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Taking the Fifth

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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… as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Matthew 6:12

The Lord’s Prayer is only seven verses long. You can pray it in less than a minute, but in that brief time, Jesus teaches us twice to pray to receive and also to give forgiveness.

Jesus teaches that “daily bread” is the first requirement for our survival. Then, in the very next verse, he teaches that the second requirement for survival is being forgiven and forgiving others. Life is both physical and moral. That’s probably why Martin Luther said, “The Kingdom of Christ is simply the sentence, ‘your sins are forgiven.’”

From time to time, a person has come and asked if they could “take the fifth” with me. The “fifth” that they are referring to is the fifth of the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. It goes like this,

Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

The first time I was asked to do this, a man I had only vaguely known took off his coat, hat, and gloves, settled into his chair looking for a comfortable position, took out a spiral notebook, and began to read. And going back as far as he could remember, he started to describe “the exact nature of his wrongs.” Page followed page. He paused from time to time to wipe his eyes and clear his throat and find a new position in the chair. Ninety minutes crawled by. I scarcely dared to breathe. When he finished, he looked up at me and I could see both relief and anxiety in his eyes—relief that he was finished and anxiety over how I would respond. Honestly, I didn’t exactly know how I was supposed to respond.

Something profoundly sacred had just taken place, and it required a response that was similarly sacred. Without offering any congratulation or commentary, I simply offered these words from 1 John 1:8-9:

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Then, wrestling with my own emotions, I announced, “In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven!” There was a long pause while those words took over the room. And gradually we both began to breathe again.

Prior to that moment of confession and assurance of pardon, I’m not sure I had ever felt so profoundly a part of God’s work.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Describe some of the obstacles to admitting “the exact nature of our wrongs.” Do you spend much time on a regular basis confessing your sins to God? In what ways does confessing to another human being change the experience of confession?

PRAYER: Merciful Father, the closer and deeper the relationship, the more fuel there is for resentment and the greater the need for forgiveness. In gratitude for your amazing grace, help me to see more clearly where I need to forgive others, beginning with those in my inner circle. Today I choose to take part in your ministry of amazing grace. Amen.

Ambition

Is ambition positive, neutral, destructive, or fallen but redeemable? Does ambition interfere with Christian witness? What is the difference between being called and being driven? And why does it matter? Does it matter? Western culture values a strong work ethic, and we encourage our children and their children to strive and work toward success. Have we put our focus in the right place? Join us for the High Calling series that we’ve titled simply, Ambition.

Featured image by MorkiRo. Used with Permission. Source via Flickr.

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