Monday, 8 December 2014
You never plan to do it. But there I was, maneuvering through Costco with three hungry grandchildren and an overloaded cart that was pushing us all to the breaking point.
Everyone knows you shouldn’t go shopping when you’re hungry, much less with small children in tow. But there are times when your plan goes wrong or you just plain forget to plan. At those times you don’t need someone to shake their head at you or give you a lecture. You don’t need to give yourself a kick. You need someone to give you what you don’t deserve. Grace.
That’s when I saw the lady with the free samples.
Not my plan
You never plan to do a lot of things. Like have a falling out with a friend. But that’s where I found myself several years ago.
Never mind how it started. All I know is that before long we began bringing out the worst in each other instead of the best. We finally quit trying to patch it up and left the thing alone.
I grieved the loss. I knew I’d been wrong. I also knew I needed to forgive her. But my efforts at forgiveness kept getting blown up by cycles of sadness turning to irritation erupting into rage. Instead of taking the list of offenses I had against her and throwing it in the trash, I kept digging it out of the garbage and adding a few more items to it. It was still a hot button in my soul.
Not my payment
About this time I was studying the little book of Philemon. Actually I was going to teach the book to a group of women. Before I teach it to them, I thought, I’d better apply it to myself.
As I reread the letter there were plenty of lovely application points. The apostle Paul was sending a runaway slave back to his owner, and asking for mercy. The slave, Onesimus, had made his way to Rome after his escape and come under the influence of the Apostle, who led him to Christ. Paul sent the letter with the returning slave to plead with his owner, Philemon not to punish him as a fugitive slave, but to receive him back as a brother in Christ.
Now I knew how to understand the historical background, take apart the passage, and interpret it theologically. I had identified to some degree with each of the main characters, seeing ways their examples called me to change. I recognized that forgiveness was a major theme of this little letter. Ok, Lord, I get it. I’ll try one more time to forgive my friend, and receive her back as a beloved sister, like Paul asked Philemon to do.
But the next verse stopped me short.
If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. Philemon 1:18
Paul may have written those words, but at that moment it was the voice of Christ to me. Rondi, you don’t need to make her pay. You don’t even need to pay yourself. It’s on me. Charge it to my account.
In that moment I tasted grace, the grace of my Lord Jesus Christ. I gave the list of my friend’s offenses to him. And he nailed it to the cross.