Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"More Than Just Lip Service"

Doesn't it just bug you when someone just gives you "lip service?" You know, when a service rep on the phone is suppose to really help you and says they're going to look further into your problem and get right back to you or resolve an issue right away? Then to your irritation, a few hours, days or weeks later you find the issue has never been addressed because the problem is still evident?! I hate that!

If we're really honest in looking at ourselves, how many times have we done that to others including our own family? I know I've done that. When someone asked me to do something or pay attention to their conversation and I "say" I'm paying attention by my words ("Yeah, yeah. I'm listening. " or "Yeah, I'll get right on that" but,in reality, I'm paying more attention to the task I'm involved in and NOT listening. Or,I have no clue what they just asked me to do and so inevitably it never gets done.

What about when you've been hurt deeply by someone and they ask for forgiveness? You "say" you forgive them but in your heart you're keeping score against them in case there's a next time. (Being human...there's always a next time)!

Jesus addressed "lip service" over and over again during his ministry on earth. He always dealt with the heart issues. In Matthew 18:15-35 Jesus addresses the issue of being hurt and granting forgiveness. In verses 21-35 Peter asks Jesus, "How many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?" Jesus replies, "...not seven times but seventy-seven times." In other words forgiveness is ongoing...never held back from anyone, no matter how many times someone asks us to forgive them. It's just like God dealing with us. No matter how many times we ask for forgiveness, through Christ, God cannot withold it from us, as His children. But, God is perfect, just, righteous, compassionate. We are not and so it is always a heart issue. Jesus goes on to tell a story of a king who forgave the debt owed him by a servant. In turn the same servant was owed money by his own subject but would not forgive him his debt. Instead he had him thrown into jail until the debt was paid. Matthew 18:35 Jesus says, "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from you heart." Matthew 6:14 is similar, "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you."

Does that mean if we don't truly forgive someone then we will not truly be forgiven? Not so literally, I don't think. Two ways this has been explained to me is this: (1) if we harbor unforgiveness in our hearts, we will stop the flow of communication, honesty and blessing from the throne of God himself into our lives. (2) God knows when our hearts are not aligned with our words and will hold us accountable.

As an author, I use words to communicate an emotion, an image, etc. Words are powerful. However, the heart behind those words is MOST powerful and it is the heart that God is most interested in

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