Unpacking Forgiveness: Unpack with Great Urgency

 Mike and the Mechanics - "The Living Years"

What would you do if you knew tomorrow was your last day on earth?

It's ironic that tomorrow is December 21- the last day of earth's existence, according to the people interpreting the Mayan calendar. It doesn't worry me at all as I am not buying into that, but what if it were true and you knew that tomorrow was actually the last day ever? What would you do?

Or, what if you had a terminal illness or someone you knew had one. As the end drew near what would be your priority?

I remember back in the 80s when as a teenager I would go to summer camp or a revival. The altars would be lined with people my age who were scared to death of Christ returning before we had a chance to make it right with someone whom we had offended or vice versa.

As an adult, I must admit that I have lost that urgency.

Why? Because reconciliation takes time. And, it is not easy.

However, in his book Unpacking Forgiveness: Biblical Answers for Complex Questions and Deep Wounds,  author Chris Brauns reminds us that unpacking forgiveness is an urgent matter.

Consider this scripture:

Matthew 18:5-10

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
5 Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes!“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into the hell of fire.10 “Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven.

Jesus is pretty emphatic that making someone stumble is sinful.  Quite frankly, his words scare me. 

"If we don't work through conflicts immediately, there is a possibility we may cause others to stumble, and that is a responsibility we do not want to shoulder; better to gouge out our eyes, cut off our hands, or tie an anchor to our ankles and pitch it over the side of the boat than do that," Brauns writes. 

Jesus, the master of metaphor, used graphic examples to illustrate the passion we should have for following God's word. However, rather than actually cutting off our limbs, scooping out our eyes, and so on, I believe that he wants us to exuberantly follow his directions as if we would rather gouge out one of our eyes than cause someone to stumble. 

Conflict between people is never just between those who are directly involved. Conflict can cause other people to stumble.

Can you think of a time when a disagreement between you and someone else negatively affected the people around you? What did you do about it? If you haven't done anything, what will you do?

Brauns concludes: "In Matthew 18: 4 - 14 Jesus taught that we must work out differences with the greatest sense of urgency. Christians should take drastic measures to avoid causing another brother or sister to walk away from the faith. We should love one another with the same level of risk-taking urgency that we would demonstrate in the face of some great crisis. There will probably be a time when you are called to resolve a situation even though you don't feel you can handle it perfectly. Do it. Be urgent. Those who are willing to continue conflicts even at the expense of a negative impact on others should fear for their souls." 

This is definitely something to seriously consider. Next week, we will discuss chapter 8, "Should I Just Get Over It?"