Posts Tagged With: forgiveness

The Avalanche of Poor Behaviour

The vitriol against our bankers is reaching fever pitch. Even at the local gym my wife encountered patrons seething at the behaviour of the banks. This comes on top of the recent inquiry into child abuse. The churches, in particular, came out of that with their reputations badly damaged. There is another current inquiry into the behaviour of the managers of Aged Care Homes. The police are under scrutiny because of poor behaviour and our politicians have reached lows that has even left voters aghast that new lows are even possible.

The level of self righteous anger is seen on tv news shows, radio talk back, newspapers and blogs. Society is venting! The populace is restless and angry.

There is one segment of society left out – the rest of us – the ordinary punter. But are we really in a position to cast the first stone? Let me ask: Are our tax records spotless and our driving record immaculate? Have we always been honest and honourable with the boss, or spouse or colleagues? Have we used the cash economy to avoid tax? If there was a tv screen on our foreheads that broadcast our inner thoughts for everyone to see, would we have any friends? If we came across an easy way to make extra, illegal, money but wouldn’t be caught, how would we behave?

The problem is that each one of us, banker, politician, you and me – everyone – has a sinful nature. It is an unpopular concept in today’s society in which truth is considered relative. Today we are told that there are no longer clear wrongs and rights in the moral sphere and yet we are surprised when people “do wrong”. We ourselves do wrong but we justify it to ourselves – just, as I am sure, the bankers did, or the paedophile, or the manager of the home or …

Yes, we do need laws to protect children, bank depositors, old people and so on, but let us not pretend that we are innocent.

In the apostle Paul’s words, “We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Sinfulness is a problem we all need to deal with. The ultimate answer is not the laws that we have piled on year after year to try to control all sorts of behaviour but rather the real answer is an encounter with Jesus Christ and the the forgiveness and renewal that is freely available through him.

Yes the laws are important to order a civil society but even more important is a radical renewal of each person – politician, policeman, you and me.

Yet first, each of us has to acknowledge that we have a problem and we ourselves do not have the resources to deal with it but Jesus has. In Luke 19:10 Jesus says to the tax collector ( or banker, or business manager or you and me) “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Step one is to acknowledge that we are “lost.”

Categories: christian, Christianity | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

My Friend Johan

When I was regularly writing for a church newsletter I had a “friend” whom I used to illustrate points – usually negative ones. “Johan vander Bakslijder” was my fictional creation who was involved in things that one hoped that the congregation wasn’t – even though I knew that some were. It was a way of raising issues without accusing people directly and without making the climate too uncomfortable.

But if the truth be known, often Johan’s struggles mirrored mine. In fact there is a bit of Johan or his wife Johanna in each one of us.

We Christians are a fragile lot. I am fragile. How often I am disappointed with a sharp undisciplined word that comes from my mouth, or a sudden rise in temperature when  my toes are trodden on … or an improper thought inveigles itself  into my mind. Daily through my foolishness I am reminded that God’s grace needs to be my constant companion. He needs to look at me through His “Christ coloured glasses” or else I would be in deep trouble.

But not only do I need that grace but also the people around me – people whom too often I am tempted to judge. People who have not encountered Jesus. People who also need to know that their brokenness can be forgiven and dealt with. Who is going to tell them or show them unless it is “Johan” or “Johanna” who can attest to the joy of having been forgiven and who continue to be forgiven daily despite their failings.



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The Budget Betrayal and Christians

The Word in Hand

Whom do we follow?

Some time has passed since the Federal budget. In that time I have been reflecting on the responses by fellow Christians and non – Christians alike. Why has there been such an outcry? Politicians have lied to us in the past. There is nothing new about that. Why are people so affronted now?

I think I have one reason.  After the confusion and lies of the previous Labor government, Australians were looking for something new and fresh, something different from the turmoil and back flipping that had been going on.  They were tired of it.  Tony Abbott, astutely, played to that confusion and promised certainty and no more lies.  We all knew that the “lie” bit was a lie but we hoped anyway.  This desire of the people to have politics played differently was strong. We have seen that in the move to independent members of parliament and minor parties.

So when the budget came out and promise after promise was broken at a scale never before seen in Australian politics, many people felt betrayed and, I believe, justifiably so.  Even worse, the most vulnerable were targeted with the budget decisions – here and overseas.  If promises had to be broken why wasn’t the Paid Parental Leave scheme, delayed?  Is it too cynical to suggest that most of these people who would benefit would vote Liberal?  Why wasn’t the abolition of the Mining Rent Tax shelved – just as money was starting to come in?  Is it that the miners are too powerful?  There are many more uncomfortable questions like this.  Do I believe that we have to live within our means? Certainly, but there are different ways to go about it.  Starting from the weak up is not it.

But personally, I feel betrayed at a different level as well.  As a child of the King, and many in the Government claim to be His, I cringe when I see fellow children of the King, in politics, obfuscate, justify and support policies that would make the King weep.  Christ directed his followers to support the needy, weak and vulnerable.  He modelled it for us.  He, in fact, has given power to these brothers and sisters in politics and claims their first allegiance – before all else and that includes the Party.

