Jesus

Without Compassion or Love

Thursday night the hub and I binge-watched 5 of the 8 episodes of Manhunt: Unabomber.

Last night, after he returned from his weekend fly fishing trip, we watched the final three.

And though I found the whole series interesting, I was very disturbed by episode 6.

Why is it, I wonder, that I was more disturbed by the evil done to innocent minds than I was to the evil done to innocent bodies?  Have I simply become numb to physical violence?

Or is it because I am so aware that, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me,” is so NOT true.

Or was I disturbed by episode 6 because the evil done by Dr. Ted Kaczynski was rightly reviled as evil while the evil done by Dr. Henry Murray was lauded as science?

As far as I’m concerned, both should be in prison – if Dr. Murray were still alive.

If you aren’t familiar with the unabomber’s backstory, he and his IQ of 168 enrolled in Harvard at age 16, where he volunteered to be a subject in a very unethical 3 year psych experiment. Unethical and evil.

Forgiveness.

At the end of episode 8, at Ted’s sentencing, the victims were given a chance to speak. They described the horrendous impact Ted’s actions had on them and their families and then one of them said this:

“As you start your life sentence in prison, this is what I wish for you: Given that your victims were blinded by your bombs, may you also be blinded by being deprived of the incredible light of the moon, the stars the sun, the beauty of nature for the rest of your life. Given that your victims lost their hearing because of your bombs, may you spend the rest of your days in stony silence. And given that your victims were maimed by your bombs, may your body be shackled with the same violence and hatred that have already imprisoned your mind. And given that your victims were killed by your bombs, may your own death occur as you have lived – in a solitary manner, without compassion or love.”

That last phrase especially – “without compassion or love” – made the hub and I both wince.

“That’s all so wrong,” I said, shaking my head.

The hub nodded in agreement.

We prayed this yesterday in church, we pray it often:

“Lord, in compassion, help us see beneath the surface of things to the wounds and sorrows in the hearts of those who sin against us. Deliver us from a pride which accounts them as sinful and us as righteous. We are not better than them. We are one with them at the foot of the cross. We cry out, ‘Forgive us!’ Set us free from the snares of hatred. Enable us to see our enemies as you see them from the cross, as persons you created and intended them to be, and make us instruments of their healing.

Lord, remember not the suffering the enemies of the cross have inflicted on creation and humanity; remember instead the fruits your disciples have born – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – which have grown out of the trials they inflicted, and when they come to judgment, let the fruits your persecuted ones have borne be their forgiveness. Lord, hear our prayer.”

“Let the fruits your persecuted ones have borne be their forgiveness.”

That’s all so right*.

Because the persecution Jesus has borne, and the fruits He has born, has been our forgiveness.

It is right that Ted Kaczynski remain in prison for the rest of his life, but depriving him – or anyone – of compassion and love makes us more like Ted and less like God.

It’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance.

*even as it is so, so difficult.

#believe

 

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Jesus

We are both poor.

I was in the bullpen Sunday, the provisional preacher in case the one who was scheduled was called away at the last minute.

So I prepared a back-up sermon, went to bed early with a horrible headache and woke Sunday morning with the pain still raging.  I took a maximum strength Sudafed, put a heating pad on my face and prayed the preacher would show.

He did, thank you Jesus.

I sat gratefully and gingerly in one of the back pews – careful not to move my head too much, the pain just barely masked and threatening to break through full force at the slightest wrong move – and listened to plan A’s take on the passage, which went in a completely different direction from mine.

While sipping coffee in fellowship hall a woman asked whether I would give my sermon another time.  “Probably not,” I said, “since the lectionary will have moved on to a new passage.”

But wait a minute, I can give my sermon another time. I can give it to you right now. I can turn my tentative sermon into a definite blog post. Lest it go to waste.

The gospel reading was from Matthew:

Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.
“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”  – Matthew 18:21-35

“Forgiveness,” our pastor said the previous Sunday, “is the hardest thing Jesus asks us to do.”

I pondered why that is and came up with a few possibilities:

1. We don’t understand how it works.

Josh McDowell explains it best:

“… let’s say my daughter breaks a lamp in my home. I’m a loving and forgiving father, so I put her on my lap, and I hug her and I say, “Don’t cry, honey. Daddy loves you and forgives you.” Now usually the person I tell that story to says, “Well, that’s what God ought to do.” Then I ask the question, “Who pays for the lamp?”  (More Than a Carpenter p.156)

Who pays for the lamp? It’s such a brilliant question. It completely redirects our skewed thinking.

I’ll forgive him/her/them after they’ve suffered enough, is what we think. After I have exacted enough payment. After they are sufficiently sorry for what they’ve done.

