This week's devotional is from Pastor Art
The Fredrik Backman novel, "A Man Called Ove," tells the story of a recent widower who is determined to end his life after the death of his beloved wife but keeps being interrupted by curious neighbors whose funky ineptitudes challenge him to, among other things, reconsider the grudges he holds. Ove is carrying anger against so many people that one wonders how he can get up in the morning (usually before the sun, and always to check on a catalogue of things for which he really isn’t responsible). The objects of Ove’s various grudges and, therefore, potential recipients of his forgiveness include: his former best friend, a pregnant but loving immigrant neighbor, a mangy cat, anyone who left their bike in the wrong spot or drove their car in a restricted area, cancer, a vicious little dog and its snarky owner, a Spanish tour bus driver, God, and even Ove himself.
A tortured bundle of strength, love, resentment, lonely tenderness, and rigidity who once had his beautiful, joy-filled but now late wife to guide him, Ove is imprisoned by the disappointments that seem to define his life. I admit that, only ¾ of the way through the book when writing this devotional, I’m sure hoping he discovers that he is the only person who holds the key that can unlock his cell. It’s a Swedish book, though … so I’m bracing for a dark, sad ending. Either way, I know that mercy and pardon are Ove’s only hope.
The focus of last Sunday’s message was forgiveness and, specifically, the place it holds as a marker on the well-worn path of authentic Christianity. My focus, however, had to do with discovering and reflecting upon some of the foundational markers on the steep, steep trail to forgiveness itself. Those trail markers I noted?: “Compassion,” “Patience,” and “Humility.” The holy virtue of forgiveness stands over and against the deadly sin of wrath, but without compassion, patience, and humility, we’ll rarely, if ever, find our way to forgiveness. Here’s a quick reminder of what I focused on for each of those markers:
- Compassion: “a deep love for all people” – (Romans 12:14-21; Colossians 3:12-13)
- Patience: “the ability to allow for time between an experience and a response to that experience” – (II Peter 3:9)
- Humility: “The willingness to be forgiven” – (Luke 5:20-26; Romans 3:23)
Consider the texts attached to each of the above “markers”. In order to get a sense of context, be sure to take in the texts immediately surrounding each reference too.
- Of these three, which is/are easiest for you?
- Which are the most difficult?
- Pray a prayer of confession (agreement with God over the things that keep bumping you off the trail of authentic faith).
- Ask God for a gift – the gift of ideas about how to grow in that area of greatest weakness.
- Thank God for a gift – the gift of whichever focus was most natural for you.
BE TOGETHER & BE A BLESSING
Think of a person with whom you are in a very healthy relationship right now. This may be someone from whom you’ve received forgiveness, to whom you’ve offered it, or even someone who is so mature and close to you that you would know you would forgive each other for a wound … almost before it was even inflicted. It may be a friend, sibling, parent, spouse -anyone from your circle of relationships.
Get together with them for a cup of coffee, a lunch appointment, or if a face-to-face isn’t possible, write a hand-written card. Let them know how much you appreciate them for the heart they have or the relationship that’s been forged through the grace you’ve experienced together.
Then top off their day by inserting a gift card in the note or paying for the lunch or beverage when you meet.
Oh, and if you have the stomach for it (and won’t blame me for, or assume I endorse everything the author promotes or implies just because I recommended the novel) read, "A Man Called Ove." When taken along with some of Christ’s teachings on forgiveness, it can help give a deeper experience of the wonderful "power of pardon" … and the terrible, destructive power of NOT experiencing it.