Twenty-one years ago, the Northridge earthquake, a 6.7-magnitude tremblor, startled people all over Los Angeles. I remember jolting awake, ducking under a door frame, thinking “Is this the Big One?” My second thought, “Are my parents o.k.?” My third thought, “This quake is-st-st-still g-g-going on!” Finally, it stopped, and I tried calling my folks, but there was no phone service. The lights were out, viper car alarms going off (forever), and fires began to blaze in the distance. I did the only thing left to me—I prayed for my family’s safety.
Later that week, I saw my 93-year-old grandmother and asked what she was doing when the quake struck. She said, “I was coming out of the bathroom when everything began to shake. I sat down and began to pray for all the children who would be so frightened by the shaking.” You all are thinking, “Wow, Pastor David’s grandmother is something else.” I was thinking, “What the heck? Why were you not praying for your favorite grandchild?” J
In crisis, our true biases are laid bare. I am naturally biased to my family. My grandmother cared for all the frightened children for she had Christ’s heart for the widow, the orphan and the alien. She loved like Christ loved. She did not pray for herself, but prayed for all those so frightened and hurt that evening.
When Jesus Christ was on the cross, in his extreme agony, he also prayed for those who were like children, the Roman soldiers. They were child-like in their ignorance of who they were crucifying—the Savior, the Messiah. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk. 23:34a). Similarly, Jesus also said in response to the criminal next to him who had asked Christ to remember him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Lk. 23:43). Even, in his abject suffering, Jesus remembered and cared for those lost in their sins.
As Christ, our eternal Lord and Savior, advocates for us before God the Father, so that we would not be condemned for our sins, but saved through his atoning sacrifice, can we do no less than to pray in the heart of Jesus Christ? Brothers and sisters, can we not pray in the power of Christ for those who have no advocates and are left screaming under the dread sway of their sins?
Lord, may you be glorified, and may others come to know the glory of your name as you save us from our sins and restore us into right relationship with one another and with our heavenly Father God, amen.
“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
As a child, I memorized the Lord’s Prayer. As an adult Christian, I realized how important memorizing verses in context help to understand what I memorized in the first place. To wit, many Christians memorize John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world”); however, how many Christians also memorize John 3:17, which reveals how God’s heart for us led not to condemnation, but salvation? How much more meaningful is God’s love for us when we know the option to condemn us existed, was warranted, but God showed us grace and mercy instead?
In the same way, I encourage us to memorize the epilogue to the Lord’s Prayer, Matt. 6:14-15. Christ instructs his disciples on how to pray, but adds this warning as well. It recalls Christ’s earlier teaching, when he says, “if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you…first go and be reconciled to him; then come and offer your gift” (Mat. 5:23-24). God will not accept from you anything unless you first forgive or reconcile with those who have sinned against you. This is a most difficult teaching.
When we forgive others, we often seek to impose conditions, especially if we are the aggrieved party. The other person must apologize, give recompense, or suffer before I can forgive them. None of those things were required of us when we received forgiveness from God. Instead, Christ paid it all, freeing us from the consequence of our sin. I believe in the same way, Christ desires for us to be forgiving, so that we are freed from the bitterness and anger that traps us when we are in conflict with one another. More than anything that prevents us from receiving forgiveness from God for our hearts are cold to that which Christ died for—our salvation through love and grace. Amen.
And…little Johnny came home with a bloody nose and a black eye. His father asked, “What happened?” Johnny said, “Well, I challenged Bobby to a duel and gave him his choice of weapons, just like in the movies.” “That’s fair,” his dad replied. “I know, but I never thought he’d choose his sister!”