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Archive for the ‘Forgiveness’ Category

“The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’.” Genesis 2:18

The politicians tell us today that there is a war on women. I think that the greater conflict is the battle between the sexes.

It’s no secret that traditional marriage is a difficult thing, and in our age even looked down upon. One fellow told me that he thinks men today think that women are just too difficult and have given up on them. I don’t really know what women think about men, but if the media is to be believed my friend’s opinion may hold true for them as well.

Pop star Sam Smith has written a poignant song about an offended lover which exemplifies a relationship gone bad.

You and me, we made a vow
For better or for worse
I can’t believe you let me down
But the proof’s in the way it hurts

You say I’m crazy
‘Cause you don’t think I know what you’ve done
But when you call me baby
I know I’m not the only one

The betrayal and pain seep from these lyrics. But what stands out even more to me is the how the two people view each other: they both think the other one is nuts, although a case can be made that the offending party is only saying this to their partner to cover their lie.

It is not easy to figure out what to do, but the classic movie “I’ll Be Seeing You” (1944) may give us a clue.

The film opens with World War II soldier Zach Morgan (Joseph Cotton) riding a train full of other service men obviously on leave. Mary Marshall (Ginger Rogers) sits down across from him and they strike up a conversation.

Mary tells him she is going to Pine Hill to visit her uncle and his family and Christmas. Zach says he is also going to Pine Hill, to visit his sister.

Thus, “I’ll Be Seeing You” begins with the two future lovers lying to each other. Mary is actually a furloughed prisoner at a penitentiary. Zach is definitely not from Pine Bluff and he is an orphan.

As their relationship develops, Zach fesses up to his reasons for lying to Mary. He wanted to be with her.

On the other hand, Mary keeps quiet about her prisoner status, and is reassured by her aunt that she should not tell Zach. They will be together such a short time, she explains to Mary, and the matronly aunt says that she should “have fun like other girls.”

Unlike Mary, Zach confesses to Mary his own furlough status from a hospital, where he is being treated for his psychiatric issues. Mary proves to be a kind and caring woman, encouraging Zach that he can overcome. In fact, it his her voice in his mind that helps him stave off a relapse when he is alone in his room.

The film shows Mary to be someone who is treated somewhat harshly by the justice system. She reveals to her 17-year-old cousin Barbara (Shirley Temple) the reason why she ended up in prison.

Her boss had tried to rape her in his apartment, and in the struggle she accidentally pushed him out a 14th-story window. Although it is clear she acted in self-defense, she is convicted on a manslaughter charge and sent to prison for six years.

In this context, Mary and Zach both fall deeply in love with each other in a few days. Unfortunately for them, and of course unknown to Zach, Mary’s furlough ends shortly after the New Year.

She has to go back to jail to serve three more years. He thinks she is a traveling saleswoman and has to go back to work.

Furthermore, when Zach tells Barbara before his own leave taking that he intends to marry her cousin , she discusses Mary’s true situation, not knowing that Zach is not aware of it.

Zach becomes cold to Mary as they prepare to separate. After Zach refuses to admit what is troubling him, it dawns on her that he now knows the truth. The train leaves with Mary unable to explain.

Arriving home, she encounters Barbara, who is distraught and apologetic. This does not help Mary, however. She forgives Barbara, but she lies on her bed, weeping and forlorn.

All is not lost for her, though. At the end of the movie, Mary is shown walking toward the prison doors in the night. The camera reveals the eyes of a figure hovering nearby.

It is Zach, who embraces Mary and tells her he knew right after the train left he was wrong to leave as he did. He apologizes and says he understands why she did what she did to receive a jail term (although it is not clear in the film why he knows this). He vows to Mary that he will be right there waiting for her until she gets out of prison.

Zach’s gracious behavior toward Mary illustrates a statement made by Jamaican singer Bob Marley:

“If she’s amazing, she won’t be easy. If she’s easy, she won’t be amazing. If she’s worth it, you wont give up. If you give up, you’re not worthy. … Truth is, everybody is going to hurt you; you just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.”

Zach understood Marley’s sentiments.  He knew Mary was imperfect. But he loved her and wanted her anyway. Zach appreciated that he too was no prize. The value Mary had for him made her worth the wait.

