Chapter Five: An Act of Contrition (continued)

“Who are all good and deserving of all my love.”

I know there are some who would argue that God is not all good.  After all, look at the mess that he has allowed to spring-up around us.  The world is so full of injustices that they’re impossible to count and God just sits back and does nothing; so goes the argument.  This is one of those false arguments with just enough truth in it to sound plausible and believable.  Without going into agonizing detail, let me begin by saying that for me to argue on behalf of God is absurd on its face, but for me to presume to defend his goodness, is patently ridiculous.  I can’t even fathom the extent of God’s goodness; all I can do is point to his greatest act of love and goodness.  God’s only Son Jesus was sent to earth to become a man, yet still retaining his divinity.  In other words, Jesus was both man and God.

His mission on earth was singular, to become a sacrifice for the sin of all mankind; past, present and future.  The Father instructed his only Son to set aside his divinity for a time so he might physically and spiritually die a hideous and ignominious on a cross in the hot sun in the Middle East.  Why? To save us from a death sentence by being found not guilty of a host of offenses we are surely guilty of.  Jesus was found guilty and sentenced to death for our sin, not His.  There are other ways of describing the perfect goodness and love of God, but none which hold a candle to the sacrifice of his only Son, Jesus.  Yes, God is deserving of all my love.

But what about your dear friend, your wife, and yes, even your enemy; are they deserving of all your love because their goodness?  Using our relationship with God as a guide, did God demand goodness from us as compensation for his love?  Well if that were so, all of mankind would be doomed and any possible relationship with him impossible; for we are incapable of demonstrating perfect love toward God or anyone else.  No, Gods love comes with no strings attached and no unreasonable expectations.  It wasn’t free, but it’s free for us.  In fact, it was the most expensive gift in all of human history and beyond.  All God would have us to do is to try to love each other in the same way, free of condemnation or expectation.  This is not only an act of contrition but our way of telling God, thank you.

“I firmly resolve with the help of thy grace”

When I hear the phrase, “I firmly resolve,” it reminds of a politician making a campaign promise, and we know how that usually turns out.  But our candidate has the greatest of intensions; he truly believes he’ll be able to follow through on his commitment.  His pledge was honest without any desire to deceive or mislead.  But alas, once he gets into office, based on the popularity of his “firm resolve” to change things for the better, he finds out why the man he succeeded failed in his efforts.  Things were far more difficult than he had imagined.  Someone gave me some advice many years ago, “Never say always and never say, never.”

In real life, firm resolve and commitment are difficult because there will always be somebody working against you and if you can’t see him, it doesn’t mean he’s not there. This is especially true, the more radical your commitment is, when compared to mainstream beliefs and traditions.  Often when we make a firm commitment to do something that impacts others and immediately run into roadblocks and sink-holes, it’s the result of either unrealistic expectations or being unprepared.  Let me apply this to a commitment to right a relationship that has veered off the tracks.

“This thing between Karen and I has been going on for too long.  It’s time I took the bull by the horns and do something about it.  We’ve been friends too long to allow such an insignificant incident to destroy our friendship; I really miss those afternoons when we would just hang out and talk at the gym.  There no reason why she can’t bring the baby.  I don’t know why she feels uncomfortable about it; I think it’s just an excuse.  Besides, they have baby-sitters at the gym and the cost is minimal.  I’m calling her right now and won’t take no for an answer!”

So what might be the problem here, after all she’s ready to take the first step, all Karen needs to do is say, yes?  Let’s listen in on the phone call…

“Hi Karen, Judy here; how about meeting me at the club tomorrow afternoon to talk things out?  I’m sure I can break loose by 1:30 or 2:00; my hair and nail appointment is at 11:00 and the gym is right down the block.  How about it?   

How long has it been Judy, nine months, maybe a year?  And you call me out of the blue and expect me to drop everything so we can meet at the club like a couple of teenagers on spring break!  Nothing has changed; or at least you haven’t…goodbye…click.”

Now I have no doubt that Judy is sincere in her resolve, but it’s clear she didn’t think things through.  Her expectations are unrealistic, perhaps thinking that absence has made Karen’s heart grow fonder.  Did Judy take time to consider why their relationship ran off track and what she might have done to cause it?  Did she really believe that by the power of her will alone, that true reconciliation could occur?  Did she ever show Karen even an ounce of contrition and even if she did, did her behavior afterward demonstrate a deep sorrow and regret over their break-up?  Don’t you get the feeling that the motivation for Judy’s phone call was all about Judy and not Karen?  I would contend that Judy may be firm in her resolve to get things back on track; calling Karen every day for a week, or even a month, but will still be no closer to resolving their differences, than when she started.  Taking a view of things from Karen’s perspective alone would be a good starting point for Judy, followed by some careful planning and preparation.  Not just the words she needs to say, but more importantly, Judy needs to prepare her heart. Both Judy and Karen need to “refresh their heart’s” to bring about true reconciliation, something that both of them can ask the Spirit of God to help them with.

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