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Share Forgiveness

purple flowers on brown wooden fence
 
“Bear with each other and if one has a complaint against another, forgive each other as the Lord has forgiven you.” Colossians 3:13
 
In an earlier post, I described freshmen students moving into the dorms at Concordia University. Parents leave them with several words of advice. One of the most important concerns roommates. What a change for a freshman student to go from living at home, often with a room of her own, to living in the dorm with one, two, or three roommates.  Many a mother has left her daughter with plenty of advice on how to get along and be at peace with the roommates.

Paul gives us the same advice here. Early in his list of life directions, Paul focuses on forgiveness. He knows that life together brings friction. The wrong word is said, a selfish choice is made, and what was intended as a joke becomes a lasting sore. It can happen in a dorm room, a family, a workplace, or a congregation meeting.

There’s only one lasting solution. Share the forgiveness that has already come through Christ. God has already forgiven each of us far more than any list of wrongs and hurts we might have against each other. The cost of that forgiveness was that he took the truly worst place imaginable—the cross with the weight of the sins of the world upon him. That forgiveness has been the connection that has held us together in families, schools, and congregations. Without forgiveness, we would simply accumulate and carefully record one wrong after another against each other. But forgiveness, like love, keeps no record of wrongs.

So, the wise parent tells her freshman daughter to do her best to get along and to forgive the slights and wrongs that come with life together. Mom might remind her daughter of how she learned to live with and forgive her little sister and to use those same skills with the roommates. It’s all good advice that would work for all of us. Forgive one another even as God has already forgiven each of us in Christ.
 
Prayer: Our Heavenly Father, remind us that the most essential step in life together is to forgive one another and that we are already forgiven by the rich grace of Jesus. Amen.

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What A List!

teal and white polka-dot wallet on table
 
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience.” Colossians 3:12
 
One of the most enjoyable traditions at Concordia University Wisconsin is the faculty helping to move freshman students into their dorm rooms in the fall. What an exciting day!  Moms and Dads, little brothers and sisters are all eager to empty the van and fill the room. There is often way more stuff in the van than there is room in the dorm.  (I remember especially the small sofa, brand new and wrapped in plastic, that I helped carry up to a second story room. No, it didn’t fit.)

After the van is empty and the clothes hung up, it is time for Mom and Dad to drive away. But first there have to be some final words from Mom and Dad. Often Dad is pretty short: “Be good. Study hard.”  Mom can go on a bit longer with reminders on everything from doing laundry, being on time, and eating well. It’s all been said before, but it also needs to be said again.

Paul gives us a similar list in our text for this week. In Colossians 3, Paul is giving us great advice for life. Picture saying these words as his parting advice, pausing as he lets each sentence sink in. He starts with this sentence on kindness.  It’s a combination of remembering who we are and therefore how to live. You are God’s beloved child—remember whose son or daughter you are! And then act like it. The good news is that as God has been merciful to us, so we are reminded to be merciful and kind to one another. And, though you are a person chosen by God, don’t let it go to your head. Instead, let that good news go to your heart and be humble and kind, patient with others.

We have heard all this before, but as we move into a new week, it’s good to hear it again. Unlike that sofa that didn’t fit, these words will fit in every week and every life.
 
Prayer: Our Heavenly Father, thank you for accepting us as your own. Move into our lives this week a new, fresh measure of kindness and patience, as you’ve been patient with us. Amen.

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Love That Gives Life

heart shape book page close-up photography
 
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?   Matthew 5:43-47

OK…receiving the love of God is wonderful.  Loving those who are my brothers and sisters in the faith isn’t too hard.  But loving my enemy!  Seriously!  Why?  What have those people done to deserve my love?  

The answer is simple:  nothing!  These people have done nothing to deserve our love.  Jesus knows this.  But Jesus also knows that we did nothing to merit His love.  Paul reminds us that, God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

The amazing grace of our Lord has brought us the forgiveness of sins, new life today and life eternal to come in heaven.  All this is simply because He loves us.  His love claimed us and cleaned us.

Our love for others, especially our enemies, may claim those who live without faith in Jesus.  Our love for others just may turn their heads…and their hearts  Our love for those who don’t love us may cause them to see to the love of Christ.

We have the freedom to love—even our enemies.  This is the power of the love of Jesus that He shares with us.  It is a love that heals and restores.  It is a love that gives life.  We have it—let’s share it!

Prayer: Loving Jesus, thank You for saving me while I was still a sinner.  I pray that Your love for me would be the motivation I need to love others—especially those who oppose me.  Free me from the chains of hatred. Keep me from the prison of grudges.  Free me that I may freely love.  I pray in Your powerful name.  Amen.  

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Love Brings Hope

purple and orange tulips on white surface
 
33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.   John 13:33-35

If you knew you only had one last chance to speak to the people closest to you before you left this world, what would you say?  As I reflect on this question I think I would want to express how much I love those people I cherish.

Here, in the thirteenth chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus is sharing a last meal with His closest companions.  He also shares with them some of His last words.  “Love one another,” He says to them.  He even issues this as a command.

They are to love one another because He has loved them.  They are to love one another to be a witness to the world of the difference God’s love makes in the life of any human being.

Do we show the Lord’s love to those within our homes?  Do we tell our spouse, our parents, our siblings that we love them?  If not, we should—we must!

But Jesus, by His life, death and resurrection reminds us that “love” is not just a word.  “Love” is an action.  Love is lived out in our relationships as we forgive one another, just as Jesus forgives us.  Love is acted out in a helping hand, a listening ear and a shoulder for a friend to cry on.  

Yes, love can be hard work!  Just ask Jesus!  But, the results of loving others are amazing.  Love gives meaning and purpose to life.  Love heals broken relationships.  Love brings hope.  

Prayer: Blessed Lord of love, because of Your love for us we love one another.  Forgive me for those times I have been less than loving. Give to me a spirit of joy that I may reach out with Your love to make the life of others filled with peace.  I pray this in Your name, O Jesus. Amen. 

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His Love Never Fails

Love scrabble tiles on book page
 
11 For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me. Isaiah 8:11
 
I remember as a young child, when our family moved to a new neighborhood and I was to attend a new school. I was a bit more shy in my younger years. As my parents walked me into this new school they put a hand on my shoulder. This was not out of fear that I would bolt and run. They promised me—gave me their word—that I was going to be just fine in this new environment. The hand on my shoulder was one of comfort and security. This hand of the one who loved me and gave me life was a sign that all was good and right.

The heavenly Father does the same with His children. We live in an imperfect world, which often causes us fear and worry. We walk into each new day not knowing what we will face. The Lord does two important thing. He gives us His Word that all will be fine. He puts His hand on our shoulder to give us the assurance that His strength is on our side, protecting and directing us.

This is why it is important for us to begin each day in His Word. It is important that we hear the reassuring voice of the Savior and feel His strong hand on our shoulder.

I face challenges each day. So do you. We need to remember that it is not about the size of our problems, but it is about the size of our God. His love never fails!

 
Prayer: Father in heaven, thank You for the guidance You give to me each day. There are those times that I would like to go in a different direction, but I trust in Your way and in Your will. Strengthen my trust in You and my joy in living under the touch of Your hand. Amen.

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