Jenny’s Letter 5th May

Dear Friends,

Some time ago, someone told me that I was a soft touch. I think in the circumstances in which it was said, they meant that I was too understanding of someone: that I was keen to make amends quickly rather than to hold the individual to account. 

Occasionally, being forgiving and generous to another can be misunderstood as a worldly softness – not that I am 100 percent certain that being gentle and soft it always bad. Far from it.  Being generous, kind and forgiving to a person who makes a mistake should be our natural character as Christians. After all, we have a God who is outrageously generous, deeply loving and when we turn to him, forgives us. And oh, how badly do we need to be forgiven! 

Our world is broken and too often we go our own way. Our prayers are not ‘Help me Lord, poor wretched sinner that I am’ but rather, ‘Look God, let me help you. I can offer you some good advice, from my own experience, that will help you in this situation.’ The truth of seeing myself in that response makes me chuckle. 

‘Not me’ I hear you protest. I don’t agree. Isn’t that what is happening every single time we doubt him or prefer our own solution? Too often (perhaps not all the time every day) we set ourselves above God and we put self before neighbour. 

In spite of this, God still longs that we will come to him. He knows our innate sinfulness and the failure of humanity to accept Jesus in his lifetime. And even knowing all this, he continues to love us unconditionally and sacrificially. I know this to be true. In the death of Jesus God has made a way for our weakness and failings to be dealt with so that we stand forgiven before him, ‘unpotted and blameless.’ (Colossians 1.22) 

I think one of the issues that some people have, and I sadly include Christians here, is the failure to recognise the extent to which are loved by God and the enormity of the forgiveness that we have needed. It is uncomfortable to look at our own wickedness. It is uncomfortable to consider ourselves as poor and wretched sinners and so that language, at least in the Western Church is largely out of fashion. But that is exactly what we are. I am called into faith not because I am better than others but because God chose it for me. We all of us are called to be ministers of the gospel, despite our weaknesses, faults and failings. 

On Thursday I had a bit of a mess up. I called a meeting for 9.30 am with a group of people. I then asked them to attend at 9.15 am. They did. I however arrived at 9.23 am. It was a tiny room. It was an important meeting. I thought I was the only one late. Lots of faces all looked at me. I felt awful. I had made a mistake. Someone offered me coffee, I apologised unreservedly. What else could I do? They had all jumped through hoops to be there. Just as we began the meeting, I realised one of the senior members of the organisation I had invited to attend was not yet there. About 10 minutes later he turned up. He was full of apologies and obviously embarrassed. 

Now chairing the discussion, I offered him a minute to settle and accepted his apologies. At the end he came over to me. ‘I am SO sorry!’ he laboured. When I told him not to worry, he said, ‘You’re too kind.’ I could have stopped there because he did not know what all the others did. ‘I was late too.’ I said, ‘We all have stuff and we are all doing our best.’ Earlier I had been forgiven. It would have been hypocritical and wrong for me to do other than forgive him. 

I know that being late for a meeting seems trivial compared to the wrongs that are done to some people. When Anthony Walker’s mother publicly forgave the people who killed her son it made the news. How could a woman do this? 

She did it because she understood that in Christ we all stand forgiven and she knew the enormity of that for herself which in turn gave her the strength, and words, to forgive those who wronged her and her son.  Mrs Walker said, “At the point of death, Jesus said, ‘I forgive them for they know not what they do.’ I have got to forgive them.” Anthony’s mum saw that her son’s killers were victims of birth, circumstance and a world that is broken. 

Forgiveness did not mean they were let off what they had done. There was a trial, and they were sent to prison and as a Christian I believe they will also receive God’s judgement. 

Is there anyone you need to forgive? Do it now. And as you go through this week be observant and seek forgiveness of your own mistakes, just as you are forgiving towards others who will also make mistakes. 

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