For those who never heard the story, or have forgotten the story, it is believed by some that this man named Jesus, who claimed to be the son of God, came to Earth to restore man to a better relationship with his creator by forgiving and redeeming all from their sins.
Allegedly, Jesus did this by allowing himself to be executed on a cross. Of course, that's probably a gross simplification.
Now that I've scared off a lot of readers, to those of you who are left, muddle with me through what has me rethinking the upcoming Santa Claus season.
The study was based on Psalm 51 and David's quest to fix his relationship with God after having slept with another man's wife, and then sending the husband off to be murdered in battle. Sounds like great reality TV to me. And as the story goes, God actually forgave David. But how could or why would God do that? I can't even forgive a principal who once spoke to me in a condescending tone at a site-based council meeting. No sexual indiscretion or murder was committed, yet I still harbor that bile in the pit of my stomach.
This is where I got sidetracked.
Wouldn't it be awesome if I could forgive like David was forgiven? Or even seek to be forgiven with the same passion that David beseeched to restore his communion with God. What if I could do that in a failed marriage, or with my brothers, or my uncle or at work or even at site-based council? How does a lesser person than David (and this is the same David of the David and Goliath stories, the harp playing David, the dancing and poetry writing and author of the 23rd Psalm David) go about experiencing forgiveness?
Then I really started going off of the deep end.
With the economy and my bank account as precarious as it is, and with Christmas looming at me on every street corner - wouldn't it be grand if I could orchestrate forgiveness as my gift for the holidays? This Wednesday night Bible study started looking better and better. Now the preacher man had my fullest and most undivided attention. I actually began to take notes. Ho-ho-ho, 'tis the season to be jolly, fa-la-la - well you know the rest of the words.
First, I have to acknowledge that I've done something wrong. Not a general apology, or some sort of half-hearted "it's all your fault and if you hadn't done such and such then I wouldn't have been forced to do so and so." But a fully disclosed, "I did it, and I was wrong and I'm so very, very sorry," without being sarcastic or condescending (that's often the hard part for me).
Second, I have to promise or assure the person that I'm repentant, meaning that he or she can trust me, and I will never do it again, as the old time preachers used to say, "I've turned from my evil ways."
Third, I must pay restitution - give back what I've stolen, with interest, clean up what I've soiled, fix what I've broken. But what if it's a person's reputation or sense of wholeness or trust or sense of safety around me - what if those are the things that I've stolen, soiled or broken? Well gosh, those things take time to fix. How many more shopping days til Christmas?
Fourth, and last, the Wednesday night Bible study talked about being redeemed - the lifestyle that one experiences or lives when one has been truly forgiven. I'd never heard anyone preach or teach this before. At the end of David's quest for forgiveness, he promised God that if God forgave him he would "teach transgressors thy ways and sinners will be converted to thee."
Pace translation: I will use my experiences to teach others how not to make the same mistakes that I have made. Hmmmmm? Redeemed, that was kinda sounding really nice.
As I looked at my checkbook, and looked at these four steps, I quickly realized that forgiveness was gonna cost me more than any present I had ever given or received. And there was no way the "forgiveness thang" was gonna wrap all nice and neat and sit embellished with a tidy little bow under a Christmas tree. I don't even think there's a chimney stocking big enough to hold it.
I looked again at my checkbook, and then at the calendar, as I contemplated, "How many more shopping days 'til forgiveness?"
And if this "forgiveness thang" works out, perhaps I'll make attending Wednesday night Bible Study my 2009 New Years Resolution.