Your Future - A Choice or a Chance?
By Ed Delph
April 26, 2021
Here is a true story of a composer and a potential forgiveness issue. Every Christmas, composer Giacomo Puccini would have a cake baked for each of his friends. One year, having quarreled with Arturo Toscanini just before Christmas, he tried to cancel the order for the conductor's cake. But it was too late. The cake had already been dispatched. The following day, Toscanini received a telegram from Puccini: "Cake sent by mistake." Toscanini replied in return: "Cake eaten by mistake."
Early this morning, a small note appeared on my Facebook page from one of my friends that asked, "Ed, how do you forgive?" I replied, "I don't do these kinds of questions until I drink my coffee." The question was genuine, the request was sincere, and we can all relate to a question like this.
One of my favorite exchanges in the whole Bible is in Luke 22. The disciples got into a heated argument about who among them was the greatest disciple. Jesus knew this kind of talk puts stress on relationships and can divide a team. He also knew that trouble was just ahead for Peter.
Here's the exchange between Jesus and Peter: "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers. And Peter said to Him, "Lord, with You, I am ready to go both to prison and to death." And He said, "I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me." Of course, what Jesus said was true. Peter denied Jesus three times and, afterward, felt lower than a snake’s belly.
Jesus had two choices of how to react to this incident. He could accuse, or He could intercede. Jesus could lower the discussion, or He could bring it up to a higher level. Jesus could do what the world has done for thousands of years, or He could offer a new way of doing things. Jesus could find fault, or He could find a remedy. Correction is necessary, but condemnation is not.
Jesus chose to be an intercessor. He prayed for Peter rather than accuse Peter. He knew you couldn't preach the good news and yet be the bad news. He prayed that Peter's faith and ministry after this trial would be greater than it ever was before his trial, and the rest is history. God answers prayers like that.
Oswald Chambers gives us some great perspective about intercession for people in need. "Jesus Christ carries on intercession for us in heaven; the Holy Ghost carries on intercession in us on earth, and we the saints have to carry on intercession for all men."
The Bible calls this 'standing in the gap.' A long time ago in the Bible, God was looking for a person who would "build up a wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land." Notice that building up idea. One person can stand in the gap for another. Jesus had significant, dare I call it, 'gapsmanship.' The definition of the word intercession is: to expose oneself for the protection of something or someone; to make a defense against any assailing danger; to stand in an exposed position; brave opposition for someone.
Here’s my question for you and me today. If someone has offended us, why not forgive, even intercede, for that person rather than accuse them? Forgiveness doesn’t change the past, but it does enlarge the future. Remember, it doesn't matter what others are doing. It matters what you are doing. You will never know how strong your heart is until you forgive who and what broke it. Jonathan Huie says, “Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.”
Here’s a snippet that captures being the solution, not the problem. “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” No church is perfect, no Christian is perfect, no person is perfect, no human institution is perfect, and no marriage is perfect. If everything had to be perfect, you couldn’t be here. Life creates conflicts. Today, there are heaps and heaps of imperfect people unable to forgive other imperfect people. It’s like a circular firing squad.
Quit looking at the imperfection and make a connection with The Perfection, Jesus Christ. You become what you focus on. If you focus on the hypocrite, you become the hypocrite. If you don't forgive now, you won’t receive forgiveness when you need forgiveness in the future. Learn to change yourself. The more you hold on to unforgiveness, the longer unforgiveness will hang on to you. Then you become a chaos candidate.
Are you an intercessor or an accuser? Most of the problems you see on the news today result from the elimination of forgiveness in our culture. Without forgiveness, life is governed by an endless cycle of resentment and retaliation. Forgiveness isn't approving what happened in the past. It's choosing to rise above it. Remember, the first to apologize is the bravest; the first to forgive is the strongest; the first to forget is the happiest.
It's your future. Choose but choose wisely. You’re not the problem. You’re the solution. Hint: To err is human; to forgive is divine.
Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
Visit Ed Delph's website at www.nationstrategy.com