September 2 Message From Rev. Bill “FORGIVENESS”

Earlier this week I was reading my morning devotions, and the concept of FORGIVENESS came up.

Ironically, I had also been listening to a news article about student loan forgiveness. I began to wonder – how do these two connect?

Does forgiveness depend upon a change of heart in the person being forgiven? God offers us His forgiveness, but what if I don’t accept it? What if I continue to bear bitterness and anger in my heart towards others – does that prevent me from being forgiven?

According to what Jesus said in the Lord’s Prayer, we are forgiven in the same way that we forgive others. Ouch! It’s scary to think that about that!

In student loan forgiveness, I often hear people say, “I shouldn’t have to pay for their poor choices.” I remember the farm crisis of the 1980’s, when farmers who had been convinced by the government and other lenders to take out loans for new equipment and land improvements and couldn’t pay off their loans because of many unfortunate circumstances. I also remember multiple government bailouts during the Enron era, the car manufacturers, and recently with PPP loans.

Wherever you fall in this debate, I come back to the idea of forgiveness and what God says. Is it right to expect for God to forgive me, when I am unforgiving towards others?

This was the devotion:

ALL HAVE SINNED AND COME SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD –

THE HATRED…which divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class; FATHER, FORGIVE.

THE GREED…which exploits the labors of men and lays waste to earth; FATHER, FORGIVE.

OUR ENVY…of the welfare and happiness of others; FATHER, FORGIVE.

OUR INDIFFERENCE…to the plight of the homeless and the refugee; FATHER, FORGIVE.

THE LUST…which uses for ignoble ends, the bodies of men and women; FATHER, FORGIVE.

THE PRIDE…which leads us to trust in ourselves and not in God; FATHER, FORGIVE.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Paul, to the church in Ephesus)

It bothers me to think that God would forgive me if I don’t change. Hatred, racism, greed – if I continue in those ways, aren’t I making a mockery of God? Envy, indifference, lust, pride – God, break my heart and make me new!

I think that’s what bothers me about the loan forgiveness debate – I’m not hearing much humility or compassion. I personally support the idea of reducing student debt, so that these people can start spending money on the economy and not just giving it to the financial institutions. (An argument could be made that the banks are the ones who made the poor choices – by giving loans to people with no jobs and no possibility for repaying! But that’s another sermon for another day…)

So let me add to the prayer –

FOR MY RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION…which leads me to blame others before I place myself in their shoes; FATHER, FORGIVE.

FOR OUR WILLINGNESS TO DEMONIZE OTHERS…when they, also, are made in Your image; FATHER, FORGIVE..

FOR THE DIVISIVENESS…which causes us to only care about how WE and OUR GROUP are being treated; FATHER FORGIVE…

…and lead us to true repentance, that invites You to re-mold, transform, and renew us into Your image, as hard as that may be –

-Rev. Bill

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