That thinking completely misses the point.

It is the forgiver who pays for the lamp, not the offender.  That is what makes forgiveness so hard, that is what makes it so great – the innocent party pays!

Forgiveness says, “I’ll pay for that.”

“I’ll pay for that, too.”

“And for that, and that, and that.”

Seventy-seven times.

Which brings us to what makes it so hard #2.

2. We haven’t really looked at the price-tag.

I can’t afford to pay for all those lamps, we think, I’m not rich (financially, spiritually, emotionally). I can’t absorb all that cost.

And that brings us to our parable.

The first guy – the really rich guy – forgave a huge debt because he could easily afford to do so.

But the guy who was forgiven wasn’t rich.  So he harshly demanded payment from some guy who was as not-rich as he was.

And that’s what we do. We flippantly accept God’s forgiveness because we think He can easily absorb the cost. We think that all of our many, many lamps combined are a mere drop in His vast ocean.

We think our sins against God are like pilfering pencils from the supply room of Ford Motor Company, but when someone sins against us they are taking food from the mouths of our babes.

We think this way because we haven’t taken a good look at the price-tag.

We parrot a phrase that never really made sense to me: “All sin is the same.”

But all sin is not the same – my little white lie told to spare someone’s feelings is not the same as a mass act of terrorism.

All sin is not the same but all sin does carry the same price tag.

“For the wages of sin is death.” – Romans

“Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” – Hebrews

price-tag.jpeg

No matter how small or insignificant we deem them to be, our broken lamps all carry the same huge price tag, which is not as easily absorbed as we like to think.

I sometimes picture God readily handing out volumes of forgiveness vouchers to each of us when, in fact, He handed out One voucher to all of us. And we only come face to face with the itemized invoice once a year on Good Friday.

Okay, you might be thinking (if you’re like me) it wasn’t easy for God to pay for our lamps, but…

3. If I give my heart to you, I’ll have none and you’ll have two.

Why should the offender keep getting away with it?  Why should I keep having to pay for the carelessness of others?

Because God did/does.

“Be holy because I am holy.”

And look what paying for our lamps got Jesus – a seat with the Father in glory.

You won’t be left with nothing, while the perp has two.

It may seem like the story I’m about to tell has nothing to do with this principle, but it does.

When I was in high school, I dated a basketball player.  He was a starter on the varsity team as a mere 10th grader. I went to a huge high school so that was a really big deal – it’s not like we were desperate for players.

I had been dating this player for a year when the seniors on the team started to tease him about not having sex, so he started to pressure me.

I said, “No, we’re too young.”

I should have said, “No, we’re not married,” because sex is a matter of marital status, not age, but I didn’t know anything back then.

Anyway, I kept saying no so he dumped me.

He immediately started dating a girl who had had a crush on him for a looong time. She was more than willing to do whatever she needed to do.

And she did.

And as soon as she did, he lost respect and dumped her.

So, we both got dumped – me for saying no and her for saying yes.

But I still had my self respect, the respect of my friends, my virginity and apparently the respect of the b’ball player.

Because he wanted me back.

No, thank you.

So don’t worry that the lamp breakers are going to get away with it, or get ahead of you financially, emotionally, et ceterally.

Just say, “Yes, I’ll pay for that.”

“And for that and that and that.”

And enjoy your self-respect.

And the camaraderie and esteem of the One who sits contentedly on the throne.

The parable Jesus told was in response to Peter’s question about forgiving another member of the church.

But those outside the church have issues with forgiveness, too.

I know someone who suffered a lot in her youth. I don’t know how much, exactly. I don’t know if it was much more or less than anyone else. But to her it was a lot.

So she has the idea that she has already pre-paid for any sins she might commit. She took it.  She took it all without complaint for all those years and God owes her.

She doesn’t need His forgiveness, He needs hers.

I guess this falls under not getting a good look at the price-tag.

She may have paid for the lamps of others with her innocent little girl heart and soul, but she didn’t shed innocent blood on a horrific cross.

And it also falls under not understanding how forgiveness works.

You can’t pre-pay for your own sins because with forgiveness, the innocent party pays and you are not the innocent party.

That is what makes forgiveness so powerful.  Perhaps it’s why Jesus tied it to love.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet.  You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.  Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”  Luke 7:44-47.

Love says, I’ll pay for yours because He paid for mine.

And we are both poor.

#tentative

 

 

 

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Jesus, Light

It’s All About the J

I skipped the stations of the cross on Good Friday to see a movie – The Young Messiah.  The most pious among us might disapprove but, as Johnny Cash pointed out, the most pious among us are not Christian then.

