I read an article a few years ago about the top 10 things that people love to hear. One of the things that people love to hear is their own name, if you can remember someone’s name after first meeting them, they will think you’re a genius and/or the nicest person in the history of the world. Ok, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration but it’s hovering around the truth. As an experiment, the next time you talk to someone you just recently met, make a sincere effort to remember their name and watch as their face lights up when you say it. It’s a thing.
The top 3 things that people love to hear are, I love you, I forgive you, and dinners ready (or supper if you live in the south). It reminds me of John 21: 1-19. This portion of scripture takes place after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, some of the disciples have seen Jesus but I would imagine they were all still in shock, especially Peter. Poor Peter, he had just had the most devastating week of his life, Jesus predicted that Peter would deny him three times, which he did, the third time to a young girl. And then Jesus is crucified and buried in a tomb, the emotions that were swirling around inside of him must have been crippling. So, he gets up and decides he’s going to go back to what he knows which is fishing. He might have thought that he could just disappear into the world of fishing and try to forget all that had taken place, especially his own failings. But then Jesus appears, cooking some fish on the shore. They don’t recognize him at first, no doubt lost in their thoughts of recent events. But then Jesus asks them if they caught any fish, “no” they answered so Jesus told them to cast their nets on the other side, something he had said to them before, in fact the day Peter first met Jesus. Then John says “it’s the Lord!”, Peter jumps into the water and gets to Jesus as fast as he can. Now what is Peter feeling? Elation? Fear? Shame? Probably a mixture of the three. So he gets to the shore and Jesus tells him, dinners ready, he has cooked for them. Jesus has served Peter and the other disciples in a very simple but intimate manner. Cooking and eating a meal together is something families do, they come together, they eat, they talk, they reconnect. That’s what Jesus was doing, reconnecting with Peter, reminding Peter that he still loved him and that Peter still had a job to do, feed my lambs. In Mark 16:7, the angel tells Mary Magdalene and the others to tell the disciples “and Peter” that Jesus is risen. God wanted to make sure that Peter knew he was still loved, he was still wanted, that he was forgiven.
God is so loving toward us. In Romans 5:8 it says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Just like Peter, God still loves us in spite of our failings. Even after our most devastating betrayal and rebellion, God shares with us a message of love, forgiveness and intimacy. He calls us by name, he hasn’t forgotten us. (Isaiah 49:15,16). He offers us his forgiveness (Colossians 1:14), the free gift of eternal life. And shows us that he loves us (John 3:16).
No matter what you’ve done or where you are in your life today, God is still saying those things to you. He knows you, he loves you, he forgives you and he invites you to be a part of the family of God. You are just one prayer away from that kind of intimacy with your heavenly Father. It’s as simple as praying this, God forgive my sins, thank you for sending Jesus to die on the cross in my place, and that he rose again. I receive your forgiveness. Thank you that I am a child of God. Amen.
(Me and my dad)
The phrase “get over it” always feels so harsh and uncaring. But sometimes it’s the only thing that can be said. Too often we hang on to bad memories, old hurts and unforgiveness like a life preserver in a toxic ocean. Living like this was never Gods intention, we were not built to carry the load of unforgiveness, bitterness or regret, we were built to love and to trust. But circumstances, experiences, disappointments and relationships come along and challenge us, weigh us down and before we know it we are bound and entangled in the bonds of negativity, bitterness and anger. We need a get-over, a do-over, we need a Passover, not in an unleavened bread for dinner kind of way but in a heart-searching, God please bring me out of the bondages that are in my life kind of way.
There are things that have happened to us that cause us great pain, but there does come a point where the only thing left to do is to get over it. I know this might come across as harsh or uncaring but actually the opposite is true because getting over our offenses, our disappointments, our hurts brings us to a life of freedom and a peace we forgot existed. Too many times we carry our offenses and hurts around like a prized possession that we pull out to share with anyone that engages us in conversation for more than 5 minutes. In fact just recently I heard Gods voice gently telling me that I needed to forgive someone and my response was, “No I don’t, I’ve already forgiven them.” “No you haven’t”, he said. And then he began to show me how many times in conversation the thing that person had done came up, how many times I replayed in my thought life the offending actions by that person.”You’re right lord” (duh). So I forgave and I repented.