Although both men and women were created in God’s image and for each other, we are both fallen human beings, and have been for a long time. It seems that we forget this truth in our perception of the other sex.

Why this is the case is complicated. I think at the root of the war between men and women is a more cosmic struggle: the one between God and the evil being known as Satan.

When Adam and Eve sinned, God pronounced a curse on Satan, the perpetrator who engineered their demise:

“… I will cause hostility between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and her offspring.” Genesis 3:15

In some fashion, though we ourselves are culpable, men and women are in no-man’s land, caught in the middle between God and Satan.

Sam Smith’s lyrics also reveal another truth: men and women want and need each other. He writes:

For months on end I’ve had my doubts
Denying every tear
I wish this would be over now
But I know that I still need you here

This is the dilemma. Dutch theologian Desiderius Erasmus is quoted as saying, “Women. You can’t live with them and you can’t live without them.” I imagine women could say the same thing about men.

If my friend’s observation that men have given up on women is true, then I can see from my male point of view at least one solution to the battle of the sexes. They should heed the words of Bob Marley and imitate the actions of the fictional Zach Morgan.

Men and women ought to be less demanding, realize we are all on a journey ad find a partner that is worth suffering for and endure. We do need each other.

words of Bob Marley and imitate the actions of the fictional Zach Morgan.

Men and women ought to be less demanding, realize we are all on a journey ad find a partner that is worth suffering for and endure. We do need each other.

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I sought the Lord, and he answered me;  he delivered me from all my fears….This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles…The Lord is close to the brokenhearted  and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:4,6,18).
  

E.F. “Sonny” Dewey stands in his room in the middle of the night yelling. Is he screaming at his wife, or his kids, or some other person inhabiting his mother’s house? No, he is yelling at God.

Sonny, a Pentecostal preacher portrayed by Robert Duvall in the film “The Apostle”, has been booted from his Texas church as a result of  a power play orchestrated by his wife Jessie (Farrah Fawcett). The lady has had enough of his womanizing and abuse, and she herself has taken up with the youth minister.

“If you won’t give me back my wife, give me peace,” screams Sonny.” I don’t know who’s been fooling with me, you or the Devil. I don’t know! I won’t even bring the human into this. He’s just a mutt, so I won’t bring him into this, but I’m confused, I’m mad. I love you Lord, but I am mad at you! I AM MAD AT YOU!” 

“I know I’m a sinner every once in a while, a womanizer, but I’m your servant. Since I was a little boy and you brought me back from the dead, I’m your servant. What should I do? Tell me. I’ve always called you Jesus, you’ve always called me Sonny, so what should I do. This is Sonny talking now!”

Apparently such communication between Sonny and the good Lord is not uncommon. A neighbor calls up and complains to his Momma, who tells them,”That’s Sonny. Sometimes he talks to the Lord, sometimes he yells at the Lord. Tonight he just happens to be yelling at him.” 

Sonny’s anger issues aren’t limited to the Lord, however. At his kid’s baseball game he takes a bat to the youth minister and kills him. Knowing he’s in a heap of trouble, Sonny runs.

Somehow, even in the midst of the horrible mess he has mostly brought on himself, Sonny does not stop communicating with the Lord.

Even as a fugitive murderer, the preacher asks God to lead him. Eventually he arrives  in a rural Louisiana community.

His charismatic personality attracts the locals and Sonny plants a church with an African American minister.  He looks for radio time, and when he find out he has to pay, Sonny is offered a place to stay by a mechanic he helped out earlier.

This act of kindness causes Sonny to tell God, “I’m not mad at you, and I’ll never be mad again.” 

In the bayou and on the radio, Sonny is known as  “The Apostle E.F.”.Although his ministry booms and the church grows, his new life is on a short leash. Jessie hears a fuzzy radio broadcast of his one day and calls the cops.

Sonny is escorted away right after he preaches his final sermon. In “The Apostles” final scene, he is preaching at a group of inmates.

Robert Duvall’s portrayal of Sonny in the 1997 movie, which won him an Academy Award nomination, is not one of a typical suburban evangelical Christian in modern America. In “The Apostle”, we do not experience the stereotypical mega-church family cruising in their minivan and sipping lattes at the sanctuary coffee bar.

