Month: April 2011

“Judgy Wuzzy was a Bear”

2004-vacation-0951.jpgFollowing years of searching every golf course in America to find the “real killers” of his ex-wife and her friend; Orenthal James Simpson has secured residence at theLovelock Correctional Center in Lovelock, NV.  After his murder acquittal he was convicted of a 2007 armed robbery and kidnapping.

In an absurd irony, less than two years after O.J. Simpson was acquitted of violently murdering Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman he was found financially responsible for the same crime in a civil suit to the tune of $33.5 million.  He has so far been able to pay little to the Goldman family what with his exorbitant legal fees, countless green fees and current underemployment status.

Judgment can be so subjective and controversial that one wonders why we engage in it with such frequency.  The truth is that we all desire to be judged.  That’s right, you heard me, we want to be judged.  The reason that we wear what we wear, cut our hair or put on make-up is because the opinion of those around us matters to us.  Paradoxically, we prefer judgment of our appearance over our actions and yet it is for our actions that we most need judgment (Read “accountability”).

The critical reality of judgment is that we need others to render regular assessments or observations of us in order to grow spiritually, professionally even physically.  Honest self-evaluation will reveal that we can be blinded to many of our deficiencies.  We are usually the last to be aware that we have gained ten pounds, missed significant work time or verbally mistreated another individual.

We are all unavoidably being judged daily.  What we can determine is which “judges” we will heed in our personal growth process.  The primary value of a judgment is predicated on the influence of the one who renders the judgment.  The jury in his murder trial delivered the only judgment that mattered to Simpson while the jury of public opinion is of little consequence to him.

I find judging people with whom I have no responsibility, relationship or accountability pointless and yet I generate such adjudications with regularity.  Whenever we sit behind the steering wheel of a car we pick up a gavel and don a black robe.  Someone who commits a traffic infraction or simply a traffic inconvenience to us is determined to be intellectually challenged and not worthy to share the air that we breathe.  With this in mind let us acknowledge and even accept the fact that we are constantly being judged by impotent justices and be at peace with our efforts to be the best individuals and citizens that we can be.

At the same time may we not only heed but actively seek out the assessment and yes, judgment, of respected friends, colleagues and authorities in order to fulfill our highest potential for the good of our life, community and all who live in it…no matter what manner of dolts they all may be.


“To err is Human: The Power of Forgiveness” (Part 3 of 3)

2004-vacation-0951.jpg(*Note: This posting is longer than my self-imposed maximum word count but it is time to bring this subject to a close.  Thanks for understanding; there is obviously, much that can be discussed on this subject.)

It has been said that, “Harboring anger and bitterness toward someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person else to get sick.”

When my son was about 10, I chastised him for committing a family infraction for which my wife, without my knowledge, had given him special permission.  He stood patiently with tears streaming down his cheeks as I railed at him for his violation.  When I finally concluded my irrational tirade he responded with a choked up voice, “But mom said I could”.  The boot of guilt connected firmly with my mid-section.  I knew that I couldn’t undo the hurt I had inflicted and when I apologized he responded by saying, “I forgive you.”  Excuse me I just burped up some humble pie?

As we tie the three parts of this post together I would like to wrap things up with the example that Jesus set.

The Apostle Peter asked if he should forgive “even up to seven times”!  Peter thought that he was being generous by offering seven chances at forgiveness.  The reason for this is that in first century Jewish culture people were expected to forgive three times when injured by an individual.  After three infractions the need or expectation to forgive was released.  Peter, trying to grasp the heart of Jesus doubled that number and added one for good measure.  Jesus responded by saying that one should forgive seventy times seven times.  He was not placing a cap of 490 exercises of forgiveness rather He was using a common communication technique of ancient Hebrew involving exaggeration.  What he meant was that forgiveness should be limitless.  This doesn’t imply that we position ourselves for injury (Jesus also instructed us to, “Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves”) but to have a heart of love and forgiveness that is unending…always open to receive and reconcile.

As he was being crucified Jesus said “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.”

Really?  They didn’t know what they were doing?  Did the crucifiers and all in support of the crucifixion not know exactly what they were doing?  Some of the Romans even admitted that they knew that it was wrong.  Pilate tried to dissuade the people from committing this atrocity.  One Roman centurion, even after the crucifixion declared of Jesus, “Surely this was the Son of God!”

When I hurt my friend as I described in part one of this post did I not know what I was doing?  Of course I did.  There was no malicious intent but I was aware that it would cause pain.

Did Wendy Osborn’s attacker not know what he was doing?  I doubt anyone would question that he did.

Perhaps there is something other worldly, something beyond our scope of understanding that Jesus was alluding to with that statement.

