One of my latest projects is a “Love Sandwich.” Under the theme of Fragrance, I have Kindness and Compassion to work on. As I was thinking about this and what Paul writes to the church at Ephesus, I got the idea of a sandwich, a sandwich filled with forgiveness!
Imagine a crisp freshly baked bread roll (my mouth waters!). You cut it in half and spread it with butter. Then you cut a thick slice of cheese and place it in between. And enjoy it! Or perhaps you fill it with ham and lettuce and a large slice of tomato. Yummy!
I think of the sandwich in connection with the theme of Fragrance–a life of fragrance! Paul urges us to be kind and compassionate. Just as in a sandwich, life needs something “in between” for it to taste good. Look at how Cristina, my artist, has illustrated the sandwich for me.
My Heavenly Father has given me a ‘live’ illustration this week. Forgiveness is something we have to work with daily. Sometimes it’s the small stuff, other times we have to work with really big things. Forgiveness can be life-changing! It can make a difference of life and death!
Read the story of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35). He was put in prison until he paid off his debt. It was a prison for life! That’s what happens when we don’t forgive. We live imprisoned by our own bitterness! If the servant had forgiven he would have been free! His unforgiving heart imprisoned him!
Sometimes it can hurt way down in our soul to forgive. Sometimes we feel like we just can’t forgive. Then, as always, we can turn to the Great Forgiver. “Dear God, forgive through me!” I usually pray. Often those prayers are mixed with tears. God helps me to forgive!
To forgive doesn’t mean we have to continue in an unstable relation. Paul and his friend Barnabas had such a sharp dispute that they parted ways. Read about it in the last part of Acts 15. We don’t know what happened to Barnabas, but we know about Paul. They disputed and parted ways, but they must have forgiven each other. How else could Paul have continued his missionary work?
Do you have a dispute with someone? Have nasty and unkind words been said? Has your heart been wounded? Do you have a broken heart? Have you been deceived? Do you feel abused? Whatever it is, you cannot enjoy a “hot bread roll” if you don’t put something good in between, which in this case is forgiveness.
If you and someone you have a dispute with need to go your separate ways, maybe it’s for the best. Then there will not be any more disputes! However you have been hurt, you must forgive. For your own well-being! Otherwise, you choose to live imprisoned!
“Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
For me this week has been a sandwich week. It started with the birthday gift I wrote about in my previous blog. Such an act of love from Sunday school teachers in Mexico!
On Thursday the happy news that one of my former Sunday school students from my time in Huancayo, Peru (1970) will come to visit was confirmed. I now have the day and time of her arrival!
In between this happiness nothing “good” was inserted in the sandwich. I’ve had some days of unbelievable hurt. It’s like my heart has been cut in pieces… But my wonderful Heavenly Father “wrapped” the pain in happy events! Now it’s up to me to process the ugly and forgive.
Whatever your situation is, think of Jesus’ story of the servant who would not forgive. You might not be in a “situation” right now, but sooner or later you will be faced with something that will merit forgiveness.
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.
“But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.
“When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.
“So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”