So what is my job now? Matt 18 reminds me that when a brother or sister sins or sins against me I need to go them and speak to them.  And yes, undermining the safety net we have for the vulnerable, I believe, falls into that category. That will have to be my first step.  A step I need to take in grace – even when I feel angry and betrayed.

Categories: Ethics, Obedience, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 11 Comments

Community – My Responsibility

I was teaching teachers the other day. I had to do the same sample lesson twice to two different groups. On this occasion my computer decided not to speak to the data projector so all the sample material I wanted to use couldn’t be displayed. Instead, I would have to tell them about it. Not an ideal but a workable, if clumsy, alternative. I explained this to each group. In one group they took this in their stride and made the most of the situation. The time allocated was nearly too short. In the other, no matter how positive I was there were one or two negative people who pulled down the group. It was hard to believe I was teaching the same lesson.

photo (2)I made a couple of mental notes: teachers can be just as helpful, or annoying, as students. But I also reflected on my own behaviour in group situations. Did I always try to build up the group, especially when not everything was going as it should? How does my attitude affect those around me?

In community, our attitudes are so important. Community is such a precious and fragile treasure. Nurtured and supported it is beautiful and life affirming, but if it is neglected, or worse, deliberately sabotaged, it becomes a place of pain and anger. Broken community displays the uglier aspects of our human nature.

This incident reminded me that healthy community requires a deliberate attitude on my part. It requires a sense of grace and forgiveness – it requires me to treat others just as I wish to be treated.

Now where have I heard that before?

Categories: community, Devotional, Faith, Reflections, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Separated From the Love of God

Early Medieval Stone Cross in Norway

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Romans 8:35

Have you ever contemplated the concept of being separated from the love of God? Now I know the true child of God cannot be separated from that love, but just think if it were possible. What would go though your mind? Horror? Fear? Despair? Probably all three and much more. Well, that would be true for me. The idea of being separated from God’s love defies my imagination. It horrifies me. It is too terrible to contemplate.

Why do I ask this awful question? Because when I look at the members of the body of Christ, including, sadly, my own heart at times, I don’t see the thankfulness, relief, joy and gratitude of people who truly understand what the love of God means. Maybe as an antidote we should reflect on what it means to be outside it; to imagine what being outside that sphere really means.

I believe such a genuine reflection would have at least two (possibly more) results. One result would be, our sometimes casual, complacent and neglectful relationship with God would be dealt a severe blow. Greater thankfulness, obedience, joy and probably, relief would be visible in our lives. We would live the Spirit filled life that redeemed people should be living – can be living. The second consequence would be a greater passion to see others saved. Understanding what it means to live outside God’s love, I believe, is a great motivator for our lifestyle, words and attitudes towards those who haven’t grasped the love of God through faith.

I know we can’t force people to believe, but living like people who know what they have been saved from should be obvious from every atom of our being. May our prayer be to live lives that comprehend the amazing and eternal love of God.

Categories: Bible, christian, Christianity, Church, Devotional, Faith, Jesus, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

God’s Lists – A Poem

God’s Lists      (e.g Exodus 20:15-17 & Galatians 5: 19-21)

God’s lists touch a nerve.
A raw nerve.
I want to run,
Avert my head,
Cover my heart.
The stare of His lists is uncomfortable,
I squirm,
His firm but mellow hand
Will not let me run or hide.
His lists
Like a searchlight
Reveals dark places,
Hidden corners,
Uncovers brokenness.

Detail from the font in Winchester Cathedral

In an almighty scream of love
He clothes me in His son.
The list evaporates.
The light finds nothing
… but perfection!
He sees me whole,
Complete, Holy.
All I can do is weep;
Weep tears of elated
Categories: christian, Christianity, Devotional, Faith, Poem, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Consequences – the Sapling on the Grave

In my devotions at present I am being reminded of sin; the original sin, my sin, even your sin and the consequences.

The photo (left) reminded me of consequences. I imagine that many, many years ago an enterprising person went around this cemetery planting cypress pines with the aim of beautifying the place. Little did he or she realise that in 120 years, the cute little sapling would dominate the grave.

Little did Adam and Eve realise … little do we realise the lie, the cheat, the disobedience, the selfishness, the arrogance, in fact, any of the sins we tend to call “little” or “white”, have an impact on ourselves, others and our relationship with God. We just let them shoot, grow and develop. Sometimes the consequences are not there for us to see immediately. Sometimes, like the cypress tree, it will only be evident in the distant future. That is when the full impact is revealed.

For the Christian, forgiveness is always at hand. We are usually not slow at appropriating it. I must add, I’m all for it. However, we often forget about confession, reconciliation and restoration. There are consequences to deal with. The hurt, the anger  and the disappointment, often weighing on people who are close to us, still needs healing. Bridges need to be built. We still need to ask, “Will you please forgive me.” Sometimes the answer might be,”No. I’m not ready yet.” That is a consequence we need to live with.

Yes, God forgives, and He looks at His children through Christ coloured glasses. He sees us as guiltless and innocent through his son but that mustn’t stop us from taking steps to stop the cypress trees from growing in places where they can do great damage.

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