A PRESCRIPTION FOR JOY
I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
About an hour into the flight a man put away his book and started chatting with his neighbor.
So what is it that you do? His neighbor (passenger seated next to him) just happened to be a Lutheran pastor.
I forgive sins he answered.
Now how does that work? the man replied.
Only God can forgive sins. Fact is that for those unfamiliar with Lutheran doctrine and worship, many are puzzled by the same point. They reason,
No one - not even a pastor has the power to forgive sins. But not just pastors: have you forgiven everyone?
A couple married for 15 years began having more than usual differences. Wanting to make their marriage work they agreed on an idea the wife had. For one month critical comments would be written down on paper (rather than being spoken) then placed in a
Fault boxes. The boxes would provide space to express their daily irritations. The wife was diligent in her efforts to keep track: 'You left the jelly jar top off the jar' 'You didn't pick up your wet towel' 'Dirty socks are to go in hamper' On and on she kept record until the end of the month. That night after dinner they exchanged boxes. One by one the husband read her notes and reflected on what he had done wrong. Meanwhile the wife opened her box and was surprised to find it stuffed with slips of paper! One by one she read, each slip had the same message:
I love you.
Forgiveness and joy are forever linked. Jesus said,
Forgive your brother from your heart. Matthew 18.35 All who've been to Calvary to receive forgiveness leave Calvary to give forgiveness. You may have heard of the
Vertical-Horizontal dimensions of the cross. The meaning is clear. God so loved the world He gave His Son in love and forgiveness (vertical - top to bottom). In return (bottom to top) we love and worship God as we love and forgive one another (horizontal - side to side, extending out from center of cross). To refuse to forgive, whether it be another person or yourself, to refuse to forgive is sin. It is also one of the chief 'joy-robbers' in life. Karl Menninger, famed psychiatrist, once said that if he could convince the patients in psychiatric hospitals that their sins were forgiven, 75 percent of them could walk out the next day.1 The refusal to forgive is a wall that robs our joy. Ultimately it becomes a wall between man and God.
In the very last chapter of Genesis Joseph teaches us a lesson about forgiveness.
Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? Our refusal to forgive our brother, sister, son or daughter, neighbor or whoever -- is to place ourselves as their judge. Being the judge is simply not ours to be. On the cross Jesus prayed,
Father forgive them for they know not what they do. So the next time you bring a visitor along to church be prepared to answer the question. Tell them you agree; pastors don't have power to forgive sins (not of themselves anyway). This power comes not from within the pastor, rather it's all about God.
People deprive themselves of joy by not seeking God's forgiveness. When Jesus says,
Come to me He invites us to worship - He invites us to forgiveness - He invites us to joy. Then when joy is restored,
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. 1 Peter 3.15 Christ is the certainty of a God-given joy and hope - Joy and Hope, truly these go hand in hand!
1 Bible.org 2009, Psychiatric Patients
~ Pastor Kelly Mitteis
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