I liked the movie a lot. I don’t think it was one hundred percent theologically correct, but it didn’t claim to be. It was fiction, the author’s imaginings about what Christ’s childhood may have been like.

Some Christians won’t see the movie because of the theological errors. Some won’t see it because the author of the book upon which it is based used to write books about vampires – not knowing anything else about her.  But like Johnny said…

The movie depicts Jesus performing miracles as a child.  This is where I believe the author’s imagination strays from reality. I won’t go into all my reasons for this belief – unless someone asks for them – I’ll just say that, being one of us, I don’t believe He was able to perform miracles until the Holy Spirit came upon Him at His baptism.

Because we can’t perform miracles until the Holy Spirit comes upon us.

Check out what Jesus said:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 [italics added]

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” John 14:12

What happened when Jesus went to the Father? He sent His Spirit.

We can’t do powerful stuff without the Spirit, who dwells within those who confess the powerful name of Jesus.

Now here’s where it gets a little bit tricky and a little bit deep. You guys can handle tricky and deep.

Spirituality is popular these days.

There are loads of spiritual books. Some of them mention Jesus as one among many noteworthy and enlightened teachers. Some don’t mention Him at all. The ones I’ve read that do mention Him don’t mention Him as who He claims to be – the Way, the Truth, the Gate, the Bread, the name above all names, the only name by which we are saved, etc.

Some of the books, which contain beautiful truths based on His teachings, give Him credit, others do not.

Credit or not, there is no real power in Jesus’s teachings without the weight of heaven to carry them out.

We can read beautiful words and feel inspired to be a better person all on your own, sans the Spirit, but mere words fall short where the rubber meets the road.

I thought about that when my sister died.

And I thought about it recently when my pastor posted a parody on Facebook that poked fun at the trend toward spirituality over religion.  The parody was so over the top that he didn’t think anyone would take it seriously. It struck me as funny, in the same way the old SNL “church lady” skits struck me as funny. Even though I am a church lady.

But someone was offended.

He felt awful about offending a parishioner who has been entrusted to his pastoral care. In the power of the Holy Spirit, he confessed his regret.  He apologized from the pulpit, he apologized on Facebook. I was proud of him.

Humility is powered by the Spirit.

It’s the Spirit who cares more about a person’s heart and soul, when it comes down to it, than getting a laugh, a Facebook like, or even claiming the freedom to just be who we are – take it or leave it. It’s the Spirit who has the power to overcome self-defensive pride.

Jesus told us to turn the other cheek.

This is how He said it:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.” – from Matthew 5

Any one of us can aim to put that lovely concept into practice – whether we attribute the concept to Jesus or not – but without His Spirit dwelling in us, the concept fails.

Someone offends us and, instead of turning our cheek, we immediately poke the person in the eye for poking us in the eye.  We lash out and offend them, and everyone like them, because we are offended.

To the offender who has the Spirit of God in residence, the Spirit says, “No, loved one, this is the way, walk in it.”  And as we mature in our faith we say back to Him, “You are right, I was wrong.” And with that He nudges us to apologize.

Because there is great power in an apology.

And when the Spirit resides in the offended, indignation gives way to graciousness. And we cut people some slack.

That was the tricky part. Because I’m trying really hard to not offend anyone here. Not offending people seems to be getting trickier and trickier these days.

Now the deep part:

Remember when Jesus asked the guy who had been an invalid for 38 years, who wasn’t able to get into the pool when the healing waters were stirred, whether he wanted to get well?

It always strikes me when I read that passage that Jesus didn’t assume that everyone wants to get well.  Perhaps He knew that some find comfort in the familiar, even when the familiar is crippling.

But if we really want people to love us, and not offend us, then we will help them succeed.

When they betray us, instead of lashing out publicly, we will ask them questions privately.

Questions like, “You said seekers are welcome at our church, but the parody you posted makes me feel like I’m not. Did you really mean to give that message?”

Questions asked in love nip the offense right in the bud. They give people a chance to share their hearts, to clear the air. If their heart and/or clear air is what we want.

But if remaining crippled and alienated by real or perceived offenses is what we want, we will offend right back.

We can’t really know people unless we are willing to ask them questions.

We can’t really love people unless we are committed to believing the best about them.

It takes bravery. And bravery is hard when we’ve been beaten down by the enemy of our souls. When we have his deceptive, slick, smooth-tongued, accusing, counterfeit voice in our ear.

Remember the movie I mentioned way back at start?

