[Jesus said to the disciples:] 15“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”
If you could ask God one question, what would it be?
In the movie, An Interview with God, Paul Asher is a young talented reporter who is having a faith crisis after traveling to Afghanistan during the war. After his return, he has the opportunity to sit down and talk to God – three days in a row – 30 minutes each day.
However, what is revealed in the interview is that not only is this young reporter battling emotions and thoughts from seeing soldiers die, but also has a crumbling marriage. He believes that his marriage is falling apart because his wife had an affair – And, he thinks she had the affair because he was away in Afghanistan.
And, so the reporter is given a gift as he struggles with his faith – a gift to sit down face-to-face with God.
Imagine. What would you ask and talk to God about if you had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Him face-to-face? What questions would you ask? What would you want to know?
Well, this is exactly what the disciples had the opportunity to do as they followed Jesus. And, so they asked him questions and listened to his stories. At this point on our way to Jerusalem, they had been with him quite a while now – witnessing his compassion as he heals those with diseases, feeds those who are hungry, and demonstrates his love for all people – even the Gentiles (the woman who was called a dog) and the Tax Collectors!
Jesus had just told the disciples the parable of the Lost Sheep. Even if the shepherd has 99 out of 100 of his sheep, he will go and search for the one that is lost. In other words, God doesn’t want a single one of His children to be lost. He wants all of his disciples to be in the fold – safe and secure.
It is just after Jesus tells this parable to the disciples that he begins to give instructions on how to discipline a member of the church who has hurt you. He gives very explicit directions and to this day, many believers use this method to handle conflict and confrontation.
While these instructions seem so upfront and direct, there is something else that I believe is going on –
It was just the other day that I wrote in my journal: I have times in the day when I just want to sit down and cry –
- We are all tired of the Covid-19 Pandemic. We have to wear our masks everywhere we go – wash our hands frequently and practice social distancing – It’s on the forefront of our minds constantly. And, because of the disease, many communities are not functioning as normal – restaurants are unable to open, stores only allow so many to enter, and at 5:00pm, most communities have closed. We wonder – will this ever really end?
- Just recently, I had an aunt die from the disease and that really hit close to home. My uncle who is a retired Lutheran pastor was able to see her before she died. He is 90 years old and they had been married for 63 years. He told me that before they could bury his wife, he had to be tested for Covid-19. He said to me, “I was disappointed when my test came back negative.”
- Our country is in an uproar from so many issues, – racism, the upcoming presidential election, and riots of destruction in so many of our cities…No doubt, so many people are discontent and are fighting for justice and what they believe is right.
For me, it’s all overwhelming…There are days when I really think I could just sit down and cry…
Our hearts hurt. The world is filled with terrible things – hunger and starvation, failing marriages, isolation, war, hate, lost jobs, homelessness, disease, sickness, conflict, and unjust death.
It is in the interview with the reporter, that God points out that we have free will –
We have the free will to have compassion.
We have the free will to decide how to care for one another.
We have free will in our marriages.
We have free will as to how we treat others in the church
We have the free will to love one another.
We have choices – free will – as to how we will respond to all the terrible things that are in the world.
As Jesus is with his disciples, he sees their struggles and understands their pain and hurt as they try to tell others about the Love of God. Therefore, Jesus knows that you and I have days that we would just like to sit and cry.
But what this young reporter doesn’t realize and what believers often forget is that there is a way to happiness and joy.
In the movie, God says: Everyone has their own journey, but there is only one way.
I wonder if we had the opportunity to sit with God face-to-face and ask one question, would our question be, “How do we find true happiness and joy?”
I heard a story once about a young couple who had not been married very long. After living together for a while, it was all the little things that kept adding up that was getting on each other’s nerves. After some discussion, the young couple decided that instead of fusing at each other about every little thing, they decided that they would write down on little pieces of paper each thing that bothered them. They did this for a whole week.
At the end of the week, they opened the box. He told her that she could go first. With each little piece of paper, she began to tell him all the things that were driving her crazy –
Pick up your dirty clothes
Put away your dirty dishes
Close the toilet lid…and on and on.
It then became his turn to take each little piece of paper and tell her all the things that drove him crazy and so he began.
He took one out of the box and it read: I forgive you.
He took another one out of the box and it read: I forgive you.
And a third…I forgive you.
Every time she did something that bothered him, he made a choice…he exercised his free will and chose to FORGIVE.
You see…that is what LOVE is….
Whether it is failing marriage, a friendship, or a conflict in the church – we have the choice as to how we will respond –
We all sin against one another because we are all sinners! The only way forward in any relationship is to Forgive one another!
Here is the thing…
Marriages can be saved, food can be grown to end hunger, relationships restored, churches made whole – and the world a better place – if we FORGIVE one another…both for the past and the present.
I believe that if we had the opportunity to ask God one question – face-to-face: How can we have complete happiness and joy? The answer would be “FORGIVENESS”
Love one another as I have loved you – It is the reason I am on my way to Jerusalem.
It is the Cross that will make it possible for you, your brothers and sisters in Christ, and the world to heal and be whole.
Everyone has their own journey, but there is only one path – and that is Jesus Christ who died for us sinners – to be forgiven.
In the movie, An Interview with God, the young journalist learns that it wasn’t his trip to Afghanistan that caused his wife to have an affair – he learns that the affair happened before he had even considered going to Afghanistan.
God asked the journalist a question: What could you possibly do that would be beyond my power to forgive you?
The journalist goes home and finds his wife sitting on the porch. They sit and talk and then he turns to her and says, “I forgive you.”
That’s what God does – He takes our free-will to love one another and helps us to forgive one another – to truly love one another and makes our lives whole – filling us with His grace, mercy, and Love that go beyond our comprehension.
Jesus wants us to know that It is how we are to treat each other – period. Forgiveness is what we are called to do in our lives – our jobs, our homes, our marriages, and yes – even in the church!
It is through forgiveness that frees us –
It is the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ that provides the Way –
It is the CROSS that creates the path for our journey and brings us joy and happiness that makes life truly life.