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As we forgive those who trespass against us

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Matthew 18:21-22
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"

Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Just what kind of sins, Jesus? If my brother steals my paper clips? Or doesn’t give me green vegetables with the meat and potatoes? Maybe takes my wallet when he finds it on the street and spends the money instead of returning it to me?

What about when he kills my dad?

MARYVILLE, Ill. (AP) — Five days after her husband was gunned down mid-sermon, Cindy Winters didn't harbor any rage or revenge when she urged the late preacher's former flock to heed the words of two of the congregation's youngest members.

The couple's two daughters never spoke, but the words conveyed by their newly widowed mother spoke volumes to those who packed First Baptist Church in this St. Louis suburb for Friday's funeral for Fred Winters, the man known lovingly as "Pastor Fred."

"I want to be just like my daddy," Cindy Winters quoted her daughters in the same sanctuary where her husband was shot through the heart last Sunday by an assailant, his motive still unclear. "I want everyone to come to know Jesus through this. I hope the man who did this learns to love Jesus.

"It was not 'death day' for my daddy," the girls told their mother, a reference to the phrase the alleged gunman wrote in his day planner. "It was celebration day, the best day of his life" because he reached heaven, she said.

The daughters' message drew a standing ovation …*

I remembered this newspaper story when I read my son Chris’ blog** this morning, as he reflected on how much he loved his son:

I had a pretty cool experience this morning. This was Jack’s second week at church but his first full service (we had a tornado warning that cut short last week’s service). This time I held him the whole time and we sat next to the door in case he woke up or started to cry. It was kind of nice holding him. Fun to feel him sleeping on my arm throughout the service.

When the time came for communion I experienced an unexpectedly cool moment. As the bread and juice were passed I took them while I held Jack up against my chest with my other hand. As I thought about Christ and what he did, it hit me in a whole new way. You hear people talk about how tough it would be to lose a son or for God to sacrifice his own son but that is hard to relate to when you don’t have a kid of your own. But this morning as I ate the piece of bread and thought about God’s son having his body beaten, I could feel my own son’s skin. As I drank the juice and felt the tang of it run down my throat, I could feel my own son’s heart beating against my chest.

I know we live in a fallen world and with so much life ahead of him I know Jack will face some tough stuff. He’s been great so far but he may even have some physical problems some day. I shudder to think about it but I know that in our world there is a small chance something could happen and I could outlive him. I hate to think about that but I guess I can imagine it happening. But as I sat there taking communion today with my son in my arms I could not imagine watching him suffer and die and not stepping in if there was anything I could do to stop it. It gets used so much that it sometimes doesn’t sink in when I hear it but we talked about John 3:16 in Jr. High this morning and I don’t think it was ever more real than during communion today. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Wow!

Chris is a middle school youth minister. He’s led small groups of kids since he was in high school. He loves them. And now he loves them even more.

The thing is, God loves every one of his kids just as much, even the ones who really screw up. So he wants us to love each other too. Of course we have to forgive each other. Every one of us is worthy … not worth millions, but worth a lot to God. And it doesn’t matter what we do.

Remember, O Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you are good, O Lord.


** (March 15, 2009) AND

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