Serving in the Kingdom: Forgiveness
To remember that we are who we are…not how we act is both difficult and ongoing. The problem is the wrongness of our acts. These are external and in the view of others. Who we are is in our thoughts, feelings, disposition, and choices. This is the inner life. This is what we have to conquer the evil of our secular world. It is hard to keep these straight. Paul tells us that love is patient and kind (1 Cor 13:4). I must remember that being kind to others without genuine inner readiness and longing to secure the good of others is both shallow and short lived. I must remember the outcome of my usual prayer life, “I want patience, and I want it right now”. Both of these strategies will lead to despair and to defeat of love. These will bring forth anger and hopelessness. It is love itself—not loving behavior that has the power to “always protect, always trust, always hope, put up with anything and never quit” (1 Cor 13:7-8, my translation). I must take love itself—God’s kind of love—into my inner life. I must take God’s gift of love into my actions in a slow intentional manner to more fully explore the way God loves me. As I grow in love—the genuine readiness and longing to secure the good of others—genuine patience enters me.
Yet, I know that even with the love within and the patience expressed that I am not able to earn acceptance with God. Forgiveness is the act by which God brings a sinful human into a right relationship to himself. The work of Jesus is declaring righteous the sinner who responds in faith to the revelation in Jesus Christ. The righteousness which humans cannot achieve for themselves is offered to humanity by God in Jesus Christ. It is received in faith through accepting the word of promise in Jesus Christ. With this acceptance Jesus is walking the earth today in the hearts of those who believe in him. Through his saving grace good has been done, people have been loved, and comfort brought by his people. By his saving grace the compassion we express for the suffering and bereaved displays that our faith means something.
It is not my vocation to “care for people” any more. Pastoral care is care for people “in the name of Jesus”. In this manner I have a treasure for those in the congregation, but it is a treasure in an earthen jar. I am a person among other persons in the congregation. I have strengths and I have weaknesses. I must remember that the treasure I have for the congregation is the treasure of the Gospel—the Word of God. I live in a culture that reduces so many of human needs as illness. I know this because for 33 yrs. I endeavored to give a name to so many of these and to classify the extent and the effect of therapy. Now I get to tell the story…the master story…the Gospel…the story of who we are and what we are destined for. It is in this manner that we learn our needs. We live in a culture that expresses desires as needs. As a human in a faith community I receive both praise and blame. In my faith and in the faith of those which I am involved I know patience, love, and forgiveness. I am so blessed to be in the body of Christ known as Pinnacle Presbyterian Church.