Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Forgiven but Useless

Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez. Matthew 1:1-16.

He is a friend, a colleague, a doctor and a Christian. But he is broken---not because he has suffered, but because he has sinned. His heart wandered and settled for a woman he worked closely with each day. He broke his wedding vows and destroyed his marriage. He lost his family. That was ten years ago. Now he wants again to find meaning for his life. As a Christian he knows that any lasting purpose comes from God; so he sat across from me weeping. “I not only sacrificed my wife and children for my sin, I sacrificed whatever plan God once had for my life.”

When Tamar was denied the husband who was promised, she tricked her father-in-law, Judah, into sexual intercourse and bore him a son called Perez. When Lot escaped with his daughters from Sodom, they got him drunk, had sex---and one of the sons was named Moab. When Ruth, a descendant of Moab, was a widow in Bethlehem and desperately needed a man to provide for her, she crawled under the covers with Boaz. When Boaz married Ruth, their first son was named Obed.

There is so much sexual infidelity in the lives of these biblical characters that it makes one nauseated. God surely should have said, “I am done with you.”

But out of Moab came Ruth; and out of Perez came Boaz; and out of Boaz came Obed; and then Jesse; and then David and then, Jesus. Sin is terribly destructive to each of us who sins and to those around us. Sin pulls us away from a relationship with our God. Sin is horrible, and yet, sin cannot stop the purpose of God. When Jesus left for God’s right hand, he placed this purpose into the hands of sinners, our hands, and left it with us. Who am I to say, “My sin is special and I can no longer be used by God?”

Robert Ellsberg, in his wonderful book, All Saints, tells the story of St. Abraham Kidunaia and his orphaned niece, Mary. When Abraham rescued his niece from a life of prostitution, she hesitated because of her guilt. Abraham then spoke to her the wisdom of God:

“It is not new to fall; what is wrong is to lie down when you have fallen. Remember where you stood before you fell. The devil once mocked you, but now he will know that you can rise stronger than ever before... Do not draw back from the mercy of God.”

And so began the lifelong ministry of St. Mary the Harlot, smack dab within the purpose of God.

Dear God,
Take my sin and remove it far from me. I am so sorry. Thank you for the mercy of the Cross and the forgiveness You accomplished there. Help me rise from the place I have fallen and fit again into Your great plan to redeem this world. Amen

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