Interesting question to consider. Of course, as Christians, Jesus commands us to forgive throughout the New Testament. Being commanded by your Lord and Savior is a very good reason to forgive. Of course, we are also beings of free will so we do not have to follow Jesus’ commands if we choose not to. So are there other reasons to forgive?
Well, in my class today, we learned about the health benefits of forgiveness. That’s right, there are health benefits. It seems that people who live a lifestyle that is full of forgiveness appear to have lower blood pressure which of course brings about other benefits as well. Rather, the lack of high blood pressure beings about health benefits. It seems that people who forgive have lower stress and are generally happier than those who harbor grudges.
So as we consider whether to forgive or not, we have the obvious command from Jesus and the not so obvious health benefits. Since Americans tend to be self-centered, perhaps we should begin to promote the health benefits of forgiveness and encourage people to forgive for health reasons. I believe if we begin to practice a climate of forgiveness for any reason, the theological side of things will come around. As people begin to enjoy not only the health benefits of forgiveness but the peace forgiving brings, they will be open to the Holy Spirit and begin to experience Jesus in more ways in their lives. The benefits are endless.
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” –John 6:66-68
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. –Matthew 7:7-8
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. — Romans 15:7
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. –Revelation 21:1-7
Christ has no body now but yours
No hands, no feet on earth but yours
Yours are the eyes through which He looks
Compassion on this world
Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good
Yours are the hands with which He blesses all the world
Yours are the hands
Yours are the feet
Yours are the eyes
You are His body
Christ has no body now on earth but yours
–St. Teresa Avila
As St. Teresa writes, our eyes are the ones in which Christ looks through with compassion to the world. If Christ is using our eyes, what is he seeing? I would like to think that my eyes are not judging or hating but rather looking how to help. I would like to think my eyes are a source of compassion and hope for the world. I could be wrong as well. It is a big goal to reach but one that I think I can meet if I have to.
By thinking of it this way, if we are the body of Christ on earth, we should be following Jesus’ example of living as found in the gospels and reaching out to other people. Jesus didn’t immediately judge people for their beliefs but rather loved them and taught them and reached out to them. We should be doing the exact same thing as we go through this life – that is if we are true followers of Jesus.
He who spared not His own Son—but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things” — Romans 8:32
You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough. I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be. –Galatians 5:7-10
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. –1 Thessalonians 5:11
Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man–you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself–that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? –Romans 2:1-4 (ESV)
Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.” And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.” And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.” May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. –Romans 15:7-13 (ESV)
Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. — Matthew 24:42-44 (ESV)
By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies. And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets—who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. –Hebrews 11:29-12:2 (ESV)
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (ESV)
…and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. –Ephesians 6:19-20
“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! — Luke 12:49-50 (NIV)
If you think about fire – it is destructive and renewing at the same time. When something burns – like a house or a forest – the slate is wiped clean so to speak. While people may lose possessions and momentos, they are able to rebuild their home because there is nothing left. The same goes for a forest fire – the ground is literally burned cleaned and there is room for new trees and plants to begin growing (some seeds will not sprout until they have been burned by fire).
Now as you wrap your mind around that thought, here is what I am thinking. The fire Jesus is talking about is the Holy Spirit given through baptism. That fire comes into our lives and consumes our sin and all those things that stand in the way of loving and following Jesus! It may be a stretch but it makes sense to me. If the fire of Jesus consumes all those things that keep me from following Jesus: sin, burdens, worries, cares, possessions, etc. then what is left behind is a clean slate (i.e. me). Within that clean slate, new life can begin and grow and even spread as I share the good news with others. It is a powerful image and a powerful scripture.
So I started out talking about what God might say to me through this scripture so here is what I think God is saying. We need to embrace the consuming fire of Jesus and embrace its cleansing power in our lives and be prepared for new life to begin and grow in us.
If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. –1 Corinthians 15:19
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” –Mark 12:29-31
If you judge people, you have no time to love them. –Mother Teresa.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father [God] and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you [as in loving God and your neighbor]. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” –Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV) *italics my additions*
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and humans, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. –1 Timothy 2:5-6