I refer to Passover regarding this experience because it reminds me of the story of Moses and Pharoah.
In the books of Genesis and Exodus, God calls Moses to go to Egypt where the children of Israel had been slaves for 400 years and demand that Pharoah let them go. As we all know Pharoah refuses. So Moses then informs Pharoah that God is going to unleash some plagues until he sets the children of Israel free. Every time Moses goes to Pharoah and offers to stop the plague if he will just agree to the demand for freedom Pharoah tells Moses to “come back tomorrow”. Pharoah wasn’t the only one affected by the plagues, all the Egyptians were suffering right alongside him, every decision he made affected his people. But each time Moses comes and asks for freedom for his people and offers relief from the plagues Pharoah refuses and hardens his heart. Finally, the worst of the plagues is released in response to pharoahs stubbornness, the spirit of death will visit the first born of every family. The children of Israel were exempt from this as long as they obeyed what God told them which was to sacrifice a lamb, take the blood from the sacrifice and paint it on top of and the sides of the door posts of their homes, cook the lamb and eat it while wearing their traveling clothes. After this last plague Pharoah is beaten, momentarily, he allows the Israelites to leave, there is a final stand off at the Red Sea where God wins and Pharoah and his army are destroyed.
Here are a few points in that story that reminded me of my experience with unforgiveness;
1. We hang on to what happened to us even though it is hurting us and has the potential to ruin our lives, which is exactly what Pharoah did. Moses offered to pray that God would stop the plagues but every time Pharoah would say, “come back tomorrow”. Wait, what?!? Pharoah, you have frogs in your lap, frogs in your cereal and frogs in your bed and you want to put up with that one more day?!?
The spirit of God reminds us to forgive and to let go and just like Pharoah we tell him to come back tomorrow, we choose to stay in our misery instead of freeing ourselves today. The bible reminds us in 2 Corinthians 6:2 that “now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Don’t sleep with frogs one more day! Today is the day to forgive and be forgiven, why carry that load of negative emotions any longer. What has been done cannot be undone and the unforgiveness you harbor affects you more than anyone, let it pass over.
2.It affects those around us. Pharaohs decision to not let the children of Israel go didn’t just affect him but his people as well. The plagues that Pharoah was experiencing all of his people were experiencing. They were also having to live with frogs, boils, lice etc. just like he was. When we stay in unforgiveness it affects our relationships with others. We become more guarded, cynical and are unable to trust. Not only that but some times we even chase people away by constantly bringing up the past hurts. There comes a point when your friends don’t want to hear the story of how you’ve been done wrong one more time. They’ve tried to help you, encourage you and comfort you but you simply won’t let it go, you will not stop talking about it. And so they stop calling, stop coming around and stop inviting you places and your response to these things happening is just like Pharoahs reaction to each plague, you allow it to let your heart grow harder.
God has been trying to get your attention, he has tried to speak into your life through many ways including sermons, friends, songs and the gentle nudging of his spirit, He wants to bring freedom into your life if you will just respond.
3. We need to recognize that our unforgiveness releases a spirit of destruction not because God wants it but our unforgiveness attracts it.
The way to respond is through Passover, with the emphasis on “over”. Maybe it is words that were spoken that did damage, someone that left you or a business that failed. What is your “it”? Whatever “it” is, let’s get over it through Passover.
The good news is that we don’t need to provide a sacrifice because one has already been provided, Jesus is our sacrifice. He hung on the cross for our sins, not only that but he also came to heal the broken-hearted. When we accept the blood that he shed for us we can forgive and be forgiven, God has forgiven us for so much we have no right to hold anything against someone else. When we forgive it doesn’t mean that what the other person did to you was acceptable or even ok, what it means is freedom from the destruction that unforgiveness brings. That is how we apply the blood to the entrance of our life, we repent and we forgive and then the spirit of destruction no longer has access, it will now pass over us. And with our traveling clothes on we leave this place of unforgiveness never to return.