Our worship theme for July 26, 2015 is Forbearance/Patience. Scriptures: Matt; 18:21-35, James 5:7-11, 1 Sam. 16:1-13
I had to look up "forbearance" in the dictionary. I thought it was something like patience, but wanted a more accurate definition. My Canadian Oxford Dictionary says forbearance is; patient self-control, tolerance.
Patient self-control. What a descriptive phrase. I often think of self-control in a sort of episodic way. I use self control to stop myself from an unwise angry outburst, from eating a dessert I don't need, or to overcome inertia and go for exercise. All brief one time temptations I blast with a shot of self control, then it's done.
Forbearance is the ability to exercise these bits of self-control over and over again, maybe over days, months, or even years. Forbearance moves self-control from a few episodes to a whole series, from a one time attempt to better myself to better habit territory! It's not so much a blast as a steady stream.
In Matthew 18, Jesus tells Peter to forgive another member of the church 77 times. That sounds like a forgiveness habit, a steady stream! I want to have this habit of being a forgiving sort of person, however, I don't think a forgiveness habit should make anyone into a 'doormat.' Forgiving does not mean forgetting, and it does not mean allowing bad behaviour to continue unchanged. I can forgive my dog for eating my favorite hen (yes, it happened) but that doesn't mean I leave the dog with access to the rest of the chickens! Something had to change-he either had to learn to leave them alone, or he had to leave so that the flock would be safe. (The discipline worked-thankfully he did learn that chickens were off-limits for him!) Forgiving follows repentance and repentance means; "to regret one's actions." Repentance is, at least, trying not to repeat the thing that requires forgiveness!
We know it takes time to change bad habits or patterns into something else. Relationships and trust, when broken, are difficult and time consuming things to change. Many times people give up because the work is just too daunting, or maybe impossible. Forgiveness is a start, but saying'"I'm sorry", doesn't stop the wound from bleeding! Healing is a long process, and a habit of forgiveness is crucial for dealing with those times when old patterns resurface.
James 5 urges us to use patience in waiting for God. Patience is most definitely necessary in the whole 70 times 7 forgiveness habit! James also reminds us that God is the judge, so grumbling against each other is worse than pointless, it actually makes matters worse.
These passages are excellent reminders of the forgiving character we wish to constantly grow into as a community, and the patience and hard work required to get there. This is a calling of all people who belong to the church. What an amazing and hopeful thing. It's not only about being forgiving, but forgiven too!
Note: Our family is going camping, so I will not have access to the internet. (And I don't want access while on holiday!) The lectionary reflectionary blog will resume for the August 16 service at FMC.