Friday, April 3, 2015

Give a Penny, Take a Penny.

Have you ever made a sacrifice for someone who really hurt you?

That's the question I'm asking myself this Good Friday morning.  And I'm having a hard time thinking of one.  It's a shame.

That's a level of forgiveness that I'm afraid I do not know.

There are people from my past that I've forgiven, and I have genuine compassion for them in my heart.  Given the chance, I'd like to act on that compassion, to let those people know that they are loved and forgiven and released, that it's all good because Jesus made it so.  I earnestly pray for glorious things for them and for God to gift us with reconciliation.  

But there are a couple of people that I cannot seem to forgive.  If I saw them today, I don't know that I could even sacrifice a courteous word out of my mouth in their direction.  

Sometimes, I'll find a little shred of compassion for them lying around.  I'll pick it up and hold it in my pocket for a while, but my pockets are shallow.  My compassion for them eventually slips its way out like a forgotten penny, and lays lost and sticky on a dirty sidewalk.

Give a penny, take a penny, right?  Give forgiveness and take it back.

That's not what God meant for us at all.

Jesus had so many opportunities to take our forgiveness back.  33 years worth of opportunities, really, but He never did.  Never once.  He kept trudging toward that hill, every faithful step forward, stooping to pick up our discarded pennies along the way and redeeming every single one of them.

Along the way, they met a man from Cyrene, Simon (the father of Rufus 
and Alexander), who was coming in from the fields; and they ordered him 
to carry the heavy crossbar of the cross.  And so they came at last to the execution site, a hill called Golgotha, which means the "Place of a Skull."  
-Mark 15:21-22

But at the very end, He needed help.  Not eternal Jesus, the only son of God- no, He is never weak, but the fully human package that He offered Himself in? Broken and faltering.  It was Simon of Cyrene who carried the cross this last part of the journey.

It feels blasphemous to type those words, but they are true.

Matthew 16:24 tells me to take up my cross and follow Jesus.  How do I carry that heavy crossbeam on my shoulders every day when I can't even carry a penny's worth of forgiveness in my pocket?  My human self is very, very weak.

I need a cross-bearer to carry what I cannot.  

I need a savior who knows my human frailty first hand and still stands up for me.  

And I need to admit that I am wrong.  I need to quit taking back my forgiveness and entrust it to Jesus instead.

The selfish part of me would just rather lay pinned on the ground under my cross than let Jesus carry it for me.  As long as I have my hands on it, then I believe I can exact justice the way I see fit.

However, if I leave my justice to Jesus, my enemies could have the same fate as me- redemption.  Sometimes that's a hard pill to swallow.

So my original question misses the mark.  Have I ever made a sacrifice for someone who really hurt me?  Of course not.  Because, truthfully, I am not capable.  None of us are really.  Only Jesus redeems.

God, though, knows how stubborn we are.  In His mercy and grace, He draws the way to Himself over and over. Through creation.  Through His word.  Through His Holy Spirit.  Through the person of His son.  And through the story of His people.

So, this is the God-picture that Simon of Cyrene paints for me, that God will lead me to a time when I can't make it on my own anymore.  Then I'll have to make a choice. 

I can lay crushed under my own unforgiveness.

I can leave it to litter the way for everyone else around me.

Or I can give it to someone stronger to carry.  Jesus show me how.

For Jesus is not some high priest who has no sympathy for our 
weaknesses and flaws. He has already been tested in every way that 
we are tested; but He emerged victorious, without failing God.   
-Hebrews 4:15