Pulpit Reflections by Rev. Robert Grossmann We live today in the IMPATIENT SOCIETY. Whatever can be said about Americans today, we are unhappy when we have to wait long for anything. We are the opposite of what the Bible calls "long-suffering."
We can't wait, and we certainly don't want to suffer. Well, this impatience grows out of two fundamental mistakes in thinking about reality. First, we have become personally quite self-centered, basically thinking that the universe should revolve around "me." And second, we have totally forgotten about God, and have left him out of our thinking about "how things ought to be."
Being self-centered distorts human life, and yet we think everything from sex to attending church services ought to be done "for what we can get out of it." In this way we often confuse pleasure with happiness, getting brief pleasure but not finding happiness.
This is because God designed happiness to be the by-product of doing good, not the result of trying to please ourselves. Sex ought to be for GIVING love to our marriage partner, and worship ought to be done to give thanks and praise God.
When we do things for the right purposes, God gives us the happiness in them. When we pray, "Thy will be done," but mean "MY will be done," we only end up frustrated and impatient because God does indeed run the world and we don't. God proves that every day by deciding when every one of us will die. There are obituaries in the paper every day, and yet we go right on ignoring God.
Forgetting God has made us forget that the world is cursed because of human sin. We want everything to be perfect for us, and are angry when it isn't. We file thousands of lawsuits in the United States every month just to get even with someone who has hurt us, usually without meaning to. Then we get angry when someone doesn't like what we did. We have gotten into this mess because we don't know how to forgive, and we don't know how to forgive, because we don't know how to be forgiven.
Forgiveness is one of the most powerful tools for social peace and happiness that there is. The power and genius of Christianity is that the one true God promises to forgive our sins if we believe in his son Jesus Christ. This, of course, is what Easter is all about.
Jesus died for our sins and rose again so that, as the apostle Paul said, "If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in you heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Rom. 10:9).
This salvation, furthermore, gives us peace with God (Rom.5:1), enabling us to both live and die happily.
Being forgiven by God also enables us to be long-suffering and forgive the sins of others, because we realize how much we have been forgiven by God. We will be patient with others because we will know and confess that we have often hurt them.
This is because God requires us to confess our sins in order to be forgiven, and its pretty hard to confess our sins and be self-righteous at the same time. Jesus teaches us to pray exactly this when we say in the Lord's Prayers, "forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who trespass against us."
Anger is a self-righteous, impatient choice leading to unhappiness for everyone. Forgiveness is also a choice, a humble choice of those who have been forgiven by God. And forgiveness is the most powerful tool for peace that there is.