Jim’s back! You can read his previous Advent devotional, on listening to Jesus amidst a noisy world, here.
Isa 55:6-7 (NIV)
Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
In my Corporate Finance and Accounting class we were discussing The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant in Matt 18:21-35.
Yes, that’s right, it is both possible and necessary to apply the witness of Scripture to the world of business. It’s also one of the benefits of going to a Christ-centered university (shameless plug here for Indiana Wesleyan – Go Wildcats!).
Peter asks Jesus about the limits of forgiveness, so Jesus answers that there are no limits. He tells this parable to explain how we should be gracious and forgiving to others just as our Father has been with us.
It got me thinking about all the ways I’ve wronged and hurt people over the years when I was living a life in darkness. Many of those folks have forgiven me even though I didn’t really deserve it.
It also got me thinking about all the ways the Lord has been gracious and merciful to me both before and since I’ve begun trying to return to a life in Him (even though I still don’t deserve it).
In this section of Isaiah, the Israelites had been physically freed – freed from 70+ years of torture, captivity, and alienation. And here their God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob offers them another kind of freedom – freedom that can only come from living a life in God.
Despite their hundreds of years of transgressions, worshiping gods of their own making, the Israelites were being given another chance, a break, a mulligan if you will (for my golfing friends).
God was magnanimous in His willingness to wipe the slate clean. If the people of Israel were willing to truly open their hearts and minds, let go of their past, and return to the Lord with humility and obedience, they could again experience the fullness of God’s love and mercy.
They didn’t deserve such radical love and forgiveness, yet God abundantly and freely gave.
I have tried to make amends with my past and reach out to those I betrayed and disappointed. I have tried to start each day with prayers for strength and courage to treat others with the same peace, and love, and grace that God in Christ has shown me. Many, many people have forgiven me.
But the one person who has struggled the most to forgive me is… me. I continue to ask for forgiveness for my transgressions, for my disobedience, and for the ways I have crucified Him all over again.
Yet I struggle to let myself embrace that forgiveness. I struggle to let go of my past. I look at the guy in the mirror, and like Peter wonder, “How many times is the Lord going to forgive him?” How long before the Lord says, “That’s it Jim, you’ve reached my limit?”
This passage from Isaiah reminds me that the “Lord will have mercy and He will freely pardon.” So I must ask, “What else am I waiting for?”
Maybe it’s time for me to give myself a break and accept the fullness and joy of Lord’s mercy, poured out for me.
Maybe it’s time for you do that, too.
Jim enjoys small town life in the Northwestern part of the Land of Lincoln. He is a Human Resource Manager for Aramark Corporation and currently working on his Master’s Degree in HR Management. He serves as a Ruling Elder for First Presbyterian Church in Clinton, Wisconsin. When he is not working or in school he enjoys watching Cardinals baseball, exercising, losing badly on the links, and hanging out with his kids.