Friday June 3, 2011
Many of our relationships are set up as contracts with stipulations. If you do this, I will do that. Whether we know it or not, we often put conditions on our relationships and the interactions that we have with our spouse, our children, and our friends. If we are treated with respect we respond in kind and give that respect back. If people greet us there is a tendency to give back the same greeting, but if we are not greeted, we may do the same in kind. If we have a conflict with someone and they choose not to take responsibility for their actions, we may choose to disconnect with that person until such time as they do take responsibility for their actions. The condictons in which I respond to a person is dependent on them taking responsibility for what they need to do.
I find the same actions being taken by our Lord in the New Testament. In I John 1:9, John is speaking and says that “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”. This is a conditional statement. Our responsibility is to confess our sins. God, after we confess our sins, will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we confess, God will forgive. God’s actions to forgive are dependent on our responsibility to confess. In other words, if we don’t confess, God chooses not to forgive.
As I was reading the last chapter of Job, this concept jumped off the page. “After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.”(Job 42:14) God told the friends, who had distorted who God was and how he worked, to go and ask forgiveness from Job so that he could pray for them. It seems in this passage that it was only after Job had prayed for his friends that God restored his fortunes. Job could have been angry with his friends for not supporting him. He could have wanted to get revenge for what they said to him. What he needed to do was to pray for them in order for God to give back to him what he had lost.
I am reminded of a similar passage in Mattthew 18:23-35. Jesus was telling about a parable of a rich man who forgave his servant of his debt after he asked for forgiveness, but the servant went out and didn’t forgive his own servant when he had asked for forgiveness. So the rich man called in the servant whom he had forgiven and told him that because he hadn’t forgiven his servant, his forgiveness would be removed and then Jesus concluded by saying, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
For Job, restoration followed Job praying for and forgiving his friends. On this journey, we will face opportunities to take responsibility and forgive others when they ask which will precede God’s direction and blessing.