Josh j Smith

Lent : Forgiveness
March 21, 2011, 1:21 am
Filed under: religion | Tags: , , ,

Photograph by Engelina SmithMatthew 5.23-25

23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison.

God really wants to forgive us.  Forgiveness is not merely the consequence of confession, but the motivation for us to return to God.  God’s story in scripture shows God’s radical pursuit to bring his people back to himself so that he could forgive them.

I confess that I do not go to great lengths to forgive those who trespassed against me.  I sit.  I wait.  I plot.  It festers.

Henri Nouwen pointed out that it is hard for me to forgive others because I do not believe I am a forgiven person.  Why would I?  I am bored with how repetitious my sins are.  There are times I imagine God saying the same thing I say when I see Friends on TV, “Is there an end to the re-runs? Please, someone, put me out of my misery. ”  My lack of dwelling in God’s forgiving presence continually restricts me from forgiving others.

“But not forgiving, I chain myself to a desire to get even, thereby losing my freedom.  A forgiven person forgives.  This is what we proclaim when we pray, “and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us” (Henri Nouwen; Show Me the Way; p44).

Are you going to allow God to forgive you?

Who do you need to forgive?

Do you really want to forgive those who trespassed against you if it was the same thing done to you 490 times (70 x 7)?

Are we a forgiven church?

Are we a forgiving church?

Are we a community where people feel free to seek forgiveness?

Are we able to forgive our persecutors and our enemies?

Do we put limits on who or what we are going to forgive?


Opportunity | Oppressed
June 3, 2008, 7:27 am
Filed under: religion | Tags: , , , , , ,


The beauty of visiting another culture is not merely seeing the different colors and facs of a culture.  It is not only experiencing the night-life and tasting the food.  Much of the beauty lies in the subtle change that emerges in my own thinking that occurs as a natural part of engaging another culture.  

From my western/American point of view, life is acquired through opportunity.  Depending on what kind of family, neighborhood, or school, opportunity is either given or it has to be taken.  Thus, opportunity is simply a choice for me to capitalize  on to make my life what I want it to be.  

My understanding of opportunity became obvious to me when I engaged the Kmer people.  It became even more noticeable when I walked through the Killing Fields Museum where deep graves with articles of clothing still remain from the genocide that happened only 30 years ago.  Just like every other museum, it tells a story, but it is not a great story… yet.  

The implications of genocide are deep and cannot be resolved through a couple of political programs or foreign support.  In addition, the genocide that happened in Cambodia was not generational or racial.  In attempt to make the country completely communist the Kmer Rouge thought it was only fair to eliminate all the educated leaders in the society.  All doctors, leaders of the group who was trying to bring in democracy, teachers, university teachers, etc.  Once the Kmer Rouge was neutralized, Cambodia had already been paralyzed developmentally.  

The sad thing about this story is that all the people living in poverty and the families who have been torn apart had no choice in the matter.  The awkward thing about it is that when I engage Cambodia I am disturbed by the fact I had no choice in my extreme wealth.  But in my extreme wealth I have a choice to do something about their poverty.  

All this to say, I don’t it comes down to choice for everyone to improve their living situation.  The story goes deeper.  It is not simply a story of economics and choices.  It is a story of oppressed and blessed.  It is a story of being truly human.  It is a story of living imago dei (in the image of God).

The genocide is over, but the oppression is not.  The wake of the genocide is visible when I see extreme poverty and extreme wealth.  The line between rich and poor is so bold that the rich keep getting richer and poor get poorer.  And when I think about gospel, all I ask is, “How can the church bring heaven to earth for the Kmer people?”

 When Jesus brought the kingdom of God, he rescued the poor and challenged the rich; he forgave the repentant and challenged the righteous.  I think he did this because the gospel is not supposed to eliminate social classes, but challenged the rich and righteous to bless the poor and oppressed.  Also, the gospel forces me to question whether I am the poor or the rich, the repentant or the righteous. Regardless of income, social status, and number years as Christian, I think Jesus challenges us to be poor, to be repentant.  Finally, the gospel challenges me to think when I need Jesus, or when I need to be Jesus.