A quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be” I actually read that on the inside of a Dove chocolate and it has truly given me a perspective I might not have considered before. I have been ask throughout my life what do you want to be when you grow up, what do you want to be when you finish school, what do you see yourself doing in 5 years, but who do I want to be is a different question. I have decided to be a Christian but I tell more people what I do than who I am. I put more focus on what I have in material things than what I have in future hope. Today 1 Corinthians chapter 13 is challenging some things I have been taught.
1If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
13So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
I started this journey with freedom as my goal, it still is, but one of our favorite sayings in this country is “freedom isn’t free” and it is bringing me to the issue of forgiveness. This might fall on some toes but as I read the above passage I don’t see how persecution fits into the cultural definition of forgiveness. I understand that me extending forgiveness brings peace to my soul but the part I struggle with is “I can forgive the person but I don’t have to remain subject to them”, is that true? I can tell you that before I met Christ I was quite a rascal (I use that term loosely) and I offended more often than was necessary and was repeatedly given forgiveness. The Bible says “seventy times seven”, “turn the other cheek” so why is it appropriate to forgive and then cut the offender out of my life? If I am going to be the person I decided to be than my goal is to shine light into darkness and that may even stir up a hornets nest of offense so what do I do with that? I am told to “love the brethren”, to “be of one mind” and that there are “tares among the wheat” and so am I supposed to go to church and shun and separate from people that offend me? I have never stopped to consider I can be the person I decide to be and that means I can hear what is said and let it go. “Love is patient” that is not just constantly reminding my child or grandson to pick up their socks. What if I actually came face to face with real persecution? God did not tell me to separate myself but to pray for my enemies so why would I not pray for those in my church body that have not matured enough to understand love is not “arrogant or rude”. If I believe there are tares among the wheat why is my light not shinning in their darkness? Forgiveness and love start at home and my church body is my family so even if the weird cousin spills gravy on my fancy tablecloth on Thanksgiving I need to invite them back for Christmas. God said “examine yourself”, “work out your own salvation”, “when I was a child” I have believed the things taught to me as a child but it is time for me to give up “childish ways” and believe God is making me the person I decided to be. Freedom is a choice and God can give me that freedom even in the worst prison or I can stay in a prison and give up God’s freedom. Today my challenge is to give forgiveness to others as freely as I have accepted it and to let the love that my Savior pours abundantly into me spill out on those who offend me. He calls me beloved and I am His!