In the opening scene the devil is standing off to the side eating an apple watching a child being harassed by bullies. At just the right moment he tosses the bitten apple into the crowd, causing one of the bullies to trip over it and die. The devil immediately enters the crowd and whispers into a receptive ear, “He did it,” pointing to young Jesus.

The devil tosses the apple, trips up mankind, causes our death and Jesus gets the blame. (And then the young Jesus resurrects the ungrateful bully and we have the whole gospel story right there.)

The devil accuses Jesus and we believe him. And so we seek a counterfeit.

We might say we are seeking Jesus, but if we refuse to read His words  – preferring pleasant plagiaries (yes, I did make up a word)  – then we are actually rejecting Him.

When we seek a God of our own imagination, one who is safe, one who doesn’t challenge our prideful notions, one who is manageable,  we remain powerless to change.

We can’t love His concepts without loving Him. We cannot know the power of His teachings separate from the power of His name. They are a package deal.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” –  John 15:5

 

 

 

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Jesus, life, Light

Six Stone Jars and a Cup of Forgiveness

I heard something beautiful in church yesterday as we read the story of Jesus’s first recorded miracle at the wedding in Cana. If you know the story, you know that there was a wine shortage.

Now six stone jars were standing there, for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons…

Jesus instructed servants to fill those six stone jars with water and they did – to the brim.

The water became wine. Abundant wine. As the pastor called it, “An overabundance of wine to make the heart of mankind glad.”

Except, he said, he has been a pastor long enough, and walked with enough struggling people to know that an overabundance of wine – alcohol – does not bring happiness. It brings trouble.

So what kind of wine was this?

Then He took a cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you.  This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’”

The blood of the covenant, poured out for the forgiveness of sins.

An overabundance of forgiveness makes the heart of mankind glad.

It’s the cup of forgiveness, not alcohol, that brings happiness to mankind, to marriages, to all relationships.

Pairing the abundance of wine at the wedding feast with an abundance of forgiveness was brilliant.

Jesus’s very first miracle, which on the surface seems to be about averting a faux pas, was actually a foreshadowing of His last and greatest miracle – the pouring out of an overabundance of forgiveness. The pouring out of His blood for our purification.

It’s been way too long since I heard a fresh insight on a Sunday morning and boy was it refreshing. And thrilling.

In describing His actions at the last supper, the pastor said Jesus lifted the cup that was reserved for Elijah and said, “This is the blood of my covenant…”

I had never before heard that Jesus lifted Elijah’s cup. It seems to me Jesus would raise His own cup, the one His Father gave Him to drink. The one from which, He later confessed, He did not want to drink. Even so, “if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.

But regardless of whose cup it was, I was thrilled once again. Because I have been to a Seder, and I know that a place is set for Elijah, and I know that the last supper was at Passover, but it hadn’t occurred to me that, because the last supper was a Seder feast, a place would have been set for Elijah.

A new insight, something to ponder and investigate…It was a really good morning.

 

 

 

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life, war on women

Trickle Down Jesus

Road Fun, Creative Commons

Road Fun, Creative Commons

If I could give just one gift to one person – money no object, but anonymously – to whom would I give it?  Well, daily prompt, let’s see…

No one is a better gift-giver than God, so I’d start there.  He gave One Gift to all of us and to each individual one of us.  Not really anonymously – His gift-giving was heralded by angels – but sort of anonymously in that some have been given the gift and don’t know it yet.

So on this eve of Christmas Eve, I would give the One Gift, too.  I would give Jesus to the head pastor of my church-with-many-campuses, in hopes that He would trickle down.  Here’s what I mean:

Sunday the hub, my daughter and I went to the urban campus for worship.  The woman leading the opening number was rocking it.  I mean ROCKING it!  It was everything you would expect from rousing African-American worship and it was a sight and sound to behold.

Then the pastor spoke of his vision for our church/community center.  He spoke of the woman caught in the act of adultery and how Jesus, kneeling in the sand, forgave her, told her to go and sin no more.  He said he wants us to be a church that kneels in the sand and shows compassion.  He wants us to be a place where the addict puts down his needle, puts down her phone….  He wants us to be a place where the gang banger can come in and say, “No one told me to pull my pants up.  But I kind of feel like I should pull my pants up…”

Now ordinarily that kind of talk would have had my heart shouting, “YeeHaw!” and my skin all goose-bumpy.  It would make me want me to stand up and cheer.  But, alas, there was none of that.  There was only the sound of a gong resounding in my ears.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1

I have no doubt that the good pastor wants to be that kind of church, that he wants the Spirit to move in that city and redeem the broken.  Which is why I would give Him a trickle down of Jesus.