What we see is a precursor  of what would hit the media in the coming new century: the reality show. Indeed, the lives of Sonny,  Jessie and other characters in “The Apostle” foreshadow the brokenness of  many people in  America in the second decade of the 21st century, folks who still desire, nay, yearn for, a touch from Jesus Christ.

And not just a pat on the back from His hand. They hunger for a deep experience with Him, and one with power that will rocket their lives into outer space.

But they are broken and exhausted and don’t know how to be fixed and the church isn’t helping. Jesus is all the hope they have.

The life of the real American believer today is more true to the story of the average person we meet in the Old and New Testament. Those people were broken too and they needed the touch of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.

What they are getting instead from today’s American Christianity in many cases is church politics and hierarchy reminiscent of the Pharisees and Sadducees,  and expectations they do not have the strength or power to meet.

People whose lives are busted into a thousand pieces may  think it is  only the church which is to blame for their  condition. They should  think again and try to get rid of that mindset.

It is not right to think of  the church and pastors in our minds like we do the government and politicians.

It would be wiser to look in the mirror. Once we get past the fact that what we see there  looks like Humpty Dumpty post tumble, and overcome our despair that we shall never be put back together again by all the king’s horses and all the pastor’s men, we would do well to grasp that we are actually right where God would have us.

Although it certainly doesn’t seem that way, He knows exactly what he is doing.

It is only in our brokenness can we comprehend that we need grace and mercy from Jesus. I may currently be walking around my room after hours yelling at God like Sonny Dewey, but he isn’t screaming back.

As Moody Bible Church pastor Erwin Lutzer notes, God has promises for us he intends to keep.

An old friend told me this weekend to think about the term ‘covenant’. In biblical terms, a ‘covenant’ is a set of commitments that God has made with his people.

Lutzer says that God’s promises to us aren’t based on our brokenness, but on his faithfulness and power. If Abraham had gone to God, he says, and posed a set of “what if” questions to Him, God’s answer in each case would be that He would keep his promises to him.

For example, if Abraham had asked ‘what if I lie again” or “what if my people have a king named David who commits adultery” or “what if my descendants crucify your Son”, God’s answer would still be the same.

“How can God talk like that”?, asks Pastor Lutzer. “Because God is not a man like you or I.”

God will not change and he remains faithful because he cannot deny himself. It is upon that that we stand today.”

In the words of an old hymn:

“Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My gracious, omnipotent hand.”

Like t E.F. “Sonny” Dewey, a man who was purportedly a man of God, many of us are messed up and torn apart and our pieces are spread out all over the landscape.  We would do well to follow his example and hang with Jesus regardless.

The final stanza of the aforementioned hymn says it all:

“The soul that on Jesus doth lean for repose,
I will not, I will not, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”

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“Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him (Psalm 98:1).”

A new year is supposedly a time of change. What most people think about is making resolutions to change themselves in some way.

This isn’t the theme of the current animated fantasy movie “Brave”.  According to the protagonist Merida, a princess, the person that really needs transformation is her mother Elinor.

Elinor and her husband King Fergus have invited allied Scottish clans to their castle so that the first-born sons can compete for the hand of the teenage Merida. However, the spunky young lass wants no part of this arrangement.  This is understandable, as she can run rings around the doofus boys who are her suitors in every way.

In scenes as old as the hills, Merida and Elinor have clash after clash. Teenager against parent. What a surprise.

Merida is out in the forest one day when she encounters a “will o’ the wisp” which leads her to a witch’s cottage. Merida arranges to buy a cake which the witch has promised will “change” her mother.

After Elinor unsuspectedly eats a piece, she is changed alright. She is turned into a bear.

This is bad enough, but the impact of the event is exacerbated by the family history. Her husband King Fergus is renowned for having fought and defeated a monster bear, losing his leg in the process. So the king has no love for bears.

Merida and Elinor flee the palace and find a holographic recording left by the witch. This message says that the spell will become permanent “by the second sunrise” unless Merida “mends the bond torn by pride”.  Merida takes this to mean that she is to repair the family tapestry she tore during one of her fights with her mother.

Merida and Elinor reenter the castle and take the tapestry as they are being pursued by Fergus and the clans.   Merida mends the tapestry as they once again flee.

