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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Crime and Punishment (not about the book) (07/21/11)

TITLE: Forgiving
By James Robbins


The biblical prescription to forgive isn’t an easy pill to swallow. As a matter of fact, the bottle containing this bitter cure is capped with an adult-proof lid and can be really hard to get off! The truth is that Christ’s command to “forgive one another” simply becomes more difficult as we grow older. The human heart grows more hard and calloused with every hurt and bruise it experiences.

Adults tend to use their hearts as duffel bags rather than sieves the way that children do. In this case, the kids have it right! The heart was designed by our Maker to be flow valves (both physically and spiritually) rather than storage units. As with any valve or regulating device, once clogged, it will begin to build pressure, fracture, and eventually fail altogether if left unchecked.

Children, on the other hand, have an amazing capacity to process life’s wrongs by simply allowing them pass through the valve. A few moments spent watching a group of children play together will easily clarify this point. Scraps and tiffs are inevitable, but give them a couple of minutes and they will work it all out. Whatever might have sparked the battle is quickly forgotten as they pursue the next adventure awaiting them on the playground.

Misunderstandings and anger are instinctively purged and discarded so that they are no longer a threat to the health of the system. It is likely that this was the meaning behind Christ’s message to his disciples in Matthew 18:3 (ESV) when to he taught that “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

To protect the health and function of this delicate instrument, Jesus has provided us with some basic “warranty” instructions to ensure that it will operate at optimum capacity. These special instructions will not only ensure peak performance, they also serve to either validate or void the warranty. Nothing has been left to chance.

In Luke 6:37-38 (ESV), Jesus explains the condition of the heart’s warranty program, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

A manufacturer cannot be held liable for a product’s failure if the consumer refuses to follow clearly defined operating instructions or is unwilling to perform the necessary maintenance required to ensure the life of the product. We, as consumers, have a responsibility in the deal. The same is true concerning matters of the heart.

We must not allow bitterness and pride to shut off the precious flow of joy and peace into our lives. Harboring past hurts and bruised egos will only serve to wreak havoc on the valve which is our spiritual heart. A regular and careful examination of the motives of our hearts is the key to validating and maintaining our spiritual warranties.

Manufactures call this process preventative maintenance. It’s the regular and committed practice of following the instruction manual. For the Christian, it’s the process humbling ourselves before a merciful God and carefully following the instruction of his son.

This isn’t to say that we should foolishly allow our hearts to be trampled on, but it does mean that we have some work to do if we’re to grow in our relationships with Christ and others. The truth of the matter is that we will be sinned against and we will sin against others. It is in our best interest to generously sow the seeds of grace and to pray for an abundant harvest of the same.

Consider Jesus. His earthly existence was pervaded by pain and suffering yet chose forgiveness over vengeance. Isaiah 53:3 (NLT) describes our Lord this way, "He was despised and rejected - a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care."

Why would the Creator of Heaven and Earth subject himself to such a lowly way of life? Why would the author and finisher of our faith choose to endure such ridicule and humiliation? If he hadn't then the punishment he bore would have fallen on us. Thankfully Jesus embraced forgiveness over judgment. Had the punishment for our sin fit the crime, we wouldn’t be having this discussion!

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