Yes and amen, Jesus loved and forgave the woman caught in the act of adultery.  He displayed all kinds of love to women, bestowed upon them all kinds of dignity.  I was so happy to hear His name mentioned, frankly, because it is a bit rare in our church.   And that is the problem.  The power that the pastor wants to unleash on that city comes in the name of Jesus, yet the church operates in the name of Paul.

Yes, we can be a church that kneels in the sand and forgives, but as long as we put that forgiven woman under the stranglehold of holy misogyny, we will lack any real power to make a difference.

Jesus loved women.  He created them to reveal 50% of His image and to co-labor with the other 50% of His image.  Restricting women – making them subservient to men (in a thinly veiled and “doctrinally correct” way) – just plays into the hands of the one who is trying to divide and conquer.  Or at least divide and render weak.

I know I’ve said this before – many times – but it is a drum worth beating.  Because until my pastor(s) put aside the traditions of men and embrace the whole story, we will continue to be nothing more than clanging symbols – making noise, garnering attention, and fading away…..

Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.

© The Reluctant Baptist, 2014

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Jesus, Light, love, restoration, Stories from the Island

Dancing With Grace

geraniums

To set the mood for our storytelling on that final night, I showed Glennon Doyle Melton’s “From My Cold Dead Hands.”  None of the women had seen it before.  Watching their faces in the soft light of the projector, I felt like I was on holy ground:  These beautiful former prisoners were about to drop some keys.

P.S. If you are new to my blog and you have no idea what I am talking about, you can catch up herehere and here.

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life, love

The Power of an Apology

wind-dandelion

For twenty-two years I’ve carried a photograph in my memory.  At first glance it is rather prosaic: Two young mothers sharing lunch in a sunny, well-organized kitchen.  The conversation is lively and the smiles are genuine.  The healthy baby in the highchair happily pinching cheerios between pointer and thumb and the healthy toddler on a blanket happily stacking rings onto a plastic post are both picture-perfect.  There is no crying, no fussing, no trace of the awkwardness I was expecting. 

Two-and-a-half years earlier we had both announced our pregnancies to our young-marrieds Sunday school class on the same day.  And then she lost her baby.

My husband said it was too bad that it wasn’t me instead.  My look of horror caused him to explain:  “She isn’t handling it well, you’re stronger”, he said.  Still.

I took the brunt of her “not handling it well”, probably because my growing belly was a weekly reminder of her loss.  I’m still not sure what all “not handling it well” involved, but my spirit felt whatever it was, and I saw the looks and the whispers. I cut her lots of slack, though, because she was hurting and I knew it was going to take her some time to recover.

And then two-and-a-half years later she invited me to her house for lunch.  She had, in the meantime, given birth to a beautiful baby girl. We had been cordial all this time in Sunday school, but we hadn’t been socializing outside of class the way we once did.  Perhaps we were both afraid of tripping over the lumps under the rug.  Which is why I expected lunch to be awkward.

But it wasn’t.  She put a lovely plate of food in front of me, sat down across the table from me and said, “I want to apologize for my behavior.  I was wicked.  I said horrible, untrue things about you.”  No hemming, no hawing, no excuses, no awkwardness whatsoever.  Just a brave, confident apology.  “You were hurting, I forgave you way back then.”   And then we enjoyed a very pleasant lunch and play time with our daughters.

My cordial, walking-on-eggshells, I-forgive-you-but-I don’t-really-trust-you attitude toward her changed instantly and completely to one of high respect.  We were friends again.

About ten years later I was sitting in the circle of a large non-denominational Bible study.  There were women in attendance from many denominations, churches and surrounding cities.  When it was my turn to introduce myself, the woman next to me bristled and muttered something very surprising under her breath.

Have you heard the sermon illustration about the woman who confessed gossip to her pastor?  The pastor took her to the roof of the church with a feather pillow in hand.  He slit the cover of the pillow allowing the feathers to swirl and scatter in the wind.  Then he said, “I forgive you, now go pick up the feathers.”

The “horrible, untrue things” my friend said were still swirling all those years later.  One had landed at some point on the woman next to me.  That’s the problem with feathers scattered to the wind, it is impossible to go back and collect them all.  I just smiled at her as if I had not heard her comment.  I knew its source.  And I wondered whether listening to gossip and believing it and allowing it to form your opinion of someone without actually verifying it isn’t just as sinful as generating it.  

My friend moved to another state many years ago, before the Bible study incident, but we recently reconnected on Facebook. Every time I see her smiling face, I feel the same admiration for her that I felt in her tidy kitchen that day.  No stray feathers will ever change that.  And whenever my memory album flips open to that little picture, I am reminded of the enduring power of an apology.

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