In the exciting conclusion, Merida fights off her own father and the others, telling them “”I will not let you kill my mother!”.  Of course, they have no idea what she is talking about.

In the process, the evil bear defeated by her father shows up and attempts to swallow Merida. Elinor fights off her fellow bear and this enemy is killed.

As the sun rises on the second day, Merida remembers the parameters of the witch’s curse and throws the tapestry over Elinor. However, it appears to be too late.

Merida cries and kneels before her mother and exclaims

“Oh, no! I don’t understand. I… Oh, mom, I’m sorry. This is all my fault. I did this to you, to us. You’ve always been there for me.  You’ve never given up on me. I just need you back. I want you back, mommy. I love you.”

Merida feels the touch of her mother and looks up to see that her mother is once again human. Elinor hugs and kisses her daughter.

“You’ve changed!”, Merida screams. Elinor replies, “Oh darling. We both have.”

The real bond torn by pride has been mended: by love.

I think many of us are like Merida. We claim we need to change, but what we really want is for the people who are causing us grief to be transformed.

What we don’t understand is the impact our own negative behavior has on those around us, especially those close to us. We most likely have had a major role in making the person who they are today.

We like Merida could state,”I have done this to you.” Our barking, cajoling, yelling, manipulation and and abuse have done major damage.  Furthermore our attempts to remake others to suit us have actually harmed them.

The teenager Merida had to go through hell to see that the solution to the problem she was having with others lay within her. At the end of the movie, she says:

“Some say fate is beyond our command, but I know better. Our destiny is within us. You just have to be brave enough to see it.”

Merida took the first step in changing herself. She had the courage to look within. Then she  confessed her lack.  God calls us to do this as well (I John 1:9).

However, we shouldn’t  just stay in remorse. We ought to move on to love, compassion and understanding of the other, as Merida and her mother did.  Doing this will at least change us.

More than likely, though, continued love of the other will also result in their changing as well. However, even if the other person doesn’t change, we will engage in what Emerson Eggerich calls “The Rewarded Cycle”. Even though the other person doesn’t respond to our love (and we may have to wait a long time), God will reward us for our effort.

If you are like me, you have a tendency to dwell on  the results of the curse we are under in this world and our own failures and say “Woe is Me!”. However, the third stanza of a popular New Year carol tells me that this is not God’s desire for us:

“No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.”

Jesus came at Christmas to dispense with the evil portrayed in “Brave”.  The curse doesn’t have to be allowed to stay in our homes, our workplaces or other spheres where we have influence. It can be booted.

What is needed is  the courage at the New Year to change ourselves by appropriating and spreading His encouragements in our relationships with others.

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“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Colossians 3:13).”

I was visiting a friend recently whom I had not seen in about 15 years. I was in his town for a business meeting.

As I enjoyed the hospitality he and his wife offered me the evening after the meeting, I related to him my experience. I told him about the condescending treatment I had received from other people attending that meeting.

My friend, who had heard other similar stories from me as we caught up, replied,”And it could only happen to you.” My buddy’s remark was mainly meant to be a humorous statement about how it seems I am a target for such maltreatment.

However, the next morning, as I was having my quiet time, I reflected on his comment. Even at the time he made it, and even more so on this morning, I received a bit of an ephiphany.

The “it could only happen to you” remark could have been a sarcastic utterance which was meant to relay to me that I was being overly sensitive to people’s slights.  As I thought about this, it occurred to me that this was indeed the case.

As I sat in the comfort of the bedroom provided by my hosts, I began to review a list of all the people who had “done me dirt” and their offenses. It was a pretty long list.

I determined that I was indeed a walking grievance. This was confirmed even more when I read that morning’s devotional from “Streams in the Desert” by L.B. Cowman. The section of the piece applicable to my dilemma reads:

 How much grace it requires to bear a misunderstanding rightly, and to receive an unkind judgment in holy sweetness! Nothing tests the Christian character more than to have some evil thing said about him. This is the file that soon proves whether we are electro-plate or solid gold. If we could only know the blessings that lie hidden in our trials we would say like David, when Shimei cursed him, “Let him curse; . . . it may be . . . that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day.” Some people get easily turned aside from the grandeur of their life-work by pursuing their own grievances and enemies, until their life gets turned into one little petty whirl of warfare.