Does forgiveness indicate that there is no guilt?  In my estimation the answer is no.  One can be forgiven but payment of a penalty may still be required.  In the case of Christian theology, the forgiveness of God does not remove all guilt.  The point of the cross is that the guilt and penalty due for all of our misdeeds, our selfish actions, our lapses in good judgment our shortcomings in spite of our best intentions must still be paid.  The issue is that rather than pay the “bill due” it has already been paid.  The penalty was not ignored it was paid for on the cross opening the door for us to be able to receive the forgiveness that Jesus asked for during His crucifixion!

In reality, forgiveness is more than a gift we give to someone who has hurt us; it is a gift that we give to ourselves.  Ultimately it benefits everyone.

“To err is Human: The Power of Forgiveness” (Part 2 of 3)

2004-vacation-0951.jpgHaving missed her bus on a winter morning in 1987, 14-year-old Wendy Osborn began walking to school.  She never arrived.  After two weeks of frantic searches her lifeless, violated body was found.  Obviously this incident had a profound affect on our community.  As someone who attended the same Junior High School as Wendy (albeit several years earlier) and having attended the same church as the Osborn family I felt an identification, if not a connection with the incident.  The inability to contribute anything constructive produced an empty, helpless sensation.

I bring this uncomfortable subject to light in order to highlight the reaction of Wendy’s parents to this heinous atrocity.  I vividly remember the moment they spoke into a television camera and expressed through painful countenance their forgiveness to the, at that time unknown, perpetrator.  (After raping another girl who survived to testify against him DNA evidence determined that the same man also attacked Wendy.  He was arrested eight years after Wendy’s murder.)

When I think of the level of pain I have experienced from other people and recognize that none of it even orbits in the same universe as that which the Osborn’s endured, the effort it would take for them to forgive seems almost intolerable.  However, forgiveness is not something one feels.  It is an attitude and a behavior based on a conviction that it is right and healthy and, in the long run, will somehow lead to a greater good.

The challenge with which I am faced in writing about this is that while I applaud the Osborn’s magnanimous response to their devastation I have to wonder honestly what my own response would be under the same circumstances.  As a follower of Christ I know that forgiveness is the only appropriate response but when I begin to reflect and imagine the nightmare experienced by the Osborn’s I have to pause.  Even in trying to envision their ordeal the potential pain becomes nearly unbearable.  I stop my journey of imagination because experiencing such anguish, even vicariously, is a door I really prefer not to open.

Could it be that the greater the offense leveled against us, the greater the bitterness we feel and the greater the bitterness we feel the greater the injury with which we are afflicted?  If this is so, would it not then follow that the greater the injury, the greater the damage done to the individual who is unwilling to forgive?  Conversely, would this not also indicate that the greater the forgiveness rendered the greater the healing that would result?

(More in part 3.)

“To err is human: The Power of Forgiveness” (Part 1 of 3)

2004-vacation-0951.jpgA few years ago when faced with a difficult decision I chose poorly and in doing so hurt a good friend of mine very deeply; so much so that he and his family left our church.  Their departure was not a surprise as leaving is a common even natural response for those who are hurt by others.  Besides the obvious pain endured by this wonderful family, my decision resulted in two levels of damage: first it was a blow to our church as this family has many close friends in our congregation who were hurt by their departure.  Second it wounded me immensely as the one responsible for hurting so deeply someone whom I considered a good friend.

A few months later this family returned to our church and shared with me that in spite of everything they believed that it was not God’s will or desire for them to leave.  They had determined that they needed to forgive me and that we should move forward together.  This was a risky overture on their part and it caused me to sauté in a pan of humility.  I can think of few examples of such forgiveness being exhibited by anyone; especially Christians for whom forgiveness is supposed to be the natural course.

Forgiveness is more than a statement it is an act or a series of acts.  Saying we forgive someone does not necessarily mean that we actually forgive them any more than saying that we love someone really means that we actually love them.  Forgiveness, like love, is demonstrated in action and such action produces needed healing.

“To err is human, to forgive divine” is a quote that has extolled the virtue of forgiveness for centuries.  The more modern phrase, “I’m only human” has reduced human frailty to an excuse for wrongdoing resulting in the exclusion of “…to forgive divine”; as if forgiveness is reserved exclusively for the Divine.  “I’m only human!” is our defense when we err.  It appears to me that we are loath to accept responsibility for our wrongful actions and, let’s be honest, we all commit them.  However, admitting our faults clears a path for the healing power of forgiveness.

Lamentably, it seems that we want to delegate all acts of forgiveness to a higher power, any higher power.  We simply don’t want to relinquish our right to harbor anger and judgment because we feel that in so doing we somehow release the inflictor of our pain from any responsibility.  We believe, erroneously, that while holding on to our bitterness and anger we maintain a degree of power and control.  In truth, regardless of the outcome of such a circumstance if we don’t forgive people who have hurt us we are left to wallow in our precious bitterness which then courses through our system causing us physical and psychological injury.

