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Forgiveness

There's a Wideness in God's Mercy

There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy

My husband is the rector, or head pastor, of a church in Houston, and we live in a rectory, which is a house owned and maintained by the church. You might know it as a parsonage or a manse. In our fifteen years of marriage, we’ve lived in four different houses, but this is our first stint in a rectory. We chose to live in this house for a variety of reasons: we’d been burned on some harsh real estate transactions in the couple of years prior to the move, and we knew we couldn’t otherwise afford to live in…

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A Terrifying Act of Clemency

A Terrifying Act of Clemency

A certain sometimes-Presbyterian WWE enthusiast and former game-show host from Queens, preternatural in the ancient American art of getting attention, has commanded the usual furor of late — but for reasons that, even by his own standard, count as unusual. While the handshake in Singapore with Kim the 3rd is startling enough (for good, we can yet hope), I don’t mean that. Instead, the President has made a bit of a show of his Constitutionally granted pardon power, and displeased more than a few people in the process.

Whenever the concept of “pardon” is discussed in public, we should take note…

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Judged by a Jury of Peers: How Much Repentance Is Enough?

Judged by a Jury of Peers: How Much Repentance Is Enough?

Depends who you ask, of course. But truth be told, no one really asks this question. Repentance just isn’t thought of as a quality which has shades of meaning; either one repents or one doesn’t, and there is nothing in-between. If there is a debate about repentance, it has to do with its definition. Is it a change of mind, as the etymology of the Greek might indicate (μετά-νοια, after-thought)? Or is it an abrupt and radical break with one’s past, a conscious walking in a new direction entirely? When has “hearty repentance and true faith” occurred? Is it real repentance…

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J.B. Roane and the Case of the Belated Apology

J.B. Roane and the Case of the Belated Apology

This is the first in an ongoing series of original short stories featuring the Rev. J.B. Roane.

Thornton bought me a cup of coffee at the same Dairy Queen where he found my business card the previous day, pinned up a little crooked on a bulletin board next to the men’s room.

J.B. Roane – Pastor for Hire.

Available for odd jobs of a spiritual nature.

Thornton’s coveralls looked like they’d seen more than a few errant drips of coffee and splashes of ketchup. The small talk we tried to make was awkward. He struck me as a direct man, momentarily at a…

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For Those We Love, A Healthy Dose of Pessimism

For Those We Love, A Healthy Dose of Pessimism

Alain de Botton explains why we are cruelest to the ones we are closest to. Most of it has to do with the fact that we have such devastatingly high expectations for them to meet our devastatingly deep neediness. A section on “Pessimism” from The School of Life’s book, Relationships. 

No one can disappoint and upset us as much as the person we’re in a relationship with–for of no one do we have higher hopes. It’s because we are so dangerously optimistic that we call them a c***, a s***head, or a weakling. The intensity of the disappointment and frustration is dependent…

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Ordinary Manna

Ordinary Manna

We humans like big stories. We are often unwilling to engage in and be moved by the ordinary and the small. We flock to movies about super heroes; we break all the records when someone puts all the super heroes into one movie together. If God really wanted to impress Abraham, He could have told him he’d have as many children as tickets sold to Avengers: Infinity War. And this desire for bigness pervades all areas of life, even (especially?) our interactions with grace offered to us by God and man.

And part of that is Jesus’ fault, really. We are…

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Touching Kevin’s Heart with Dirty Hands

Touching Kevin’s Heart with Dirty Hands

This one comes to us from Blake Nail. 

Our culture is obviously in the middle of some division: some think it’s necessary, and others think it’s harmful. It seems people, especially on the internet, are on the hunt to shame, ridicule, or in some cases, completely ruin people’s lives and careers. Albeit sometimes over reasonable issues, not to negate real offense and wrongdoing. Often, though, people are being shamed for having different views, thoughts, and sometimes even associations. It can even be for unintentional offense, for which the mob has no mercy. When the Law comes down on you, it doesn’t…

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Sin is Behovely

Sin is Behovely

Lent is over — hallelujah — but its scent lingers. The first weeks of Easter can be confusing. On the one hand, there’s jubilation, joy, a feeling of liberation, celebration. It’s all warranted. But after Lent, and especially after Good Friday, Easter feels a little out of place (which is fitting). After dwelling for several months on sin and contrition, we enter Easter with heavy hearts and distracted minds, and while we say with our mouths that Jesus is risen and that everything is accomplished, it’s just as easy to believe that Easter hasn’t done its work.

