ONCE THE TAMPERING STARTS
by David Sisler
On Tuesday night the Atlanta Braves had two games remaining in their baseball season. The arithmetic was simple. Win two and keep playing, or lose two and wait until next year (along with my Pittsburgh Pirates). It was then that Bobby Cox demonstrated why he should not be chosen as manager of the year. With a half-dozen fresh pitching arms in the bullpen (as in Game One) he kept Tom Glavin in and the Yankees knocked him out. Cox should apologize to the Braves and their fans. Maybe he could take a lesson from NBC Reporter Jim Gray.
"I thought that it was important to ask Pete Rose if this was the right moment for him to make an apology," Gray said. "If in doing so, the interview went on too long and took out some of the joy of the occasion, then I want to say to baseball fans everywhere that I'm very sorry about this."
"I offended baseball fans and I am very sorry," is an apology. "If I offended" is not an apology. It is a cop-out. Mr. Gray's remarks allow him to seek forgiveness without admitting he did anything wrong. And forgiveness can be a tricky business. At one time or another, most of us would like to forgive Jim Gray style: "If you are really mad at me, I ask your forgiveness. If I did something you think was wrong, I am sorry."
Had I been given the honor of being the editor for God's Book, I would have deleted one line from the Lord's Prayer: "and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." There is a parallel verse which would have to be deleted as well: "And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins"
It bothers me that I have to let go of some really good grudges in order to keep the channel of God's forgiveness flowing in my life. Take Russell for instance. Of all of the people I have known in my 52 years, he did more deliberate, calculated harm to me and my family than any one else. Ever. For months after I moved out of the town where our paths crossed, I subscribed to the local newspaper, just to check the obituary columns for his name.
Then one day while preparing for a teaching series on the Parables of Jesus, I stumbled into the story of the man who was forgiven a debt of $10,000,000. That man then immediately demanded repayment of a ten cent debt. His master revoked the ten million dollar mercy, and ordered him jailed until he could repay all he owed.
To the end of that story Jesus added, "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."
And that day, more than five years after the incident, I forgave Russell. I had no choice. God's Word demanded it. I did not get a vote, or an editor's blue pencil.
Some folks who have written to me this week would have deleted certain other portions of Scripture.
One person said, "We have to be aware of the influences of our culture on our interpretations... Obviously, there are many scriptures that provide evidence that we do not find all Biblical teachings equally applicable to our lives."
Another person said, "You seem to be very confident in your interpretation of the Bible and know the ‘truth.' Over the years I have come to be very suspicious of those who can interpret the scripture in such a black and white fashion."
I remember reading some years ago a conversation between a newspaper reporter and a pastor. The pastor had once been a newspaperman. The reporter labeled the pastor, and he meant it in a derogatory fashion, "a biblical literalist." The pastor admitted the accusation was correct, and then asked the reporter if he intended the stories he produced to be interpreted literally, or in some figurative manner. When the reporter said, "Obviously I intend for them to be read literally," the pastor asked, "Why then would you not want God's Word to be accepted in a factual, literal, just-as- it-was-written fashion?"
It still amazes me how easily I would have canceled out a portion of God's Word. It did not suit me. It was certainly not modern. "Get even" is modern. But the entire Book is God's Word, or none of it is. If I begin to pick and choose, and you allow me to do it, which portion will you then trust? If we selectively eliminate the parts which are personally offensive, how can we confidently claim the part which says God will forgive us for Jesus' sake?
Published in the Augusta Chronicle 10/30/99
Copyright 1999 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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