in my old town's local weekly newspaper.
"(Name) received a hearty pacemaker as a souvenir of his stay in the hospital"
So many Bible stories was I blessed to hear and learn as a child. And in these last few years, the blessing of being able to grow and learn and understand those same stories on a much deeper level.
Studying the Life of Moses through BSF this year had been incredible. I came into it knowing much of the symbolism and knowing the general story, but this year I've come to understand how much the store of the Exodus, Wandering, and Journey into the Promised Land is reflective of the process of our own individual Christian journeys. God had justice, but also grace on the Israelites as they repeatedly and frustratingly (to the human leadership of Moses at least) rejected Him and forgot the many time He had saved and blessed them with miracles. God kept his promises, even as the Israelites did and were unable to do so.
So also does God discipline but also have a Great Grace on us as we accept him and are saved from our own Egypts, and yet even as we journey to the Promised Land of Eternal Life, we repeatedly fall and are pulled back up again. We forget what God has done for us, grumble about our lowly circumstances, and yet God still has the Grace to provide for us and rescue us even as we repeatedly reject Him by fearing our future and not trusting in His control of our lives.
I'm humbled as I think about this Great Grace bestowed upon me, and I'm grateful also for God working in my life through this study and perfecting me as a Child of God. The Israelites were given His presence in a cloud and we have His presence through the Holy Spirit in us.
How Great is our God! How Great is His Grace! that He who began this good work in us WILL be Faithful to complete it even as we stumble in our faith in Him.
In thinking some more about forgiveness, and thinking much about Martinez's comment about forgiveness being more about the forgiver than the forgivee, I began to define the concept of forgiveness as "not keeping a record of wrongs." In searching the Bible, (yay blueletterbible) I found that for the times the word "forgiveness" is actually translated (not very many) it is related to a Greek word meaning "release or dismissal"--specifically, release from bondage.
I see forgiveness, when thought about in connection with justification and salvation, as meaning God does not hold my sin against me on the basis of Christ's death. He is not keeping a record of my wrongs and His Forgiveness is not letting my sin stand in the way of His Love for me. I think this is exemplified many times with the nation of Israel in the Old Testament. He still disciplined them and punished them for their sins, but he also always forgave them. Trying to come to grips much further when thinking about the journey from Egypt to the Promised Land and the cycle of their sin, God's anger, discipline and yet still forgiveness-- offers much more difficulty--but again, His Ways are higher than my ways and His Thoughts are higher than my thoughts.
I recently read Yours, Jack, letters of C.S. Lewis. In a few of the letters, Lewis talks about a moment much later in his Christian journey when he came to a full realization of forgiveness.
Tonight in Bible Study we were looking the grumbling and fear of the Israelites that led to their punishment of 40 years of wandering. (Numbers 13 and 14) One of our discussion questions was related to God forgiving them, but still placing on them just consequences. It's easy for me to acknowledge that God has forgiven me my sins by Christ's sacrifice on the cross and to acknowledge that God is just and that just consequence for my Sin was paid by Christ's death. But in thinking more deeply about this tonight, I realize that this implies that forgiveness can somehow negate discipline if I define forgiveness by this understanding. And that isn't consistent with what we find in the Bible--such as the sacrifices of atonement that still had to be made with restitution. Forgiveness is not a contrasting idea with discipline. I realized I need to better define my understanding of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is NOT releasing someone from consequences of sin. That seems like a hard idea at first. God has forgiven believers, but he still disciplines us as our Father (Hebrews). So what are we doing then when we forgive someone?
As I'm understanding this now, forgiveness is NOT holding sin against a person--a releasing of guilt. So how then are there still consequences? I thought that maybe forgiveness--since it typically comes after an apology--must be an acknowledgment of a person's repentance, grief, regret. But there seems to be times that Jesus says we must still forgive even if the other person is not repentant.
Now in discussing this with my husband and trying to put some biblical support into it, he claims that punishment and discipline are not the same thing. Therefore, Christ paid the punishment and that is our forgiveness-not paying the punishment for sin. By this idea--parents should never "punish" their children and claim to forgive them, parents should forgive and discipline their children. So I ask him, and myself, what then, is discipline?
So this is my next step in the journey of faith, of growing and understanding God more. I stress that I still trust that God has forgiven me and I am justified by Christ's death on the cross. I'm just on a journey to seek how forgiveness, justice, and discipline work together--in salvation, and in life--as we forgive others, and especially in the context of parenthood (of which I have no experience but hope by God's blessing to have one day).