Take a look at the ant. She doesn’t have a ruler, officer, or chief, yet she gathers her food for the season. She doesn’t sit around hoping someone will do her work. She doesn’t need someone standing over her telling her what to do.
I believe this is applicable to the spiritual life. So much of your spiritual growth simply boils down to desire. We do what we really want to do. I am learning more and more how that (in others) is a work of the Spirit & beyond my control. All I really can do is create space for this. That is what good teaching and ministry is, I believe.
As Luke said last week, something to the affect of, “I can only work with desire.”
Obviously God puts people in our lives to inspire us and help us get started, but if years go by and you are still leaning heavily on others for your spiritual growth, something is off. Be it your Sunday gathering, your pastor, a mentor, a group. At some point, your own desire for growth toward union with God must take over. And the Holy Spirit will be your main guide, teacher, and mentor. Tho we do always need community, which is part of God’s design. We do need each other, just not for total reliance. If you still need your mommy to make dinner for you…well, how pathetically sad is that?
Back in 1990, I took guitar lessons from my good friend Jerry for months, almost a year I think, and that got me to a place from which to launch out on my own. Then I gathered from magazines, books, others…I didn’t need to rely solely on Jerry for years and years. How then could I have blossomed into the face-melting metal axe master for Virgin Vasectomy that I became???
Anyway, as the proverbs goes, a little sleep, a little slumber and you’re in a weak place. Spiritually, you slack off either in the word, prayer, or partnership, and next thing you know you’re way off track.
It’s a long obedience in the same direction.
“Yes: if you forgive people the wrong they have done, your heavenly father will forgive you as well. But if you don’t forgive people, neither will your heavenly father forgive you what you have done wrong.”
This seems a harsh saying, but it is only emphasizing the jugular importance of forgiveness in God’s Kingdom.
You cannot harbor a persistent, unforgiving spirit and simultaneously live in the kingdom of God.
This, along with the parable of Jesus in Matthew 18:21-35 just is what it is.
We should forgive so much that it simply becomes habit over time. Our default setting will be to forgive, to let others off the hook we use to keep them on.
My own personal definition of forgiveness which has been helpful to me is:
Forgiveness is actively relieving others of payment for their wrongs against you. Our punishment of others, which is their payment, most often comes in the form of our silence, but may also be our disgusted stare, slander, defamation, or simply our inner resentment.
Forgiveness refuses to punish with silence.
Forgiveness does not punish with a disgusted stare.
Forgiveness does not punish with slander.
Forgiveness does not punish with defamation.
Forgiveness does not nurture inner resentment.
Forgiveness is not easy.