Core Ideas of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Posts tagged ‘reconcilation’

Don’t Write a Hollywood Ending

This blog is eighth in a series on relationship rescue.  What are the ten most important biblical principles for healthy friendship?  Which principles would you include?  This is Pastor Tim’s list.

When people talk about a Hollywood Ending, we typically think of two people who overcome all their relationship problems and then ride off into a red and gold sunset together… forever.  In real life, that’s not how it works in Hollywood, is it?  To the contrary, lasting marriages in Tinseltown are as rare as the Hope Diamond.  Kim Kardashian dumped Kris after about two months.  Love goddess Liz Taylor ended eight different marriages in divorce!  Rock bands almost always split up, in spite of all the megabucks they could make by staying together, simply because they can’t get along.  Members of Credence Clearwater Revival still refuse to reunite with lead singer John Fogerty, despite twenty years of holding a grudge.  Sadly, Hollywood Endings are most commonly about crashing on the rocks after one year of bliss followed by two years of being unpleasant.

Ex-con Rodney King was living just outside Hollywood when he posed this idealistic Q: “Why can’t we all just get along?”  A: It’s easier to be proud and hold grudges!

Commandment #7: Thou shalt forgive others as God hath forgiven thee.

In Colossians 1:13, Paul directs us, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”  We all know how that happens because it happens all the time.  We spit in the Father’s face.  Guilt and circumstances eventually catch up with us.  We repent and ask for forgiveness.  And as Scripture indicates, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.  This principle is so important that Jesus even warns us that forgiveness will be extended to us only as we are willing to offer grace and reconciliation to other people who offend us.

So why do followers of Christ have so much trouble writing happy endings in 2012?  One reason is that we are too proud to forgive people who have hurt us because they are undeserving.  Of course, that’s the only people who are qualified for forgiveness, isn’t it?  If people have never hurt you, they don’t require any grace.  All offenders are undeserving of forgiveness.  We don’t offer it because of the other person’s resume.  We forgive because we realize that we mess up all the time and the only reason we have any self respect at all is because God is so willing to get over it.  So when you have trouble forgiving, it’s not really about the quality of the other person’s character.  It’s really about your character, your faith and- yes- your deceitful heart.

Here’s an ironic fact: Forgiveness and reconciliation can actually build stronger, healthier friendships.  Jesus forgave Peter and reinstated him as a leader.  Peter forgave Paul and described Paul’s letters as inspired by God.  Christ forgave the people who crucified him and some became lifetime followers.  Some of my closest and most trustworthy friends are people with whom I have bumped heads in the past; but with whom I have shared grace and reconciliation.  I love these guys!

Some people don’t forgive; they just paper over the trouble and move on.  We call these people “enablers.”  They aren’t honest.  They typically don’t think they deserve friends so they settle for fiends instead.  Ignoring bad behavior and pretending everything is hunky-dory is not really spiritual:  it’s deceitful.  Real friends know how to speak the truth in love and be transparent.  Otherwise, they eventually get the Hollywood Ending they’ve been trying to avoid- the real kind, not the movie kind.

So be intentional about forgiving offenders when they repent- even when they repeat.  All your friends are sinners; that’s why they feel so at home with you.  Practice grace.

And lift up the cross!

The Search for the Prodigal

Why is it that prodigal daughters never come home?  In fact, they actually do.  Pastor Jim Cymbala recalls the night when months of tearful prayers were answered through a phone call from his long lost daughter.  She did indeed come home to her dad and eventually her heavenly father, but she was never called prodigal.  That’s because we only use the term for rebellious young males.  What’s more, we most commonly use the word incorrectly!

Not long ago, I read a review of the popular motion picture, Warrior.  The article explained that the martial arts film “tells the familiar story of a prodigal son.”  How would you define that term?  Most of us would reply that it’s a lad who rebels and leaves home, only to return later to make peace with his family and start anew.  Right? Wrong.

This common mistake serves to illustrate the amazing power of God’s Word.  We all know the term prodigal son only because of the familiar story in the Gospel of Luke.  An ungrateful young adult insults his father and demands his inheritance in advance.  When his kindly dad gives him his way, the young man takes all that wealth to a distant land where he squanders it all in decadence and immorality.  Waking up one day to discover he is friendless, penniless, and hopeless, he comes to his senses and returns home.  There he begs his father’s forgiveness, insisting that he is no longer worthy to be called a son, and asks only that his father might hire him and pay him as a servant.

Hence, almost everyone in the Western world and many far beyond have come to assume that prodigal has something to do with a young man who runs away, realizes his error, and finally returns home to his father.  That’s not what the word means.  Our word prodigal goes back to the Latin term prodigus.  It doesn’t mean rebellious or wayward or even repentant.  It means wasteful or excessively extravagant!  The prodigal son earned his title when he blew his entire fortune overnight.  The full account is found in Luke 15: 11-32.

But here’s another funny little fact.  The word prodigal is never found in the parable.  Luke simply refers to the wastrel as the younger son.  The term prodigal is only found in captions and headings dating back to the earliest English translation of the Bible.  Some suggest it is first found in the Douay-Rheims Bible from 1582.  A few scholars believe it goes back to the Latin Vulgate, where it would have been expressed filius prodigus.  So while Luke never included the word prodigal, our mistaken assumption comes from the caption added later.

That’s how deeply the Bible is imbedded in the subconscious of most Western men and women.  Even those who never read the Word of God find its words and ideas are mentally  imported through stories and conversation from culture and conversation.  For instance, Lincoln’s Gettysburg address is full of terms from the Bible.  Over a year ago, I had the privilege of sharing the Gospel with a friend who had grown up in Japan just after World War II.  Although she was raised as a Buddhist, her parents had sent her to a Catholic School as a child so that she could enjoy the advantage of speaking English.  Many of the English texts she learned to read were from the Holy Bible.  She grew up, married, and remained a Buddhist for most of her adult life.  After her Christian husband passed away, she came to my office and asked how she, too, could become a believer.  And as I began to share verses from the Bible, I noticed her lips moving quietly, reciting the words with me.  She hadn’t thought about them for decades but they had been there since elementary school, deeply rooted and waiting to bear fruit.

Our mistaken notion of that odd word prodigal reminds us that the Bible is still a defining voice in the lives of secular Americans.  One day the Holy Spirit will fan revival into flames and we will see those kernels of truth popping open and bringing faith and righteousness, fluffy and white and salty, into lives we had thought were lost forever.

Go back and read Luke 15 again.  And lift up the cross!

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