Who is forgiveness for? Most often the answer to that question is “the people we like or love.” That’s fair, but it’s also predictable. It’s going along with how humanity has done things for its entire history. Forgiving our enemies? Forgiving people that are different than us? What would happen if that became the way people thought and operated? Everything would change. People would change. But for that to happen, forgiveness has to go beyond the people just like us...it’s way more difficult than that.
“I forgive you.” While it isn’t always easy to think or say, we’ve all managed to sputter those words out at some point. The question we all have to ask ourselves though, is did those words make any difference? Did something change? Are we treating the forgiven person differently from the moments, days, weeks, or months before “I forgive you?” Or did we simply make a verbal agreement of some sort because that’s what grownups do? According to the Scriptures, it’s way more difficult than that.
What defines a Christian? What are the actions, attitudes, and values that people who follow Jesus are known for? This is a different question than, “what is the definition of Christianity?” isn’t it? Unfortunately, much of the church-going population has lived in such a way that we might not like the answer, or would be confused by how different it is from what the Scriptures tell us we should be. Because our focus, our mission, is not about winning an argument...it’s way more difficult than that.
The way Jesus did life was not normal. Which means if we are to be like him in the way we do life, we can’t be normal either. We can’t settle for just being human. We have to become something more by becoming more than our nature. Jesus was fully God and fully human but he was better at being human...he was un-human. We must become the same.
Formulas are important. They help us figure things out, predict outcomes, and make sense of complexity. And it’s the promise of those things that consistently drive us to make everything formulaic...including our faith. We want to crack the code––learn the secret. And every once in awhile we think we figure out the recipe to God, or at least the recipe to get God to do what we want him to. The truth, however, is that God’s not really a secret or a formula to be uncovered. The mystery is really no mystery at all.
If someone were to sit you down and ask what makes you a good person, what would you say? You’d list things like charity, kindness, and the fact that you’ve never stolen anything or murdered anyone. You’re right, those make you a good person. But if the stakes were raised and you had to name the things that make you a righteous person, what now? Maybe you would list the same things as before, but know this: you can’t make you righteous. You need someone else.
There’s a rumor going around that all things spirit are good and all things material are bad. So everything you can see, taste, touch, hear and smell is of no use in the grand scheme of things. There’s a problem though: the rumor’s just a rumor––matter matters. In fact, everything matters and can be used to make its Maker look good.
It’s easy to spend most of our day looking for something to make us feel whole and complete; like the day was worth it. It might be an episode of our favorite show, a good meal, or even the company of someone we love. Is it possible we do the same thing when it comes to our faith journey? Do you ever find yourself searching for something to make it feel whole and complete? Something to make it worthwhile? If you are, just know you don’t have to.
Have you ever felt like you're living on auto-pilot? We see the same baristas every morning, the same co-workers every week and the same cashiers at the grocery store every weekend. What if God has more in store for those interactions than mundane small talk? What if the Kingdom starts with small acts of intention?
We are unaware of what’s most constant. And for a long time, during the holidays, we’ve mistaken unawareness of something for a lack of something. We’ve maybe allowed the hustle, bustle, and mind-boggling activity of Christmas to make us calloused to the real meaning in all of it. The good news is that no matter how hard we try...we just can’t seem to take Christ out of Christmas.