(More on this next time when we look at the reaction of two parents whose world was turned upside down by a violent individual.)

Did God give us Commandments to take the fun out of life?

2004-vacation-0951.jpgAs a college student in the 1930’s my mom took up smoking until it was determined that smoking is a health hazard.   Upon learning this truth she immediately quit but obviously she was in a minority in that resolution.  Even with today’s easy access to accurate health information people still engage in lifestyle practices that are not necessarily in their best interest.

If one wants to succeed at any endeavor there are certain practices that must be employed or perhaps commandments to be observed.

If one desires good health eating right and exercise are vital.

If one wants to initiate a new business venture sacrifices of time and priority are essential.

Are reasonable people offended by the doctor who councils them to eat right and exercise to increase their energy and health?  Do rational people become angry when an employment councilor offers best practice advice to improve employment or advancement opportunities?

The commandments were given to us by God in order to provide wisdom for us to fulfill our potential as individuals.  God knows what hinders us and what enables us to fulfill our highest capabilities; our destinies if you will.  To that end He introduced the commandments to enable us to live life to the fullest.  Jesus came “…that we might have life and have it to the full”.

The practice of condemning people over habits, vices and lifestyle contradicts the truth and the value that the Bible reveals; “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. If Jesus’ sacrifice was provided “while we were still sinners” then why is there so much focus on behavior modification?  If the Holy Spirit transforms behavior, who died and made church attendees responsible for brow beating everyone into holy submission?

God assumed the form of man in the person of Jesus and entered the world so that we can all enter into a relationship with Him on His terms.  The issue of our imperfections and iniquities was cleansed by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.  As a follower of Christ it is not incumbent on us to focus on proper behavior or, dare I say observation of the Law, rather it is our mandate and privilege to imitate Jesus.  The commandments He gave us and the example He set for us were to Love God, Love everyone else and treat others in the manner that we would want to be treated.

The message that the church has to share with the rest of the world is simply this; “We all screw up and that affects us negatively.  Jesus covered the cost of our imperfections (though not necessarily the consequences).  If we follow Jesus and by that I mean live a life imitating Him then we can reach the maximum level of our God-given potential.  If we trust that His sacrifice covers the cost of our imperfections then we will have a full life and an eternal hope.”

Love Wins!

2004-vacation-0951.jpgA few of you asked my opinion of Rob Bell’s new book, “Love Wins”. I’m sorry that I have not yet read it but will soon and will give some feedback. My limited research of the project so far provided some indicators but I would prefer not to respond with incomplete information.

Welcome to Wallbridge

2004-vacation-0951.jpgIn 2003 I visited the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia and marveled at the walls surrounding it.  They are huge and though they are old they have undergone refurbishing over the last eight centuries and are still strong, stable and impenetrable.

When I was younger I had the opportunity to visit the famous London Bridge that had been relocated to Lake Havasu City, Arizona.  I was impressed by how anyone could move the heavy stone materials from London all the way to this tiny desert hamlet in the southwestern desert and then reconstruct it in keeping with its original condition.

The Kremlin Wall and the London Bridge are both made of very strong, very old and very imposing materials.  One is used to keep people at a distance and the other is used to facilitate interaction and communication between people separated by a chasm or other barrier.

For decades, centuries and perhaps even millennia the church has worked hard to build a bridge to those outside of the church but what has happened is that a wall has been built; slowly and unintentionally.  Like the Kremlin wall, the wall the church has constructed is large, imposing, old and seemingly impenetrable.

It is time to tear down that wall.  While the materials from the wall; selfishness, pride and insensitivity are solid and old, they can be recycled into new materials; compassion, humility and grace to be reused to build a bridge.  Hence the name of this blog, “Wallbridge”.  I believe that I am one of many who are endeavoring to bridge the chasm between the church and the world.  This scares some people; well I suppose it scares everyone.  Frankly, it scares me a little.  People outside of the church are frightened by a new wave of right-wing, fundamentalist nut-jobs invading the sanctity of their peaceful lives.  People within the church fear that the holy gospel of truth will be smeared, smudged and compromised.  In other words, during the life of this blog I anticipate offending and angering just about everybody at some point…but it should be fun; or at least spicy.

This is my avenue of sharing what I believe Jesus has been saying all along – “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength”.  “Love your neighbor as yourself”.  “Love one another”.  The Cross is intended to be a bridge not a wall.  Jesus did not die to separate saints from sinners.  He died so that all of us, no matter what ID badge we use to tattoo ourselves, can recognize and admit that we have weaknesses and problems and He wants to heal them.  In many instances he wants to use us to administer the healing.