As I felt that God was convicting me of a sinful attitude, I said to Him,”Ok. What do I do about it?”

The answer was a still small voice (not audible) of a kind Elijah experienced in his interactions with the Lord (I Kings 19:11-13. The prompting, which I deemed to be from the Holy Spirit. said, “Forgive.”

At breakfast I told my friend about how his comment had helped discern that I was a “walking grievance.”  I had not told him about God’s response to this insight, but my pal unwittingly confirmed it when he said,”You have a lot of people to forgive.”

Jesus told his disciples,”My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you (John 15:12).” I have been thinking of this verse for a long time because in context Jesus says that if we obey Him, He will confide in us and be our friends.

As I really want to be Jesus’s friend, I have determined that if I was to be really intimate with Him I needed to love others as He has loved me. I have known for a long time that this is a tall order.

If anyone has a reason to be a walking grievance, it is Jesus. Over my life I have snubbed Him, disobeyed Him, yelled at Him, been angry with Him and totally misunderstood Him. I have been a rotten friend.

Yet, Jesus has kept on loving me. He has not given up on me or abandoned me.

Thus, as a result of my illumination at my friend’s house, I have concluded that I need to set aside all the hurts and pain caused by others in my life. To do this, I need to forgive.

I have to rid myself of  my resentments against others in this way. I have to tell my walking grievances to take a hike!

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“We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.  For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood (Romans 3:23-25a, New Living Translation).”

My favorite TV show just completed its last episode, so a couple of weeks ago I went “shopping” for something new to replace it.  I decided to watch “Friday Night Lights”.

The show is supposed to be centered around high school football. However, I really thing they should have called the series “Friday Night Soaps” .

The football is just the framing. The story is really about the human condition of the townspeople of Dillon, Texas.

The Dillon Panthers are their god. Oh, they go to church in Dillon, but they worship on Friday nights at the football stadium.

Their daily devotions concern the players, the coaches, and what can be expected for the following game. For the folks of Dillon, to live is the Panthers and to win is the only acceptable option.

There IS some football, and the storyline does reveal typical problems associated with the sport. For example, one star running back is caught by his Mom and coach using illegal steroids to improve his game. Furthermore, the team experiences a racial divide after a long-time assistant coach makes stupid remarks to the media about the capacity of African-American players.

However, most of the show seems to be about high school hormones. Thus, I have been a little disappointed with the lack of emphasis on sports.

However, I keep watching because like my previous favorite show, the characters are intriguing.  As with the earlier TV drama I watched, the people are all flawed and the show is well written.

The high schoolers and the parents of Dillon are all sinners. They drink too much, have illicit sex and make other bad choices.

What makes for fascinating viewing is what happens when one or more parties are caught in the act of committing one of these bad deeds by the rest of the town populace. If it happens to involve someone related to the football team, it’s Katie bar the door when it comes to the explosion that occurs.

Shock waves hit Dillon High when the starting quarterback, a boy named Jason Street who is destined for stardom, becomes paralyzed after a tackle. The ripple effect of this calamity hits  his girlfriend Lyla Garrity and best friend and fellow player Tim Riggins.

Tim somehow blames himself for Jason’s injury, although he was nowhere near the play. Lyla has trouble dealing with the truth that Jason will never walk again and refuses to believe it. However, when it finally dawns on her, she does not know what to do with her pain.

Since Tim and Lyla both are in great grief over the same issue (i.e., Jason’s paralysis), they turn to each other for comfort. They begin an affair.

When this liaision becomes public, their fellow high schoolers go berserk. Why, how could they treat a crippled star like this?

One cheerleader posts a website of fellow cheerleader Lyla centered around her sluttiness. Some of the Dillon players attack  Tim’s car one night with baseball bats, with him in it.

Both Tim and Lyla are shamed and guiltified. When Jason learns of the affair, he of course is angry and devastated.

What I have learned after watching a plethora of shows from the first season, however, is that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Everyone portrayed in “Friday Night Lights” could use some improvement in the ethics and morality department.

