For the past six weeks (40 days) our congregation has been engaged in The Red Letter Challenge. We’ve taken a fresh look at the words of Jesus and what it means to “put them into practice”. To date we’ve examined four primary themes within the teachings of Jesus (Being, Forgiving, Serving and Giving) and this Sunday we will add the fifth – Going.
Each of the Gospels (including the two volume set of Luke-Acts) ends with a command, or commissioning, for the followers of Jesus to “go” with the good news of Christ Jesus. We may be most familiar with the words found in Matthew 28:18-20, the Great Commission, where the connotation is “as you are going” about your life, or your routine, “make disciples”.
Have you ever known someone who has a “giving” nature, but also needs to let you know they are “giving”? I mean, they’d give you the shirt off their back, or the remaining groceries from their pantry; but they would also groan or moan, sigh and fuss all the while. Know anyone like that? In vocabulary terms these folks would be called oxymoron’s – the pairing of two things that don’t appear to go together – giving & hurting while you give. They practice a form of martyrdom giving. It’s a bit confusing when you are on the receiving end of such giving. “Do they want to give this, or don’t they? I’m getting mixed messages!”
“Giving” is the fourth topic of the Red Letter Challenge – a deep dive into the words and teachings of Jesus intended to help us “put his words into practice”. Jesus had a lot to say and model about giving. He talked about it quite a lot and gave us some terrific examples, with the gift of himself being the ultimate one. Jesus’ giving was accompanied by hurt and pain. He gave until it hurt. He gave his all. He gave his life. But Jesus didn’t allow the hurt or pain of the gift to surpass the purpose or love behind the gift.
In his book Embodying Forgiveness author Gregory Jones writes, “forgiveness is a habit that must be practiced over time within the disciplines of Christian community.” He goes on to state, “forgiveness entails unlearning all those things that divide and destroy communion and learning to see and live as forgiven and forgiving people.”* This week, as our congregation explores the theme of “forgiving” in the red letter challenge, I have been drawn back to Jones’ words.