Tuesday, February 7, 2017

70 x 7

My husband and I had the opportunity to chaperone a YA Winter Retreat in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, for the YA group at our church this past weekend. Below is a devotion that we did together. Enjoy!  

"Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance."  
(1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Some of you know about mine and Calvin’s 24-hour rule. When we got married, part of our vows were based on 1 Corinthians 13. In that chapter, the Bible tells us that love keeps no record of wrongdoings. So, if Calvin or I are upset with each other about something, we talk about it that day – get out all of our disappointments, frustrations, or anger. But, once the day is over, so is the argument. We have an agreement that we don’t bring up past mistakes or points of contention later on. What’s done is done, so we move forward.

The love that Paul was writing about in 1 Corinthians wasn’t specifically meant toward husbands and wives. Do you know who he was talking to? The Church. In his wisdom, Paul knew that we wouldn’t always like each other – we wouldn’t always like the decisions that are made or how someone does something in the church. He knew that is was inevitable that we wouldn’t always see eye-to-eye with everyone. I’ve said many times before that the more I know some people, the less I like them. Sometimes the situations or disagreements that we have with other church folks makes it hard to like them. Even when we don’t like what they have done, we are urged to love them so much that we don’t keep score. We have to remember to be willing to forgive that person over and over.

I borrowed the following from a devotion by Steven Furtick. 

"Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?' Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'" (Matthew 18:21-22)

When Peter approaches Jesus about the issue of forgiveness and offers up the number seven, it's more than just a number. Within Judaism, forgiving someone three times is sufficient. So Peter's offer of seven is over twice the requirement and, in comparison to the law, a generous offer. At least, I'm sure that's what Peter is thinking.

But instead of approving of this, Jesus actually raises the stakes and tells Peter to forgive "not seven times, but seventy-seven times." I can almost see Peter's jaw dropping. Jesus is getting the point across: "It's not a numbers game." It's a heart issue, not a math problem. It's not about marking something off of a checklist; it's about living a lifestyle of love and grace.
Our world operates totally in opposition to this principle. We depend on give and take. Balance and counterbalance. Debits and credits. We like keeping score, which begins to look like a toxic game of tug of war: You hurt me, so I'll hurt you. You treated me nicely, so I'll treat you nicely. You offended me, so I'll offend you.

The problem with this is that when you keep score in a relationship, everyone loses. As followers of Christ, we're not called just to forgive when it's convenient and fair. We're called to live in forgiveness. And it isn't just a good idea or some helpful advice; it's foundational.
In every relationship, there's one thing for certain — both you and the other person will be imperfect. You will both mess up, you will both make mistakes, and you will both need to apologize. Rather than keeping score, though, try keeping a commitment to forgive.

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