Sunday, July 30, 2017

Love Keeps No Record of being wronged

2017 is an year of anniversaries. the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant reformation, the 150th anniversary of Confederation, it was a 100 years ago the survivors of the Shackleton expedition were rescued from Antartica.  2017 is the 40th Anniversary of  Star Wars and The 50th Anniversary of the Summer of Love.

Last week Deborah mentioned that she was negative 20 in the summer of Love.  Which of course was when 100,000 hippies and flower children descended on the Haight Asbury district of San Francisco in the summer of 1967. 

I was 7 that summer and we were living in Germany.  I think we visited Spain in the summer of 67.  Actually by the time I was 8 I had already lived in or visited 9 countries, which was kind of cool.

I didn’t wear a flower in my hair, because my parents kept my hair cut so short that they would have had to staple the flower to my head. 

We are recognizing the summer of love this Summer at Cornerstone by focusing on 1 Corinthians 13.  And each week we’ve been taking the time to read the entire passage together.  Because it’s really important and if you don’t remember anything else this summer we want you to remember 1 Corinthians 13.   This morning we are going to read the passage responsively.  That simply means that I will read a section and then you will read a section.  

1 Corinthians 13:1-13  If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others,

I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 

If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains,

but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 

If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it;

but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. 

Love is patient and kind.

Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.

It does not demand its own way.

It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 

It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. 

Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! 

Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! 

But when full understanding comes, these partial things will become useless. 

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child.

But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 

Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.

All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. 

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

This week we are looking at the last part of verse five which tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:5 . . . Love keeps no record of being wronged.

In its simplest form we take this to mean “Love forgives” but it’s deeper than that.  It’s more like. . .  “Love doesn’t hold a grudge.” 

You can forgive and yet still remember the wrong that was done and the hurt that happened.

Willie Nelson wrote and sang the words “Forgiving you was easy but forgetting seems to take the longest time.”

I tell people it’s like when you cut yourself and you have a scar. It no longer hurts, but the scar is a reminder of the hurt.  Now if you’re lucky the scar will completely fade away and there will be no reminder of the hurt.

But this actually goes deeper than that reminder you have of the hurt, In the Daily Study Bible William Barclay tells us “The word translated store up (keep a record)  is an accountant's word. It is the word used for entering up an item in a ledger so that it will not be forgotten.”

But when we say “love keeps no record of being wronged”, it’s like having plastic surgery to remove the scar or taking an eraser and erasing the entry in the ledger.

But, just like making the decision to have plastic surgery or erasing the entry we have to make the decision to stop holding a grudge.

This morning we are going to jump back into the Old Testament to see this demonstrated in a very practical sense. 

There is a very familiar story in the book of Genesis about a boy named Joseph, you probably remember him from the story of Joseph and his coat of many colours.  Is it starting to sound familiar?

So here is the back story.  Joseph’s father was Abraham’s Grand-son Jacob, and Jacob had a pile of kids.   And out of all his children he had a favourite.  That happens sometimes, my sister was the favourite. 

That’s my story, her story is slightly different.  H.C. Wilson is fond of saying that “Where you stand is determined by where you sit.”

But in the case of Joseph and his siblings it was evident to all that Joseph was the favourite.  His father gave him the proverbially coat of many colours, which was really a really fancy robe. 

Those in the know tell us that this robe not only showed Joseph’s standing but also bestowed special privileges on Joseph as the favoured son.  It would be like you giving most of your kids work clothes and rubber boats and then giving one kid a really nice suit. 

And this was even evidenced in the story where we discover that while the rest of the brothers were out tending the flocks, Joseph was at home with Dad and it was Joseph who was the one sent out to check up on his siblings.  That really endeared him to them.

But it went deeper than that.  Joseph reveled in being the favourite, he knew he was special and he wanted everyone else to know it as well.  

And then he began having the dreams.  If you know the story you know the dreams.  Joseph had dreams that he interpreted as meaning his brothers and sisters would all bow down to him. 

