From the pulpit: Keep short accounts for this year

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Matthew tells us that a lawyer asks Jesus a question.

The lawyer is an expert in law, religious law; most likely he is a rabbi.

Matthew says that the lawyer&8217;s intent is to test Jesus (22:35). The lawyer calls Jesus &8220;Teacher,&8221; which sounds like a term of respect, but the intent, though subtly stated, is to disarm Jesus and onlookers with a respectful tone and then to embarrass him with questions that he cannot answer.

Regardless of Jesus&8217; answer, the lawyer reasons that he will be able to respond with questions designed to undermine Jesus&8217; credibility.

Isn&8217;t it just like Jesus to use a story of human trickery and malicious scheming (by the lawyer) to name that the greatest commandment of all is first to love God and the second is like it, &8220;love your neighbor as yourself.&8221; The biblical story is a sampling of how far broken humanity will go to posture its position, whatever the cost ethically or otherwise.

Does each of us have the potential to be the lawyer? Couched in a sermon or a Sunday School lesson or some Christian action, human intentions can be subtly self-serving. What are Christ followers to do to guard against our own hearts deceiving us?

We must remain self-aware, honest with ourselves, living with the light of Christ on our intentions and actions. The Apostle Paul writes that when the greatest commandment (love God and neighbor) is in effect in our lives, &8220;It keeps no record of wrongs,&8221; (I Cor. 13:5).

Last year has ended. A new one is before us. Let us go forward, self-aware in Christ of our human tendency toward being the lawyer in Matthew&8217;s gospel story. No doubt we have all experienced betrayals and hurtful relationship situations.

But if we keep short accounts we will lessen the pain of broken relations which so often causes us to run from God and one another.

The message of God&8217;s love in Jesus Christ is able to release and keep free a world of souls wrapped in toxic cords of broken relationship-bondage.

Stepping out and onto the road to forgiveness and letting go of our offendedness is far less painful than a lifetime of stored up anger, bitterness, and loneliness locked away by a key we clinch called &8220;our righteousness&8221; and &8220;others wrongness.&8221;

First John 1:9 tells us to confess our sins before one another, and Christ will be faithful and just to forgive our sins.

So as we move forward into the 2007 ministry year, allow me a confession: I have never had a problem of &8220;seeing other&8217;s&8221; accounts clearly, but my own ledger and indebtedness is another matter.

May we live in Jesus, who covered all accounts with his last words, &8220;Father, forgive them.&8221;

Will Garrett is pastor at Christ Church United Methodist in Birmigham