God knows our humanity as well and has tried to warn us in the Bible of the ramifications of judging other people. The Apostle Paul wrote:

You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things. And we know that God, in his justice, will punish anyone who does such things.  Since you judge others for doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God’s judgment when you do the same things?  Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?  But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.  He will judge everyone according to what they have done. (Romans 2:1-6)

Occasionally, the characters in “Friday Night Light”s rise to the occasion when they try to deal with their human frailties.  One such standout scene occurs between Jason Street and the wife of the football coach, a woman named Tami Taylor, who is also a school guidance counselor.

When Lyla and Tim are both repentant over the harm they have done, Jason consults Tami Taylor for advice. She tells him,”There is no weakness in forgiveness if this is what you should choose to do.”

Indeed, Jason reconciles with Lyla to the point that they plan marriage. However, at the point I am in my viewing, Jason is falling into a potentially immoral relationship with a girl he meets on an out-of-town sports trip.

In this same episode, many of the key characters are in church, listening to a message on forgiveness. It would serve them well if they practiced what they heard preached there and lose the judgmental attitude. My guess, however, is that the hypocrisy will continue. It makes for good TV!

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“As a father has compassion  on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust (Psalm 103:13,14).”

If there has been one mantra in the eight years Dr. Gregory House has been around to utter his philosophies it is,”People don’t change.”  This is why the conclusion of the TV drama”House” was so suprising.

In the final episode House apparently is on a typical path to self destruction, except this time he seems to definitely intend to do himself in for good. This is so he can avoid having to go back to prison for violating his parole.

His suicide is apparently prompted also by the fact that he can’t be there in the last months for his dying friend, Dr. James Wilson, because he has to go back to jail. Wilson has five months to live and House’s remaining sentence lasts six.

As he lies on the floor of a burning warehouse, injured and stoned on heroin, House is arguing with an hallucination. Dr. Cameron, a former subordinate and love interest, is telling him that he is cowardly.

The Cameron in House’s mind is telling him that he is just debating with her as the place burns down around them to let the time pass so he doesn’t have to decide whether to get out and live or just pass on in  the flames, as she is suggesting he does. (He’s earned the right to die and leave this world of pain, she has told him.)

“You’re afraid of this decision, and you are trying to argue until fate takes it out of your hands. You’re taking the cowardly way out. And worse… you’re too cowardly to even admit you’re taking the cowardly way out”, the imaginary Cameron tells House..

House replies,”You’re right. But I can change.” For someone like me who has watched the series for years, this statement comes as a shock. As noted above, this violates a major House life principle.

House stands up to go, yet apparently is too late. The flames seemingly engulf him.

However, as we viewers learn later, he has escaped out the back door. He has faked his death.

Wilson, giving a warped eulogy at House’s funeral, thinks at that point that House is dead by his own drugged out hand.  House’s friend tells the funeral patrons:

“House was an ass. He mocked anyone —patients, co-workers, his dwindling friends — anyone who didn’t measure up to his insane ideals of integrity. He claimed to be on some heroic quest for truth, but the truth is, he was a bitter jerk who liked making people miserable. And he proved that by dying selfishly, numbed by narcotics, without a thought of anyone. A betrayal of everyone who cared about him.  A million times he needed me, and the one time that I needed him…”

Those who have followed “House” over the years would wholeheartedly agree with Wilson’s summation of the curmudgeonly doctor’s character. However, even as he speaks he is getting a text from House that says,”Shut up you idiot.”

Wilson understands from the text that House is alive and well.  He leaves the funeral and meets up with him. When Wilson sees House, he tells him:

You’re destroying your entire life. You can’t go back from this. You’ll go to jail for years. You can never be a doctor again.

House replies,”I’m dead, Wilson. How do you want to spend your last five months?”

The reason House has decided to go on and has engineered this whole circumstance is so he can be there for Wilson. For once, House does something completely out of character, unselfishly giving up his future and right to die (if he wanted to) for his friend. Apparently, people can change, at least according to the writers of this series, who have spoken the opposite through Gregory House for the last several years.

At least they posed the question.  Their portrayal of Dr. House over the years does beg the question,”Can people really change?”

Pastor Bob Merritt was faced with this question when he was confronted by a leadership consultant hired by his church. Merritt had been ordered by his church board to undergo counseling by a man Merritt calls “Fred” as a condition of further employment.

