I have never made any secret of the fact that I am a Christian. So, for the past several years, when attending Church has been impossible due to pain, mobility issues or my severely compromised immune system from chemotherapy treatment, I have turned on my television and watched, “The Christian Worship Hour” every Sunday morning at 8 a.m on Channel 23.
Each week Pastor Harold Salem delivers a great bible-based sermon. This robust ninety-three-year old minister, former sheep rancher and bull rider from Aberdeen, South Dakota, is one of the best gospel preachers I have ever heard.
Pastor Salem is always preaching that we should open our Bibles and read them. So, about a month ago, I decided to read the entire Bible…cover to cover. The New Testament was a quick read and a source of great inspiration and comfort. Today, I will finish reading the Biblical book of Deuteronomy.
After reading the first five books in the Old Testament, I am amazed at the precise details provided and was reminded how very real, powerful and just God is. Biblical writers make it very clear that the Lord wants us to both love and fear him, follow his commandments and warn to never test the Lord, as the children of Israel did over and over again during their 40 years in the desert.
It has been very good for me to read the Bible. Some of the old testament still freaks me out. Especially, when reading the first five books of law, sacrifice and justice. It seems so unforgiving and harsh. It really is not when put into context. God provided laws so that people could live in peace with their neighbors, have safety within the borders of their country, practice good hygiene, prevent the spread of disease and remain faithful to a God whose love overcomes his anger at human failure. Time and time again scripture describes God’s enduring patience and forgiveness.
For the repentant sinner, God’s forgiveness is complete.
“No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
As former Sunday School teacher, youth mentor and confirmation teacher and continual sinner myself, I think teaching and practicing forgiveness as demonstrated by God, “to remember their sins no more,” or taught by Christ, to “Forgive our sins as we forgive those who sin against us,” it a tough lesson to teach others. And, almost impossible to practice in my personal life.
Forgiving people is hardest, when they have hurt you the most. But, that, I have learned is when it is the most important to forgive and let go. The letting go can be the biggest roadblock to forgiveness. It is so easy to keep a list of old grievances stored up as ready ammunition to hurl at the, “forgiven” at an opportune time with the hope of inflicting reciprocal pain or forcing remorse. True forgiveness requires forgetfulness.
Forgiving and forgetting lets the forgiver heal, find peace and joy, and avoid being filled-up with resentment, hate and bitterness. Practicing forgiveness is the cure for many ills—personal and societal.
Now, I am not saying that to be a good Christian I have to be a constantly victimized doormat. Not at all. While Christ does instruct us to forgive 7 X 70 times, he also says there comes a time when you dust off your feet and move on. The Bible does not condone abuse.
A couple of weeks ago Pastor Salem told the best story about how forgiveness is supposed to work. He said that he had once heard of a little boy who had a very beloved cat. The boy and his cat were inseparable, then one day the boy’s pet cat died. His mother knowing how much the cat meant to her son, helped him bury the cat in the backyard with appropriate honors.
As they were covering up the cat with dirt, the little boy grabbed his mother’s hand and frantically pleaded with her if they could please just let the cat’s tail stick out. That way if his cat wasn’t really dead, he would see the tail move and could get him out of the grave. Well, the mother thought this would be all right. So the cat was buried with the tail sticking out.
Everyday the little boy would check on his cat’s tail to see if it was going to move. After several days, he just had to check on the whole cat…so he dug his pet up. After inspecting the dead cat, and seeing that it did not look very good, he and his mom, again, buried the cat. Still he wanted that tail to stick out.
A week went by and the little boy again felt compelled to dig up his cat to see if it was really dead. By now the cat was really looking bad. After inspecting the dead cat, the little boy turned to his mother and said, “I guess, I need to bury the cat, tail and all.”
True forgiveness means burying the cat…tail and all.
I hope that after this election for president is over we all remember that we, as a nation, are a family. That we forgive each other for any hurt feelings caused by differing opinions expressed with sincere passion during this political cycle and come together to help make our nation and world a better place for our children and grandchildren. We need bury this cat….tail and all.