It seems that one of Jesus' stories has colonized my mind (see my entry Sept 15) and shows me new sides of the message. We all know, I assume, that Jesus taught forgiveness as one of his main tenets and things that must be done in order to walk The Way. Read the two translations below and consider/contemplate them before reading the rest of this entry - Please.
Matthew 5:23-24 New International Version (NIV)
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you,24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
Matthew 5:23-24 The Message (MSG)23-24 “This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.
This scripture has been wafting in and out of my thoughts for a week or so. It is obvious that Jesus wants us to keep a clear heart and mind, not cluttered with judgments and upset. But, also I am "hearing" that we cannot even worship with unforgiveness in our hearts. It is so important that we are to drop our worship activity and do our forgiveness work first.
To take Jesus seriously would include this teaching. Yet how often I hear people who consider themselves a follower of Jesus say unkind, condemning things about others, about those who don't totally agree with them on theology or politics or some such thing. They create hard feelings between themselves and others, and yet still say they are Christian. Some lie and verbally attack others (think politicians for example) and yet say they are Christian.
I say, that these people do not take Jesus seriously. They pick and choose in his teachings and stay on the surface of The Way.
Christianity is about transformation, becoming the new person in the image of Christ. It is about dying to the old. It is about a life of equality (there is no Jew or Christian, no slave or free, no male or female Paul wrote). To modernize this let me say that in a life aglow with the Christ Presence there is no Republican or Democrat, no Protestant or Catholic, no male or female, no skin color, no eye color, no age, no lines of separation - for we are all God's children, loved equally (the rain falls on the just and unjust), all figuring it out the best we can.
Let us turn over our hearts to God and welcome the cleansing rush of the Presence that transforms us into who we were always meant to be. Let us clear out our resentments and judgments, calm down our egos, free ourselves and others and at long last take Jesus seriously.
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