Merritt had watched his church grow from 350 to several thousand in two decades. However, as he describes in his book “When Life’s Not Working”, his method of leadership was brusque and unrelational.

Merritt had to listen to Fred and his assistant read a two hundred page document bearing the results of interviews with friends, family and coworkers which revealed his faults. For two days.

Merritt told Fred, who worked around the country with numerous CEOS, “I don’t know if I can change”.  Fred told him that statistically only 40% of his clients did. The other 60% percent stumbled on to things like lost marriages and careers.

“When Life’s Not Working” reveals that Merritt is one who did change. The key to it, he says, is humility: take the negative feedback you get seriously.

Merritt says two things drive people to consider change: fear and pain. Apparently Dr. House was confronted by both in that warehouse and decided to finally change.

Last week I was also debating with myself if I would ever change. I am not much older than Merritt, who is 53. When you get to this age, change is difficult.

I was fed up with my lack of progress in my character. As a Christian, I was hoping for much more transformation by this time.

I have had the chance recently to do a little gospel sharing with friends, and it occurred to me that I ought to share the gospel with myself to see if I was truly in the faith, or at least to help me review the fundamentals of Christianity.

So as I fought with myself over whether or not I could change, I did that. I sat on my sofa and reviewed some key principles:

* All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory , including me (Romans 3:23);

* The payback for sin is death, both spiritually and eventually physically (Romans 6:23);

* It is appointed for men to face God’s judgment after they die (Hebrews 9:27)

* God sent his Son Jesus to die for our sins so we wouldn’t have to face this judgment, proving His love (Romans 5:8);

* Jesus not only died, but He rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-5);

* His resurrection is for me, too, if I accept it through believing in Him (John 11:25,26).

* Believing in Jesus  means receiving Him and entering into his family (John 1:9,10);

* This salvation from my sins and death is not because of my performance, but is a gift that I need to accept by faith (Ephesians 2:8.9).

Jesus illustrated the nature of his salvation when some religious leaders brought him an adulterous woman. Here is the account from the Gospel of John:

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them.The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:2-11)

When I get to heaven I want to ask Jesus what he was drawing in the dirt. Some people think he was listing the sins of the religious leaders who were ready to condemn the adulterous woman.

I don’t know, but I am wondering if he was reminding Himself that we humans are indeed dust. This realization of that Jesus understands my frailties as a human being relieves my soul.

Although I want to pursue his command to “sin no more” and change, I am grateful that He cuts me some slack. This makes me love Jesus even more and want to become the best person I can be for Him.

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The Lord replies, “I have seen violence done to the helpless, and I have heard the groans of the poor. Now I will rise up to rescue them, as they have longed for me to do (Psalm 12:5 New Living Translation).”

“If this were another time, they would’ve had pitchforks and lanterns in their hands.  They were out for vengeance.”

The reporter on a recent news feature is talking about a crowd in a small town in Ohio gathered around the courthouse. They are after one Chris Coleman.

“Chris Coleman: Loving Family Man or Killer”  reads a headline flashed on the screen. Coleman, the security head for a major televangelist, is accused of strangling his wife and two beautiful young boys in their sleep.

Various parties with an interest in the case are interviewed: the police, attorneys, Coleman’s parents, his wife Sherri’s family, and neighbors. They all  contribute their thinking as to what happened and how they feel.

The crime Coleman is accused of is particularly heinous.  One person interviewed commented,”This crime was about greed, sex, selfishness and narcsissism.”.

Coleman is accused in the program of creating a scenario in which he has been threatened with hate mail because the author wants to get at his  popular televangelist, boss. The writer of the Emails says they will destroy Coleman’s family if his boss doesn’t keep quiet.

As the show progesses, evidence is shown that reveals Coleman is having an affair with one of his wife’s high school friends.  A reporter says, “Investigators believe all this pain was caused by Chris Coleman’s obsession.”

It also presents other evidence which points at Coleman doing the crime.  For example, hate messages created on the walls of his house during the muder, purportedly created by the person sending the threatening Emails, were apparently in fact written in his handwriting. Indeed, after further investigation, viewers learn that the Emails themselves have come from Coleman’s laptop.

Once it is clear Coleman is the main suspect, the already grieving community is torn asunder. For example, one woman tells the interviewer,”I’ve talked to some of the other Moms in the community and their children are wondering if their Dad could do the same thing.”

