Thursday, October 6, 2011

Thanksgiving Month, Day 6: Wednesday Evenings at the TH

I've written about this before, but each Thanksgiving season I am so grateful that I can be included in the group that makes its way to the TH for Dad's Bible study. Right now we're studying the book of 2 Corinthians and I am increasingly overwhelmed by the gentleness and vulnerability that the apostle Paul showed as he wrote this letter. 

Last night we looked at chapter 2, verses 5 - 11. Paul's talking about forgiveness, and he places it in the context of someone who had wronged him. Paul had forgiven this person because - as Dad put it in our notes - "Paul knew that Christ's eyes were upon him and that Christ had forgiven him far more than he would ever have to forgive."

And doesn't that just put it all into perspective! 

But we need to take it further than forgiveness, says Paul. We then have to restore the person back into fellowship with us, in order that he or she doesn't have to try to figure out what else could be done to make things right, which in turn might lead to bitterness.

"What if I choose not to forgive, but put the person on probation?" asked Dad. We read some verses illustrating this, and then he summed it up: The person who places another on probation instead of forgiving suffers greater consequences than the one not fully forgiven. Unforgiveness is a very heavy burden to carry. To keep in our hearts a spirit of unforgiveness is very destructive. It hurts the person who does not forgive far more than the person unforgiven."

How do we respond to people who have asked us for forgiveness? Dad told us a touching story about his mother and his youngest brother, Bruce, when Bruce was a teenager.

One evening Bruce didn't come home, and Nana was getting a bit frantic with worry. So Dad, who had a car, said he would drive around and look for Bruce.

Dad drove around the little town of Castor and then saw Bruce coming out of the movie theatre. (You have to keep in mind that this was in the mid-50s and it was considered wrong for Christians to go to the movies in those days.) Dad opened the car door and when Bruce got in just said, "Mom's worried about you," and then they drove home.

When they got home, Dad said, he still recalls how his mother was standing at the front door with the light of the house streaming out all around her. Bruce jumped out of the car and bolted toward his mother. And Nana simply opened her arms and wrapped them around her strapping son, holding him close.

"The Return of the Prodigal Son"
Rembrandt van Rijn 
Remember the story of the prodigal son? I was thinking about the unquestioning forgiveness of the father, but also of the questioning unforgiveness of the elder brother. 

Rembrandt, shortly before his death, painted the masterpiece The Return of the Prodigal Son. Henri Nouwen was so arrested by this painting and the story it tells that he wrote a book by the same name.

And in it he talks about forgiveness. He explains how each of us could be both the younger and the elder son, and which one actually had the more difficult path - and it is the elder, unforgiving son.  Nouwen says the following:

Both needed healing and forgiveness. Both needed to come home. Both needed the embrace of a forgiving father. But from the story itself, as well as from Rembrandt's painting, it is clear that the hardest conversion to go through is the conversion of the one who stayed home.

I think back on the times when I am unforgiving, the things for which I hold grudges ... and then I think of the words in the most well-known prayer: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."


What a challenge this study was to me last night! Is it any wonder that the Wednesday Bible study at the TH has to be on my thanksgiving list this October?


  1. “I can forgive, but I cannot forget, is only another way of saying, I will not forgive. Forgiveness ought to be like a cancelled note - torn in two, and burned up, so that it never can be shown against one. ~Henry Ward Beecher”

  2. Am remembering Thanksgiving that we shared with you in Calgary at our house all those years ago . . . I am so thankful for my friends . . . xxx


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