Read His Words Before Ours!
“Mommy!! Mommy!! Mommy!!” Loud shrieks mixed with dramatic wailing erupted the relative silence of my morning. I waited, knowing there would be a follow up voice. Sure enough, “It was not me!” followed by a series of pounding steps to see who could get to me first and tell their side of the story.
Indignation ran high as each party loudly pointed out how they were right and the other was wrong. The problem was that both had sinned. Both had hurt the other. As I quietly listened and calmly walked them each through what they had done to contribute to the conflict, one child pulled away and one drew near. One wept for his sin while one withdrew in anger.
The one who wept, curled in my lap, clearly sorry for being hurtful. We chatted about what happened and then we turned to tickling games and throw-your-head-back laughter.
“You love him more than me”, came a muffled, angry voice.
“That’s definitely not true, but you know that”, I replied. “You are choosing to step outside of our relationship and hold on to being hurt, rather than ask forgiveness. If you want to come and laugh with me, I’m not stopping you, I’d love to play with you!”
“I’m….sorry…..for……(it was costing all they had)…hurting you.”
Then sheepishly peeking from behind the pillow, a wide grin appeared.
Tickles and laughter and we were all giggling as we moved on with our day.
Forgiveness is potently powerful when unleashed in a life.
But it’s a choice. Both to give and receive.
Jesus hung between two men as he stood in the gap for mankind on the cross, making atonement for our sin, choosing our punishment so we could accept His righteousness.
Both men had the opportunity to claim Jesus as Lord.
One scorned Him, jeering and mocking Him for claiming Lordship, claiming to be God.
One drew near. “Remember me, Jesus, when You come into Your kingdom.”
He acknowledged Jesus as Lord of all, recognized himself as a sinner, and threw himself upon the grace of Jesus literally being poured out in front of him.
The sun was hot and the air heavy as the weight of their own bodies sucked the breath from their lungs as they hung suspended above the earth. Their blood glistened in the sunlight. Throats parched, bodies dying, but Life was still being offered in the midst of death.
“Today you will be with me in Paradise”, Jesus declared over the thief turned saint, for in that moment he was entirely redeemed from the life of sin he had led. He didn’t have time to be baptized, didn’t have time to grow in wisdom and knowledge of God, no ability to memorize the Torah, yet, Jesus promised Him life!
His wasn’t a foxhole-save-me-I’m-dying plea. How can you tell?
He shared the reality of Jesus with his neighbor.
The other man, his was a belief with no substance, calling out with mocking sarcasm, “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But his heart held no transformative faith.
The man who asked for life, the man who saw Jesus as He truly was, God, the perfect Lamb, the flawless sacrifice, didn’t stay silent at his neighbor’s mockery, rather he turned the remarks into an opportunity to point to truth. “Don’t you fear God?! We are being punished rightly, but this man has done nothing wrong.”
Forgiveness frees us.
Faith fuels us.
One man held onto his anger, used mockery as his defense, pretending he had ground to stand on when he had nothing. He withdrew from Life, and sank eternally into Death.
But the other man drew near and exchanged Death for Life. He was freed from his sins, knowing they had been paid in full, and that faith fueled him to share the truth with the one neighbor he had left in the world.
And what of you? Which thief will you be?
Will you come near in humble awareness of your sin or pull far away, clinging to self-righteousness as if it could save you?
Will you dance in freedom and welcomed into Paradise, or be weighted down in pride and descend into Death?
And if you’ve chosen Jesus, dear one, who are you telling?
Is your faith fueling you to point others to the Truth of the Gospel?
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