Coleman’s parents remain adamant that their son could not have possibly done such a thing. The father is a Christian minister. It seems from the facts presented that they are in denial.

The “Christian” aspect of the case gets large play. Highlighted are the fact that Coleman’s employer would definitely not have tolerated his adultery had they known about it.

One close friend of Sherri says,”As a Christian I feel like it is imperative that I forgive because Jesus forgave me. And I want to forgive with my whole heart.”

The interviewer asks,”What makes it so hard to do that?”

The woman replies,”“Because they were so innocent.”

Coleman is found guilty. When the verdict is reach, the large throng outside the courtroom erupts in cheers as if they were at a major sporting event. He still denys his role two years later.

The fallout Sherri’s family is suing  Coleman’s televangelism ministry employer. They claim that the ministry should have investigated him because they had clues to his conduct.

One hundrend and fourteen comments currently are posted on the news shows website. In them viewers express their opinions and attack each other and the people portayed on the show.

Our society abounds with such cases. As one friend of mine has lamented,”Why do I watch the news! There are some sick hombres out there.”

Cases like Colemans not only attract sensational media attention. They also garner sociologists who try to come to some understanding of what is happening. 

“Church Ethics and Its Organizational Context” is a series of essays aimed at learning from the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church which has come to light of late. One of these reports is called “The Sexual Abuse Scandal as Social Drama”, written by Jean M. Bartunek.

In this piece Bartunek lays forth the idea that extraordinary events cause the stakeholders to try to make sense out of them. She says their perceptions of what they thought was reality have been thrown out of balance. 

Bartunek notes that all the “players” in this scandal have different needs and motivations, They also come to different conclusions in an attempt to make sense of the issue and take a variety of actions.

These stakeholders include the victims’ families, the clergy, parents in the community, lay Catholics, attorneys, the Church hierarchy and even perpetrators. She indicates that these different viewpoints create what she calls a “social drama”, which Bartunek  credits  Victor Turner with defining as “an event that revolves around a breach of group or societal norms or rules in some important public matter.”

Further, Bartunek notes that this kind of event is “a volatile episode that interrupts the otherwise smooth surface of routine life in a social setting and reveals underlying tensions there.”  She indicates that these tensions among the stakeholders  need to be resolved in order for the crisis to really completely go away.

Just as it is difficult to come to grips with the idea that Coleman could murder his beautiful family, it is also a tall order to get all the parties involved in something like the sexual abuse of children to come to a meeting of the minds and get at the truth. Frankly, I believe it is well nigh impossible.

Injustice is a given in this life. It will never ever go away until Jesus returns and justice may not really be served until then, even though it apparently has been done in Coleman’s case.

I think God was thinking of this lack of closure when he included the imprecatory Psalms in the Bible.  These are prayers in which the Psalmist asks  God to curse his enemies.

In fact, these “enemies” were in some cases trustworthy companions at one time. Here is an example of this kind of prayer:

 My God, whom I praise,
    do not remain silent,
for people who are wicked and deceitful
    have opened their mouths against me;
    they have spoken against me with lying tongues. 
 With words of hatred they surround me;
    they attack me without cause.
In return for my friendship they accuse me,
    but I am a man of prayer.
They repay me evil for good,
    and hatred for my friendship (Psalm 109:1-5).

The Psalmist goes on to wish all kinds of woe on their opponents. Their desires include that God would cause the antagonist to die, to make their kids into beggars, and for Him to make that their families suffer financial ruin. The Psalmist goes so far as to ask God to NOT forgive their sins.

As the close friend of Sherri Coleman learned, it is a difficult thing to forgive others, especially those who have betrayed our love. The imprecatory Psalms show that God understands that and I believe they are in the Bible so that we can give full vent to our feelings.

These Psalms reveal that it is God who ultimately will judge and get vengeance on wrongdoers. In fact, this principle keeps me from taking my own revenge because I have determined that whatever God dishes out has to be far worse than anything I can do.

My thinking is that if I DO get my own vengeance, then God will say,”Well, you got justice your own way so I am doing no more with this case.” So I stay out of it as best I can and let God take care of things in His time and in His way!

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