This past Sunday, Fr….

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Transgressors, Transgression, and the Perilous Bridge of Forgiveness – A Conference Breakout Preview

In this past week’s Another Week Ends, I mentioned very briefly the newest season of Invisibilia, one of our go-to podcasts. That particular episode, “The Pattern Problem,” tells the story of a woman with a seriously checkered past, some her fault, some not at all. She’s the child of addicts, an ex-addict and ex-felon herself, and yet she’s made an against-all-odds comeback: after a couple stints in prison, she gets into law school and is now studying for the bar. A panel of judges overseeing the bar in her state is deciding whether or not her past precludes her from such an unlikely future.

I won’t give away what ends up happening, but you can see where the focus on “patterns” comes into play. Does her criminal past foreshadow the future? Can we really be sure she’s changed? Patterns provide ways for people to make sober decisions. They are the conditional protective measures for how we decide to invest our time, our money, and in this case, our forgiveness. Courts as institutions are not known to be particularly forgiving—it’s not their job—but the same patterns are at work for us, in our minds, in the ways we read the news and process the actions of our strangers and friends alike.

Human beings don’t just dole out our forgiveness to anyone. To the contrary, unforgiveness is tended to like a formal garden. Each garden has hard boundaries with designated entrances, and strict guidelines for keeping its delicate order alive. It has to be that way. Otherwise, the garden would be indistinguishable from the chaos surrounding it. I am not trying to be glib. This is really how it has to be.

At the same time, social science has made it clear that unforgiveness will, in the end, kill you. For all the sensible order our fine gardens provide, they are solitary places, kept alive by stress, numbness to intruders, and estrangement. In other words, unforgiveness may simplify the “pattern problem,” but forgiveness, we are told by social science (and by the New Testament), is the way to new life.

In this breakout, we will talk about the psychology of forgiveness, its proven biological and psychosocial benefits, its various meanings in our culture, and the real, totally practical hope it expresses in the Bible.

Register for the 11th Annual Mockingbird Conference here! Miss out, and you’ll never forgive yourself…

Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Twenty Seven Verses Three Through Five

Hopelessly Devoted: Matthew Twenty Seven Verses Three Through Five

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself (Mt 27:3-5).

At the risk of impertinence, I’m just going to assume that everyone reading this (myself included) has already betrayed Jesus today. At least a few times. So I’d like to focus less on…

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Tom, Time, and the Tyranny of Perfection

Tom, Time, and the Tyranny of Perfection

I’m finally ready for Tom Brady again. Are you? We watched as he was doubted at points during the second-to-most-recent NFL season—during which he was thirty-nine years old—only to come back and win the Super Bowl. We watched as he was lauded last season—at forty—only to lose the Super Bowl. We’ve listened to sports talk radio wonder how long he can play, how long he can be good, how long, how long, how long. I needed a break. How long, Oh Lord (Psalm 40), must we listen to stories about Tom Brady?

It’s March, and I guess I’m ready again. The…

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Inside the Bounds of Grace: The Not-So-Lovely Love Story of David and Michal

Inside the Bounds of Grace: The Not-So-Lovely Love Story of David and Michal

This piece was written by Stephanie Matthiessen.

I’m writing a novel about Michal, the first wife of David and the daughter of Saul. Don’t worry, no one else has heard of her either, unless maybe they’re from Israel. Someone recently asked me what the book is about and, instead of giving my usual, vague, I’d-rather-not-say answer, I actually told them. Spoiler: it’s about forgiveness. Unconditional forgiveness. I added the qualifier for fear one would assume it’s about personal atonement and self-improvement. It’s not. It’s not a self-help book in disguise. It’s a love story.

Michal and, of course, her much more famous…

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