunt than the average person, I quickly told my friend I was shocked to hear such a comment and that it was mean and inappropriate. Though I told them how I felt, I am having a tough time forgiving them.

As I have been processing our conversation, I have been trying to view it from an eternal perspective, because a part of me is really struggling with how someone who knows that God created everyone of us and loves the whole world so much that he sent Jesus to sacrifice for all of us could then think it was okay to put an entire group of people down.  

I started thinking about how it seems that people have gotten more open with their demeaning racist, sexist, ageist, and xenophobic views. Maybe those attitudes have been there all along but I see them now.  Maybe I tolerated them in the past but find them intolerable now. Maybe all of society including myself is so quick to protest and call out hypocrisy in others because we have tolerated it for so long in ourselves. We all have messed up, thought unkind and demeaning thoughts, and tolerated white lies and places of compromise.

People who don't even know the Bible, can be known to quote Jesus when he said, "Don't judge others or you will be judged'" from Matthew 7:1   They might feel that a friend's shoplifting, infidelity, alcoholism, sexist or racist comments are bad but they "Don't want to judge..." because they don't want to be judged.  

When you read closely, you will see that Jesus' comment "Do not judge" was to hypocrites. So if you are a hypocrite, you shouldn't judge others. However, if you don't want to continue to be a hypocrite or you aren't one, you should read the rest of the Jesus' commentary on judging.
 "“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 
5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."

My friend's insensitive and demeaning comment judging an entire group of people, resulted in my judging my friend's heart and their understanding of God's love.  When we demean and devalue God's people, we start a cycle of being demeaned and devalued.  My natural response to my friend's comment was to judge and devalue their perspective. This is a cycle that is playing out over and over in our society right now.  

Interestingly, I don't think "not judging" is the Biblical solution to stopping this destructive cycle. As Matthew 7:5 explains you still have to remove the speck from your brother's eye. Jesus' solution to breaking a hypocritical cycle is to first judge ourselves.  When we feel our feathers get ruffled, our indignation rises and we get offended, we have to stop and judge ourselves. Jesus uses the phrase to  "get the plank out of our own eye" as a way of showing us how beneficial and life transforming judging ourselves could be. Imagine how hard it would be to walk around with a 2x4 plank coming out of your eye.

Once we go through the process of seeing our mistakes, we can't keep the plank in our eye. We have to repent and we have to ask God for forgiveness.  

When we become aware of a plank in our eye, God's forgiveness is waiting for us as soon as we ask for it.   2 Samuel 12:13 encapsulates God's heart to forgive us no matter what we have done. After the prophet Nathan confronted King David with his adultery and murder,"Then David confessed to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." Nathan replied, "Yes, but the LORD has forgiven you, and you won't die for this sin."  David had done horrible things- way worse than my friend's mean comments- yet all it took for him to be forgiven was his confession. God's forgiveness was instant.   

An interesting part of this story is that Nathan didn't hold on to his righteous judgement after David repented.  I find I don't always want to give forgiveness and I want to hold on to my indignation and judgement. If I am holding on to forgiveness and continuing to judge someone after they have repented and asked forgiveness- I am holding myself above God.

Jesus says in Matthew 6:15, "but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."  The Greek word translated "Trespasses" in this verse is "paráptōma (from 3895 /parapíptō, see there) – properly, fall away after being close-beside, i.e. a lapse (deviation) from the truth; an error, "slip up"; wrong doing that can be (relatively) unconscious, "non-deliberate.""   The idea behind this word is of trespassing on someone's property, stepping on their toes, unintentionally offending them.  I know their are so many things that I have unintentionally done and said things that have been unworthy of my calling as a child of God, I am sure that God has forgiven so many trespasses that I am completely unaware of. His grace covers all the mistakes that I haven't even realized I needed to ask forgiveness for.

As I have been processing my friend's comment, God has taken me full circle.  I realized I first had to repent of the times when I demeaned a group of people (I used to think girls were better than boys, I guess that is why God gave me two sons). I had to repent of having eyes but not seeing.  I had to repent of my insensitivity to others. I had to repent of when I unknowingly made blanket statements about other people.  I had to repent of saying demeaning things in front of my kids. I asked for His forgiveness for not even realizing all the times He had forgiven me.  As I prayed and asked for God's forgiveness, I heard him clearly say, "I forgive you. As I have forgiven you, forgive others."  

Experiencing God's grace and forgiveness helped me move to a place of faith rather than anger and indignation. What my friend said was wrong but I know I have to forgive my friend just as God has forgiven me. I have to trust that just as God is working in my heart to reveal my hypocrisy and need for forgiveness, my all powerful and all knowing God is also working in my friend's heart.  

How do you process hypocrisy in others?  Is your response anger or repentance?
Do you think people can change? If someone repents, do you still hold on to indignation and anger or do you respond like Nathan, "God forgives you"?  
Have you let your frustration over someone's hypocrisy keep you from receiving God forgiveness? 

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