Forgive My Heart
You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.-- Acts 8: 21-23 (NIV)
Then Peter came and said to him, 'Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?' Jesus said to him, 'Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. -- Matthew 18: 21-22 (NRSV)
When I was younger, I was in an armed robbery. The robbers put me on the floor; they used duct tape, bound me, left me on the floor and threatened to kill me. The trauma from this robbery stays with me to this very day. After many years, I was asked to participate in Kairos' Prison Ministry, which brings the love of Christ to incarcerated men and women. At first, I resisted going; I was not prepared. How could I go to prison? Would I see the robbers in prison? As I searched my heart, I found the anger, bitterness, and hatred for the robbers. I wanted revenge. I couldn't go into this ministry with my heart so cold. Could I get my heart right?
God started asking me questions. Did I want the robbers to die? No. Did I want the robbers to go to hell? No. How could I claim to be a Christian and have those thoughts?
As a Christian, I am a human and I have lots of thoughts I shouldn't. God is still working on me and I'm not perfect, but a work in progress. Could I give my issues to God and let him heal me? Yes, but it was a struggle to give my anger, bitterness, and hatred to God, so he could heal me. If God could heal me, could he also heal the robbers? Yes, he could.
Did I want the robbers to know the love of God? Absolutely! Did I want the robbers to know God's forgiveness? This question is something I tussled with.
God's grace was big enough to forgive sins, but that meant my sins. God has forgiven me, why would I want to selfishly keep his forgiveness to myself? I found I didn't want to keep his forgiveness to myself. With each question and answer, God was changing my heart, and I began to feel the joy of sharing Christ's love with others regardless of the circumstances and I had to let go of what had happened to me. I was a little nervous as we entered the prison, but I knew the love of Christ would out shine my nervousness. -- Robin Claris
Thought for the Day: By listening for God questions and answering them, God can change our hearts.
Prayer: Dear God, help us listen for your questions; those questions we don't want to answer. Let us search our hearts for the answers and your love. As we search, God please change our hearts to be ready to serve you. Amen.
Prayer Focus: Those who are preparing to enter a new ministry.
Robin Claris is a member of Green Hill United Methodist Church, part of the Choctaw Mission in Mississippi.