Joseph was much more excited about sharing his dreams with his brothers than his brothers were when they heard his interpretation of the dreams.

So, if you don’t know the story, the other brothers are out tending the flocks Joseph is home and Jacob sends his favourite son to check up on the others. 

To make a long story short the other brothers sell Joseph into slavery, take his fancy coat dip it in animal blood and tell their father that his favourite child had been killed.

They end up rid of Joseph and Joseph ends up in Egypt as a slave.

Now I don’t want to spend a lot of time here but there are a few things at the beginning of the story that we need to understand if we are going to understand the end of the story. 

The first thing is Joseph was a Jerk.  Seriously, there was nothing Joseph could do about being his father’s favourite son, he didn’t write that part of the story.

But he didn’t have to rub his brother’s noses in it.  He flaunted the fancy robe that his father had made for him, he made sure to let his father know whenever one of the other brothers messed up. 

Not even to mention the entire dream and the “you’re all going to bow down and worship me” thing.

No wonder the other kids didn’t like Joseph, there wasn’t a lot there to like.  Often we are the author of our own misfortunes. 

But that being said, His Brothers Were Bigger Jerks

Come on guys, he was 17 years old for crying out loud.  I was a jerk when I was 17 and nobody sold me into slavery.   Understand, I’m not saying that nobody wanted to sell me into slavery.  I’m just saying they didn’t.

Right from the account of the Bible’s first family, there has been tension between siblings. You only have to get four chapters into the bible and you see Cain killing his brother Abel. 

The relationship you have with your siblings will probably be the longest relationship you will ever have with anybody, and it is so complicated and so messy.  

Jeffrey Kluger wrote “Your parents leave you too soon and your kids and spouse come along late, but your siblings know you when you are in your most inchoate form.”

You have probably said things to your brothers and sisters that you wouldn’t think of saying to another human being, unless you are a complete sociopath.  Especially when you were a teenager.

I Love the story told about the little boy in Sunday School class, the teacher was focusing on the Ten Commandments and asked the class “Are there any commandments about how we should treat our brothers and sisters?”  The class sat and thought for a while and a little guy put up his hand and said “Thou shalt not kill?”

Joseph’s brothers had obviously missed that class because the original plan was to drop Joseph down a dry well and let him starve to death.  So technically they wouldn't be killing him, Instead he gets a last minute reprieve when they sold him into slavery for 20 pieces of silver.

For a minute, I want you to focus on the path the story takes at this point.

It begins in Genesis 37:8  His brothers responded, “So you think you will be our king, do you? Do you actually think you will reign over us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dreams and the way he talked about them.

And so it begins with the resentment they felt toward the younger brother.   It Started as a Feeling   That’s why Jesus warned people in Matthew 5:21-22  “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’  But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.

Jesus knew that what starts in the heart doesn’t stay in the heart.

And that’s what happens in the story, let’s keep reading.

Genesis 37:18  When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming, they recognized him in the distance. As he approached, they made plans to kill him. You see what happened.  What had started in the heart had moved to the head.  It may have started as an emotion but now It Became a Thought

Now they just weren’t feeling cranky about their brother they are plotting his demise.   

But it didn’t end with the thought, let’s keep going with the story.   Genesis 37:28  So when the Ishmaelites, who were Midianite traders, came by, Joseph’s brothers pulled him out of the cistern and sold him to them for twenty pieces of silver. And the traders took him to Egypt.

What started as a feeling became a thought and then it Ended as an Action 

What was it that Ralph Waldo Emerson said? “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”  And if you think Stephen Covey said that you need to read more.  That’s like thinking Chris Tomlin wrote Amazing Grace.

And it all started because the brothers felt that Joseph had done them wrong and they couldn’t get past that.  Whatever love they had felt for little Joe when he was born had been dissolved in the acid of resentment.  

Hold on to that, we’ll come back to it later.

And there was a cost for them because it hardened their souls, and there was a cost for their father because he had lost a child and there was a cost for Joseph because he had lost his freedom.

