- everything’s already picked out (no shopping);
- everything fits perfectly (no dieting); and
- everything is paid for (no bills).
In the Message Translation these verses read,
“So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s the basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.”
All of us have something in life that just sets us off. For me, it used to be drivers that weren’t in as big a hurry as I usually was, but wouldn’t get out of my way. I used to get rather vocal and animated towards those people.
But now I’ve learned to keep my mumblings to myself and keep my hands on the wheel. Can you guess why? It’s not because Cathy fusses at me so much about being “rude” and “childish” though she certainly had to do enough of that. No – it’s this little piece of chrome-plated plastic in the shape of a fish on the rear panel of my car. I’m sure most of you have one or something like it. But have you ever thought about what that emblem, coupled with your behavior, could be saying about Jesus? I didn’t. And then one day the good Lord jerked me up on a short leash and made me realize what I’d just done and what it said to others about Him and about His Son. I felt so embarrassed. I even went out and bought one of those license plate frames that says, “Christians aren’t perfect – just forgiven” as a kind of apology to the past victims of my anger.
For you, the trigger is probably something else entirely. Whoever or whatever it is, God expects us to respond to others the way He responds to us. And let me emphasize that these are not “optional” expectations on His part. Jesus tells a parable about the Master and the wicked servant who was forgiven his enormous debt, but refused to forgive another servant’s small debt to him. When the Master finds out about the servants unforgiveness, He is furious. His new sentence for the wicked servant is to have him turned over to the jailers for torture until he could pay his own debt.
Jesus closes the parable with these words, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matthew 18:24-35)
I may not be one of the brightest of God’s children, but I know an eternal sentence when I hear one. Like the wicked servant, our debt of sin is too large for us to ever repay. And I know the jailer and the place of eternal torture. I’m not interested in either.
By comparison, our brother’s debt to us is infinitesimal. Unforgiveness on our part is more than foolish; it is absolute folly. For our sins, God could have sent us to Hell out of anger. Instead, He sent His Son to the cross out of love. Having been forgiven so much, how can we be unforgiving?
Sheltered under His wings and overwhelmed by His love,