Category Archives: forgiveness

A Prayer of Lamentation: January 7, 2020

Holy Lord, we weep today. Forgive our corruption in high places and the hidden places of our hearts. Forgive our anger that destroys pure affection and sullies our actions. Forgive our winking at evil, wherever it is found. Forgive our self-righteous selectivity concerning what is good, forgetting that your ways are eternal. Forgive our idolatry as we cozy up to power, regardless of party. Forgive our immorality as we defy your Word concerning the marginal and vulnerable, from conception to coronation, from every culture and country. Forgive our injustice as we have failed too often to make a way for all to flourish.

Lord, your kingdom is established through love and humility, peacemaking and reconciliation, hospitality and holiness. Too often we have taken your place as the arbiters of others’ souls and failed to let your Spirit do surgery in us and in the systems we live in.

We weep for the unprotected unborn, the forgotten aged, and the sisters and brothers deprived of access and equity. We weep for those ensnared in ideologies antithetical to true freedom. We weep over the passivity of so many while shrill voices dominate public discourse. Forgive us, merciful Lord.

Forgive our fatalism and hubris, our cynicism and hedonism. Our happiness is not your first concern, but a consequence of a life lived for your glory and the good of others. Forgive the privileged for abusing their opportunities to serve.

Lord, you raise up and bring down nations and empires, and our beautiful and broken land is not exempt from your scrutinizing sovereignty. Have mercy on our land. We do not deserve your mercies, but please hear the unseen prayers of the humble and extend your grace, offering a season for repentance and righteousness, renewal and reform.

Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Amen.

The Hinge of Humility: Opening Doors to Wisdom

In our contentious world, persons and parties are competing for attention, which often leads to dueling over which individual or group can be the most outrageous in their assertions. Accusations are followed by belated retractions and oral and written communication is littered with terms like, “alleged” and “some people are saying” and “unnamed sources assert.” One post is picked up by many and soon millions are arguing over dubious data.

What is sorely lacking in most public discourse is the virtue of humility. Humility is not the absence of confidence or fear of others. Humility is a disposition of openness and a willingness to be corrected and refined in our thinking. Humility also looks for the good in others and waters the soil of principled peacemaking and proximate justice.

There are five dimensions of humility that will transform our personal lives and improve our public conversations. The first is humility before the Almighty. Even deeply religious people are prone to pride in their moral virtue or personal accomplishments, acting as if they are doing a favor for God, rather than realizing God’s unmerited favor in underneath any good brought to the world.

The second dimension is humility about ourselves. We are all beautiful and broken, bearing the divine image and ravaged by a fallen world, which includes both our own choices and unwanted traumas. Humility allows us to receive God’s embrace and accelerate our healing and maturity from the inside out. And this growth usually involves the care and love of others.

Third, we need humility for healthy relationships. We need to call for help when things are toxic. And we also need patience as others are learning life lessons. Married couples should aim for the good of their partners. Colleagues and friends can celebrate the success of others without envy. And humility is the foundation of forgiveness and reconciliation.

The fourth dimension is humility about our personal calling or purpose. We can walk with confidence and be well-focused without arrogance or pride. Our destiny in woven together with the good of others – we never succeed alone. Discovering and developing our gifts and skills serve God and others.

Finally, humility informs our daily life of work and engagement on the economy. Every day is an occasion to see our work – paid or unpaid, labor or leadership – as service to God and others. Humility will open doors for advancement as others see our disposition and discipline in deed and word.

Humility is cultivated over time and it leads to inner tranquility and healthier relationships. Above all, the Scriptures remind us that God honors the humble with his grace and presence (Isaiah 55, James 4 and I Peter 5).  That is enough.

Choosing a Divergent Path: Wisdom in a World Gone Mad

We are inundated with loud voices clamoring for emotional reactions. In contrast, followers of Jesus are invited to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and choose loving obedience. Let’s take time to still our hearts, listen deeply, and love wisely.

We do not live in the best or worst of times…but in the most instantaneous information moment of history. Our conflicts are not new, but much more immediate and our responses are often unreflective. We can shun vulgarity. We can choose intercession for those who disagree. And we can recognize that power itself is an addiction affecting every part of the political spectrum. 

Forgiveness often sparks revival in persons and communities. Without pretending about our real pain or excusing transgression, what if we let go of the rap sheet that we keep against ourselves and others and truly forgive? And when we bless those who frustrate us most, we are liberated, and a new future opens to us.

An antidote for our epidemic and anger: In the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, we can meet every insult with blessing, every denial of truth with love and truth, arrogance with humility, and intolerance with civil discourse. And let’s respond to emotionalism and incipient Orwellian controls with careful thought and affirmation of liberty rooted in virtue. Systemic issues of class, gender, and race must be exposed…and overcome with love, relationships, and wisdom. Protest is one step…and practical, sacrificial action for others moves our vision of shalom forward. This is more than being nice and it is not passive. Living in the opposite spirit of our age of insults and vulgarity is a courageous spiritual posture. 

Navigating Unfairness in Life and Work

A sense of justice is hard-wired into the human psyche. Without training, a three-year-old will say, “Unfair!” We are rightly outraged at abuse, prejudice, and violence. But what about the more daily, subtle ways unfairness comes into our lives?

A colleague and I sat down with a leader and shared some of our creative thinking for a new product. We were met with condescension and kindness and the meeting ended well. A year later, we discovered that our ideas had been rebranded, and met with public favor!

Our first responses were incredulity, anger, and resignation. It was maddening to see another get credit and our efforts be ignored. We both thought, “Self-denial is hard when he advances, and we are ignored.”

It is frustrating when others are celebrated, and we feel unheard and unseen. Our first reactions are not yet sins. The next moments determine whether we wallow in self-pity or cultivate godly character. When unfairness happens, our hidden religiosity comes to the surface.

Three insights help us endure these moments. First, remembering God’s mercy in our lives helps us extend grace when life is unfair (Rom. 12:9-21). Second, we ultimately work for One Master, who will reward more lavishly that human leaders (Col. 3:17-25). Finally, God uses these moments for our transformation (Rom. 8:28-39).

Life will be unfair. But we can turn our circumstances into character development and wisdom. We do not celebrate victimhood; however, we can refuse to wallow in commiseration and chose the high road of forgiveness.

November 26: Time for Tears

North American Christianity needs a baptism of tears.
Instead of polarized invective that tears up apart, we need the tears of divine empathy to unite our hearts. The God of the Bible weeps and laughs, grieves deeply and dances with joy (Jeremiah 8-9; Zeph. 3; Luke 10, 19). Imagine our conversations with God and each other if we experience a baptism of tears:

We will weep deeply as we confront the racism and shed joyful tears as forgiveness triumphs over retaliation. We will weep, hearing the cries of creation as humans despoil the earth and we will cry aloud with delight as gospel hope inspires ecological healing.

We weep in intercession for our neighbors lost without Christ and shed tears of joy as converts are baptized and prodigals discover Abba Almighty waiting for them.

We will weep when a sister or brother suffers and find our eyes moist when healing flows.

This baptism of tears purges hubris and hypocrisy from our hearts. Tears will inspire love for enemies as we realize their need of grace.