So, let’s get the timeline straight.  Joseph was 17 when he was sold into slavery.  A whole bunch of stuff happened including jail time for a false allegation of assault but when Joseph is 30 he has become an advisor to the Pharaoh and eventually ended up second in command in the entire country. 

Joseph guides Egypt through 7 years of prosperity, stockpiling grain and food in preparation for a severe reversal of fortunes which he had foretold from a dream that his boss had.

When the drought and famine comes it not only affects Egypt but also Joseph’s home land and his brothers eventually come with cap in hand looking for help. 

Now at this point they have no way of knowing who Joseph was.  The last they had seen their brother he was a seventeen-year-old slave.  Now he’s close to forty and the second most powerful man in all of Egypt. 

If you haven’t read the story it’s found in the bible at the end of Genesis.  If you don’t have a bible mention it to one of the staff and we’ll give you are really nice bible.

We still have the fast forward button pushed down.  Joseph reveals who he is to his brothers and has them move the entire family to Egypt. 

With this chapter in the story closing we read In Genesis 47:11-12  So Joseph assigned the best land of Egypt—the region of Rameses—to his father and his brothers, and he settled them there, just as Pharaoh had commanded.  And Joseph provided food for his father and his brothers in amounts appropriate to the number of their dependents, including the smallest children.

Still with me?  The finger is still on fast forward, after another 17 years Jacob, Joseph’s father, dies and his brothers all come to the same conclusion. 

And it’s found in Genesis 50:15  But now that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers became fearful. “Now Joseph will show his anger and pay us back for all the wrong we did to him,” they said.  Which from their perspective made perfect sense.

They knew what it felt to harbour a grudge, to nurse it to keep it warm, to brood over all those slights and hurts until they were impossible to forget. 

Liane Moriarty  wrote “They say it's good to let your grudges go, but I don't know, I'm quite fond of my grudge. I tend it like a little pet.”   And so the brothers figured that Joseph had been doing what they would have been doing. 

So let’s land where we’ve been heading all along.  Genesis 50:19-21  But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.  No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them.

So what do we learn from this passage about not keeping a record of wrongs?

Genesis 50:19  But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you?”
It Started as a Thought  It began when he Intellectually forgave them, when he realized the futility of bearing a grudge. 

He must have read the book Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience,  Where Steve Maraboli, writes  “When you hold a grudge, you want someone else’s sorrow to reflect your level of hurt but the two rarely meet.”

So, it begins when intellectually Joseph decides to let go of any bad feeling he might have toward his brothers. It wasn’t something he felt, it was something he thought.

Notice the difference in the timeline.  What the brothers did to Joseph began as an emotion.  They felt hatred, then they thought up a plan.  Here forgiveness begins as a thought.  First you have to first decide to forgive someone and then you forgive them.

Genesis 50:20  You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.

It Became a Feeling  It was after he made the decision that emotionally he was able to forgive them.

And it was at that point that he realizes the good that has come out of what had happened.

But it wasn’t enough that Joseph had moved from an intellectual understanding to an emotional releasing.  Let’ keep reading.

Genesis 50:21  No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them.

So you see the progression, what started as a thought became a feeling and It Ended as an Action  It was in his actions that his forgiveness became a demonstration of love.  Not only had he forgiven his brothers intellectually and emotionally, he had forgiven them practically as well. 

In my last message I spoke about the fact that the Greek word that was used here for “Love” was “Agape” and it meant an unconditional love.

Agape is more an intellectual response than an emotional response,  it is more a decision of the mind than the heart. 

That’s why Jesus could tell us in Matthew 5:43-45  “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy.  But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!  In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.

So, here is what you need to take away from this week, “You will choose to keep a record of wrongs or you will choose to not keep a record of wrongs,  but understand it will be your choice.”

Elon Musk understood that when he said, “Life is too short for long-term grudges.”

What is it that you need to let go of?   I don’t know and probably the person that you are holding the grudge against doesn’t know, but you do.  But remember, Love keeps no record of wrongs.

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