Monday, February 14, 2011 Relationships
Daily reading: John 15:12-17
Maintaining healthy relationships is hard work. The foundation of life-giving relationships is forgiveness. Anyone in a relationship with an emotional or spiritual investment knows how vitally important and powerful forgiveness is. But the road that leads to forgiveness is strewn with the risks of hurt, of vulnerability, of putting another person first. It’s strewn with the risks of saying, “I have wronged you. I am sorry. Will you forgive me?” And “Yes, I forgive you!” On this Valentine’s Day, is there someone who needs to know you are sorry? Ask God for the strength to follow through and say it to them.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011: Broken
Daily reading: Matthew 18:21-35
The unconditional nature of the forgiveness that Jesus models will ultimately preserve the community. But, due to our sin and brokenness, we cannot do this on our own. Broken relationships are restored through confession and forgiveness. Jesus’ message is simply that we must be ready to forgive anyone who repents. Confession leads to repentance leads to forgiveness leads to restoration leads to community. But perhaps someone seeking forgiveness is only interested in the short term, and soon returns to damaging behavior. It’s in that context that Peter comes to Jesus with the question, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Is there some broken relationship in your life where someone needs forgiveness over and over? Ask God for the strength and courage to forgive again.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011: Three or seven
Daily reading: Amos 1:3 and 2:6; Job 33:29
Some background about the Jewish understanding of forgiveness: it’s understood as beginning with God. We’ve been created for community, and how we live with and treat one another reflects our relationship with God. Peter’s question is rooted in the Jewish teaching that forgiving three times shows a forgiving spirit. In ancient rabbinic teachings it was understood that, if a person kept repeating offenses, they might not be repenting at all. No behavioral change, no transformation. “If a man commits a transgression, the first, second and third time he is forgiven, the fourth time he is not.” Peter seems to be aware of this as he asks his question. When he suggests to Jesus that he should forgive seven times, Peter is more than doubling the expectation based in the Hebrew Scriptures. Even choosing the number seven points to a sense of utter “completeness.” In your life, is it hard to forgive twice? Three times? Ask God to expand your heart in your willingness to forgive again and again.
Thursday, February 17, 2011: 490
Daily reading: Matthew 18:21-35 again
The Apostle Peter, Jesus’ good friend, comes to Jesus with one of the most loaded questions that has ever been asked: “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus answers, “Not seven times, but 70 times seven.” Does Peter think that revenge comes after the seventh forgiveness? Seventy times seven is 490. Does that mean that at 491 we don’t forgive anymore? Is there a numerical limit to forgiveness? Of course not! Jesus is saying that forgiveness is limitless. Seventy times seven is meant to be a number at which we could never arrive. We can never extend enough forgiveness, can never apply too much forgiveness where forgiveness is necessary. Is there someone in your life who needs extravagant forgiveness? Ask God to help you stop counting the times you’ve forgiven and simply forgive.
Friday, February 18, 2011: Transformed
Daily reading: 2 Corinthians 3:12-18
Mercy is not giving people what they deserve. Grace is giving people what they do not deserve. This points Christ-followers to a core principle of Kingdom life together: those who have experienced the grace and mercy of God will be so transformed that they will want to pass it on to others. A transformed life will be evident on every level, beginning with the community of faith. The disciples will see this lived out as Jesus moves through the final months, weeks and days of his life. The significance of the cross and empty tomb will mark their lives and the lives of Christ-followers in every generation. Where can you pass on the grace of God to someone else? Ask God to continue to work in you and transform you.
Saturday, February 19, 2011: Happy
Daily reading: Psalm 32
The term “happy” appears often in Psalms, always in the context of moral life, which is why the Hebrew word was formerly translated “blessed.” It was believed that happiness which came through immoral means was temporary at best. Lasting happiness was found only through a right relationship with God, the source of happiness. Refusing to acknowledge sin and guilt takes a physical and emotional toll. The psalmist describes this toll as physical pain and groaning. When we fail to acknowledge our failings before God, we live in broken community with God and one another. Notice what happens when these failings are acknowledged. The forgiveness we need is here for us, all along. Where do you need to be more “happy?” Acknowledge your failings to God and see what happens.
Sunday, February 19, 2011: Is – Is Not
Daily reading: Colossians 1:9-14
Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. Will we let go of our self pity, demand for justice and desire to retaliate? Forgiveness is not demanding that a person change before we forgive them. It’s not forgetting that the hurt happened. It’s not pretending that it doesn’t matter, or thinking that time alone will heal the hurt. But forgiveness is facing the wrong that has been done to us and recognizing our emotions. It is choosing not to hold it against our spouse, brother, sister, friend, coworker, or partner, and releasing them into God’s hands. Are the boundaries around forgiveness unclear for you? Ask God to lead you in the most healthful way to forgive someone else