Forgiveness

It has been a very reflective 2016 for me thus far, at times poignant. If there is a key or prominent word that keeps occurring, it would be Forgiveness. There has been many quotes from the bible about how we have received forgiveness, especially with Good Friday and Easter recently. After his resurrection, when Jesus appeared to his disciples, he said, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:46-47 ESV). I am ever grateful for his love and forgiveness for me but I realised it is not that simple. The other key word is repentance, without which forgiveness would not be in effect.

A big shopping mall is giving away a free gift to the first 100 customers who walk in when it opens tomorrow. Even though the gift is free, the person has to go there to get it. Of course, there will be other considerations like whether it was worth the effort and time, etc. However, it is clear that you need to go to the mall and meet the conditions to get it. In a way, repentance is the condition, the state of heart, mind and spirit that will enable one to receive forgiveness.

When I was younger, I have always thought that I was not good enough and weak willed. I find myself guilt ridden because I thought that I was not able to overcome temptations. Every time I fell, I would ask God to forgive me and somehow it would be like a hopeless vicious cycle that I would once again be asking God to forgive me for the same sins. It was even worse when I realised that my list of wrong doings kept growing. Eventually, I gave up. I gave up not only from asking for forgiveness but also from believing that I would ever be able to overcome. To add to this sorry state, I would not forgive myself for all that has happened and considered myself a hopeless case.

Many years later, I realised that as hopeless as I thought I was, it was really my pride that was the real problem. I have placed the judgement (sentence) on myself and made the decision to go it alone blaming it on my `hopeless’ state. It was I who chose not to believe in the saving power of God for my weaknesses and failures and went ahead on my own schemes and ways. It was I who decided to be the judge and controller of my past, present and future in my so called hopelessness, ironic isn’t it? I thought I could ride through my life with all my imperfect and sinful nature and carve out a decent life with some christian values thrown in. I cringed when I think that I could have gone on the rest of my life in that state.

All the years of growing up in a christian family and environment means nothing if I never really experience repentance and forgiveness in its true sense. It is like what Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34-36 ESV). A repentant person would be like this, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32 ESV).

Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 ESV) and he said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 ESV). I came to this point like Martha, “Do I believe?” Will I be like Martha who said she believed even though her brother Lazarus has been dead for four days? Clearly my situation was not as drastic as hers but to believe that God will deliver me from my perceived hopelessness was drastic for me. I found it really, really hard to believe as it has been so long, so very long that I am weary just thinking about it.

I realised that my inability to forgive myself stems from my thinking that I can be the judge of who is deserving of forgiveness. This seems utterly ridiculous as who am I trying to be, God? Not only was I unrepentant, I was high and mighty too. It’s like I am stuck inside a deep, dark and murky well and someone came to rescue me by lowering a rope for me to hold on to but I said, “No need I’m fine, just let me rot in here”. This is a prime example of foolish pride.

To truly believe in God, I need to repent – acknowledge and recognise my sinful nature and the need for deliverance (to be rescued) through Jesus Christ who has paid the price for me and through him I can receive the forgiveness of sins. I believed and stopped judging my hopelessness and lay myself down before God, warts and all. I received the forgiveness of my sins whom only Jesus can wash clean and I am set free! I am forever grateful for his love and grace for me and that he will continue the work in my life as I press on to live this life in his light and joy that I may be a blessing to others and let them know that indeed, Jesus saves and is coming again. I can now testify the verse quoted earlier, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed”!

Now I can say with much joy and gratefulness, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20 ESV) and Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10.10b ESV).

Reflection

Well, I am forgiven but it does not stop here as being forgiven also requires that I forgive others, among other things. It makes sense doesn’t it that as we have been forgiven, we should also forgive others. However, it is not so simple yet again. “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;” (Luke 6:37 ESV). This should be covered next.

 

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Free Our Children

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Where can we find today, the likes of Michaelangelo, Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Picasso, Isaac Newton, Einstein, Wordsworth, Keats, Charles Dickens or Shakespeare ? Our modern day prominent figures are mainly those who have built their corporations through their creativity and business acumen, such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Jack Ma. There are many other inventors and talented people out there but we hardly hear of any that can match the classics of the past. Why is this so? There should be many reasons but I would like to explore further on one aspect: the education of the young; our future leaders, inventors, artists and teachers.

Back in 1955, C.S. Lewis, a great philospher and author, wrote an essay, “Lilies that Fester” which I found quite applicable in today’s context. Surprisingly back then, it was already seen as a problem or troubling concern and it was about how the young were being educated. C.S. Lewis saw how it would impact future generations and felt ‘lucky’ that his childhood was spared this stifling situation. The following are excerpts from his essay:

“The pupil is now far more defenceless in the hands of the teachers… He has hardly ever been alone. The educational machine seizes him very early and organises his whole life, to the exclusion of all unsuperintended solitude or leisure.”

“The hours of unsponsored, uninspected, perhaps even forbidden, reading, the ramblings, and the ‘long, long thoughts’ in which those of luckier generations first discovered literature and nature and themselves are a thing of the past.”

“In short, the modern pupil is the ideal patient for those masters who, not content with teaching a subject, would create a character; helpless Plasticine.”

Fast forward 2015; 60 years has passed since this essay was written, what has become of those children? Where are they today? What kind of leaders, inventors, artists or teachers have come forth? Ordinary or extraordinary; common or unique?

I would like to pose 5 questions about children today:

1 Is our education geared towards developing the potential of each individual according to their own ability?
2 Does the child have enough time (no rush) to play and spend time with the family?
3 Are the holidays filled with nature, motor-skill games, sunshine and lots of laughter?
4 Does the child get to day dream or look at the stars and enjoy the breeze or nature?
5 Do we let our children grow in their own pace and time to discover their own talents without letting the school determine that for us?

If most of our answers are “No”, then we have a troubling future. This would mean that there will be less and less people who can think, dream or discover as we let the school or society do that for them. Now I see why the term ‘Plasticine’ was used by C.S. Lewis as the young were being molded into whatever shape the education or system wants them to be.

I don’t think anyone of us wants our children to become like this and we can all stop by helping them have a life of their own, to learn and grow in a safe and real environment, not a stifling or artificial one.

Make it Count

You’ve been given the opportunity to send one message to one person you wouldn’t normally have access to (for example: the President. Kim Kardashian. A coffee grower in Ethiopia). Who’s the person you choose, and what’s the message?

To the President of North Korea,

You are a very powerful man with authority to control over 24 million of your people who revere you. Many are willing to give their life for you and the country for reasons I cannot fathom.

We, from outside your country would like the freedom to visit your country and your people. They must be nice to know as you really protect them carefully. We are nice people too and when you and your people get to know us, I am sure you will say, “Why, these people are not bad after all. I should have open up the doors long ago.” We are no different and we welcome your people to visit us anytime and with open arms.

So please allow the rest of us to visit your country and people freely as we willingly allow your people to visit us freely.

Peace 🙂

Make it Count