God's Forgiveness is Not Normal
What I have written here was prompted by an unfortunate event this weekend and the negative reaction I received when I posted something on FaceBook in support of the person affected by that event.
I long have enjoyed the cooking show of Paula Deen. Her politics are apparently completely opposite of mine as she voted twice for a man that I voted against both times. Like most conservative Christians, I am able to set aside my differences with other people and find a common ground.
The common ground I found with Ms. Deen had to do with her love of people, her love of food and the joy she apparently has in life. In addition, I appreciate her story. Abandoned by her husband as a young wife she worked hard to support herself and her two very young sons. I remember reading about how she cooked meals and then drove around selling the food at construction sites from the trunk of her car.
As time went on she opened a very successful restaurant in Savannah, Georgia and then several buffet restaurants throughout the USA. Several years ago I had the pleasure of dining at one of her restaurants and, speaking as a lover of good food, it was almost a religious experience.
Recently, as often happens with hard working people who have earned a good deal of money, Ms. Deen was sued by someone who had worked for her. She was accused, among other things, of having used what has come to be known as the "N-word" in the 1980's - some 30 years ago. Under oath at a trial, she displayed her innate integrity when she told the truth about this knowing full well that it could cost her dearly in today's judgmental world.
Paula Deen was a longtime celebrity on the Food Network. Her show and personality helped to make it a successful network. She seemed to be a beloved part of the network's "family". It was shocking, then, when the network suddenly announced her contract would not be renewed - a reaction to her honest admission about something that she obviously regretted doing.
Now, I'm not going to say I approve of Ms. Dean's use of that word all those years ago. I don't. I hate that people call other people derogatory names like that. I hate that I have called other people names in my past and I repent of that. Ms. Deen comes from the South and from the same time I was young and growing up in New Orleans. I was raised by a racist and heard all sorts of things that I repeated. People different than me called me racist names too.
But as I grew up and came to know people that were different than me I stopped all that and I think that Paula Deen's voting record and the many people of color who call themselves her friend have proven that she is not a racist either.
Having said all that, this article is not really about Paula Deen or even racism. Watching this happen to this lady this weekend has revealed something about the world system and the Kingdom of God and how it operated and it has intrigued me.
The network that has abandoned this celebrity cook after their many years of working with her and knowing her typifies the world system. This system uses people and discards them when they are done with them. This system can look very nice and friendly and benevolent but it works on a barter system in that interactions only happen if both sides think they will walk away with more than the other side will get. Once it becomes evident that one might even seem to be a possible future liability, that one is discarded immediately. There is NO loyalty or real commitment in this system.
The most glaringly apparent issue in this episode is that under the world system a THIRTY YEAR OLD offense (committed against someone else) will apparently be held against a guilty party indefinitely. In the world system there is no real forgiveness.
When Jesus came to the earth He issued in a totally new system, if you will: the Kingdom of God. Heralding His coming, John the Baptizer said this:
"... and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!'" (Matthew 3:2)
As He began His ministry, Jesus began to say the same thing:
"From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'" (Matthew 4:17)
Then, when He sent the twelve out to minister on His behalf He instructed them to do the same:
"And as you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'" (Matthew 10:7)
That term "is at hand" means that it was approaching.
"The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!'" (John 1:29)
The term "takes away" literally means to "lift or carry away." Jesus came to remove the sin of the world.
In Acts 1:3 we see that Jesus spoke to the disciples about the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God does not begin when we die and get to heaven; it started when Jesus died, was buried and rose from the dead. Paul teaches that we are ambassadors - we represent a present Kingdom. Paul also teaches that we are citizens of a new nation - we are members of a present Kingdom.
"He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians 1:13-14)
A joyously key attribute of this Kingdom is that its members are truly and completely forgiven of every offense they have ever committed no matter how long ago that has happened!
I was once on staff at a church, one of many ministers on staff there. My boss came to me and told me that he wanted me to go into the county jail to visit a man who had been arrested and was charged with a heinous crime. I knew I would go because I was submitted to my boss but I was curious as to why I was chosen to go instead of one of the other ministers. So, I asked him.
His reply sounded so wrong to me: "We are sending you because, of everyone who works here, you were the worst before you were saved."
I was stunned. I replied, "So, in other words, even though the Bible tells me that, in Christ, my sins are removed from me as far as the east is from the west...when you think of me all you can see is my past sins....and the only reason you know about them is that I was honest and told you what I had done???"
He just stood there staring at me.
The truth is that his answer sounded so wrong to me because it WAS wrong for him and the others to see me in terms of my sin.
"The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us." (Psalm 103:8-12)
I was transferred into a new Kingdom and in this Kingdom we are not known merely in terms of our earthly failures - we are now no longer known according to our flesh.
"For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." (2 Corinthians 5:14-17)
So, this is the primary thing that I take away from the events of this weekend: the stark contrast between the meanness of the world and the delicious love of God.
The world sees people only in terms of what they do. The world is more than willing to eat its own. The world does not really forgive; rather, it stores our offenses away to be used against us when it is finished using us. The world's "forgiveness" is conditional and, therefore is not really forgiveness; but what it has that it calls "forgiveness" is considered to be normal. The world has satan as its father (John 8:44) and the world he runs is just like him.
God, in contrast, runs His Kingdom through love. The Kingdom of God sees us in terms of who we are: either God's children or not. The Father in heaven gave of Himself for us. His kingdom operates in forgiveness. God's Kingdom is like him. God's forgiveness is complete, lasts forever and, compared to the world's "forgiveness" is definitely not normal. That is why I titled this article: "God's Forgiveness is Not Normal."
My understanding is that Paula Deen is a Baptist Christian and, therefore, she is my eternal sister. I tracked down her email address and sent her an encouraging email. I hope she actually gets to see it. Here is an excerpt of that email:
"I believe you have a very good heart and are grieved that you ever hurt anyone with anything you said. I viewed your apology video and found it to be heartfelt and real. I KNOW you hurt over this.
I am writing this today to encourage you to not allow this incident to define you. We live in a hypocritical world in which people will make millions because they freely use the same word that they are trying to crucify you for using AND having the integrity to admit under oath to having used it. You CANNOT allow others to use one tiny aspect of your past life to determine the tenor of your future. You CANNOT allow this to define you. YOU ARE MUCH MORE THAN THIS."
What we do in our ignorance cannot be allowed to define us after we repent and change our ways. It seems Paula Deen did that a long time ago.
If you are reading this and are already a child of the Most High God through faith in Jesus Christ....if Jesus is your Lord, I hope you have received today the truths that we truly are forgiven, that we are not known to God in terms of the worst things we have ever done and that we are to exemplify these truths to a harsh world as citizens of a better Kingdom.
If you are reading this and have never received Jesus as your Lord I hope this piece has served to highlight some of the incredible and freeing aspects to being a Christian. God really does love you and He really does want to free you from the trap of always seeing yourself in terms of your worst behaviors. If you have never personally confessed Jesus as your Lord I invite you to contact me via my email address found on this website and I'll help you with that:
Pastor Mike McInerney
Mike McInerney Ministries, Inc.
© June 24, 2013
(For use with permission)