St Andrew Lutheran Church
4420 Center Point Rd NE
Cedar Rapids, IA 52402
May 1, 2016
"Forgiving . . . and Forgiven"
"Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (Ephesians 4:31-32, 5:1)
After the four Gospels, most of the New Testament is filled with letters, sermons, advice, and instruction to the early Christian churches and individuals. Those who were preaching, teaching, and spreading Christ's message were fully dedicated to the calling which, for them, came directly from Jesus himself. But as groups of believers formed into congregations, there were differing interpretations of the message, of how worship should take place, of how they should live as a community, and on and on. How to actually live, worship, learn and work together as followers of Christ didn't come with an instruction manual. It could be challenging to work through the differing opinions. Regardless of how enthusiastic these new believers might have been, and however eager they were to follow Jesus' teachings, they were, after all, only human. Putting lessons and principles into action in everyday life was a big step beyond the thrill of accepting Jesus as the Messiah.
The Apostle Paul and other early evangelists were in frequent contact with these Christians, visiting them personally and writing the letters that now speak to us, reminding them of the kind of behavior they should model and the amazing gift of Christ's sacrifice on their behalf.
I recently read a short message attributed to Pope Francis that turned out to be the inspiration for this devotion. In the article, we are reminded that there is no such thing as a perfect family. Pope Francis points out that we didn't have perfect parents, we ourselves are not perfect, we didn't marry the perfect person, and we do not have perfect children. Within the family structure, there will be complaints, disappointments, and conflict, so for a marriage and/or family to have mental, physical, and spiritual health, there must be forgiveness. Through forgiveness, a family is able to create an environment of healing, life, and joy.
Paul's wise words reminding us to be kind and forgiving in all circumstances, and Pope Francis' insight into the foundation of the most fundamental of human relationships fit together perfectly. How blessed we are, as part of a church family and our earthly families, to have these simple but powerful words to guide us as we live and work together as God's people.
Your friend in Christ,