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Monday, December 20, 2010

No Fear ( a 'season' of forgiveness )


'Do not be afraid, for I bring you good tidings of great joy, which will be to all people...............'
( Luke 2:10 )

So said the angel to the shepherds, on that starry night so long ago, as they guarded their flock. To these shepherds was revealed, first of all, that the Savior promised throughout their Scriptures ( Hebrew ), beginning in Genesis 3:15, had been born. Many times throughout Scripture; God told His people, through these 'messengers', 'Do not fear'. Our Scriptures today, tell us that 'perfect love casts out fear'! We do love imperfectly; no one, I believe, can honestly say that he/she loves perfectly ( as close as we can get, anyway ) at all times, with never a selfish thought or action, and often with a hint of that fear that is unwarranted. 'Will he/she return my love?' might be one of those fearful thoughts. Granted, some of us can gather the courage to love first, not knowing if that love will be returned, but most of us, I fear, fail to love as we are called to, for that reason, as well as others we could mention.

'You shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins. ( Matthew 1:21 )

How did Jesus save His people from their sins? He forgave them ( Jeremiah 31:34 ( Ezekiel 36:25 )! Paul told the Ephesian church ( 4:32 ), 'Be kind to [ one ] another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ, has forgiven you'; 'forgiveness' is key: if we do not forgive, how can we love as we should? Sure; we can go through the motions, acting ( isn't that what love is? ) as if we love a certain person, but if we hold a grudge against that person, not having truly forgiven him/her; is it truly love? Love, I believe Scripture makes clear, involves forgiveness: that's how God so loved the 'world', as we read in John 3:16, He forgave their iniquities and remembers their sins no more! That's how we truly love one another, by forgiving each other ( Matthew 6:12, 18:23-35 ) the trespasses we commit daily, and loving anyway, in spite of those trespasses!

Another fear that might hold us back from loving, from taking that first step, is wondering if we will be forgiven, or if our trespass is so great that we fear that we will be cast out. True love, as we read in Scripture, is not loving because we know that love will be returned; true forgiveness is not forgiving because we know that we'll be forgiven. In the midst of His 'Sermon on the Mount' ( Matthew 5:46 ), Jesus said 'if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?' It's easy to love those who love you ( even if you don't really like them ), but it's hard to forgive someone who has 'sinned' against you, and, for whatever reason ( usually fear that you won't forgive them ), has not asked for your forgiveness, or even admitted to any 'wrong-doing' ( many times, it's all in our head ), to love them anyway, in spite of any perceived 'sin' that they have committed against you, especially if they don't show you any love.

'Perfect love casts out fear'. ( John 4:18 )

John wrote these words in the context of judgment, a context which we just heard about, and are all too familiar with. If we are 'in' Christ, having received the forgiveness of God, we need not fear judgment ( 'what can man do to me?'-Matthew 10:28 ( Psalm 56:11 ), either from God, or man. From God; we have received the judgment of 'righteous', and from man, even though we are judged unworthy, whether it be of their love and forgiveness, or, even in the most extreme case, of our life; as we see in Matthew 10; the worst they can do is kill our body, they can never separate us from our Life, which is the love and Presence of God, in Jesus the Christ!

In this 'season' of love, then, let us each determine ( and my words are loudest in my own ears, here! ) to love one another,forgiving one another as we have been forgiven and are loved. Let us cast out fear, and dare to love the unlovable, to forgive the unforgivable, showing and sharing the love that God showed us all, when 'Love came down at Christmas'; Christmas is not just a certain time of year when we celebrate the birth of our Lord: Christmas is a celebration of Life, something we celebrate all year 'round!

I pray that this blesses you reading this as much as it did me writing it!
Charles Haddon Shank

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