Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Saying "I'm Sorry"

I realized while writing in my journal on Saturday that there's a big difference between saying "I'm sorry" and "Will you forgive me?" You may think it's a mere matter of semantics--and I'll let you retain that right--but I think there's a lot more to it.

You see, I'm finding that it's so much harder to ask for forgiveness than to say I'm sorry for doing something. Myabe it's just me, but I get this gut-rumbling, gulp! gotta-swallow (my pride) feeling when I'm deciding between saying "sorry" and the "f-word." (This, of course, usually occurs while I'm nervously twiddling my thumbs and my eyes cast downward--anywhere, really, but at the person I've injured.)

You see, forgiveness can only occur when an actual wrong, an injury, a trespass, has been committed. It has to named for what it is--and then never held against the offender again. "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you," St. Paul exhorts the Ephesian church (Ephesians 4:32). If I ask someone to forgive me as in Christ God forgave me, then that's painful. God didn't just nonchallantly wipe away our sins. "Eh, it's no big deal. You were flawed anyway, and I'm immutable by human deeds, so no big deal. Shall we let bygones be bygones and call it even?" No, when God forgave us in Christ, he declared our sins for what they really were. "Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross" (Colossians 2:13-14 NLT). God didn't hide our sins or gloss over them. Like the Roman executors' custom, God made public our list of offenses, nailing to the cross. Upon Calvary, however, God didn't nail a placard to the cross detailing our sins; he nailed the Sinner himself, Jesus Christ, who bore our own sins in his body.

Asking for forgiveness is hard because it means I must acknowledge that I didn't just make a mistake; I didn't just slip up or have a momentary lapse in judgment. I sinned. I willfully and selfishly did something wrong (gasp!) to another person. It's hard to say that--not only to myself, but to the injured. It's much easier to say, "I'm sorry," because that just implies nothing wrong was really done, perhaps just something regrettable. "I'm sorry for doing that" really means, "I regret the fact that this happened, but I don't really intend to do anything about it." Of course, we can easily believe our own lies, so if we simply say "sorry" enough, it's easy to feel better about ourselves: I didn't do anything deliberately wrong, at least nothing inexcusable, and I've now made proper amends for it. Yeah, right.

But the Cross of Christ speaks a different word. There God exposes us each as manipulative, selfish mercenaries and proves us utterly impotent at making proper amends. But there he also freely provides the only One who is sufficient to make proper amends and to the uttermost atone for all our sins. Yes, even the sin of saying "I'm sorry."

Friday, January 16, 2009


A week ago I drove up to Michigan for my grandfather's memorial service. Louis H. Bork died at age 86, leaving behind his wife of 61 years, Mona, along with his three children and three more grandchildren. A few things came to mind recently regarding death and loss.

First, it's easy to want to be consoled by the comforting news that Opa is in heaven now because he trusted in Jesus as his Savior from sin. (I'm not entirely certain he did, however, though I have fairly reasonable confidence.) Someone even said at the funeral that he was running around now, youthful and free. I didn't want to be a killjoy, but the biblical evidence seems to say that even those who die in Christ will not have new bodies until all God's children are gathered home and his kingdom is consummated. Our glorious and renewed bodies will be ours only as part of the final inheritance we will receive as God's sons (Romans 8:18-25). In the meantime even those who die justified will, until the Last Judgment, be only "away from the body and at home with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8; cf. Philippians 1:21-24). Of course, this is "better by far"!

You see, death--even for those in Christ--isn't such a great "pathway to glory" as we make it out to be. True humanity, true life, is nothing short of being alive in both body and spirit. That's how we were created, and only when all of the material, physical, earthy cosmos is redeemed and glorified will everything be set right again. (See my older post here.)

This brings me to my second thought. I know that I've lost Opa--for now, at least. He's no longer here. But that doesn't just mean that the Bork/Hall family is down a man; it means we've all changed individually. You see, I can only be a grandson if I have a grandfather. I am no longer Louis Bork's grandson. His beloved Mona (my "Oma") is no longer his wife: "till death us do part"--and death has parted them. We are who we are by virtue of relationships; even Jesus wouldn't be a Son without having been "begotten from the Father before all worlds." There's no telling what measure of who I am in my thoughts, knowledge, worldview, abilities, character, and desires was effected by being Opa's grandson. The loss of a loved one is, for the remainder of our sojourn, a loss of ourselves as well.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Winter Wonderland

Just in case you wish you were in Chicago right now: the actual temperature is -14 degrees Fahrenheit, with a windchill of -34!

Sleep tight!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Glorious Coincidence?

One of the things I've always been fascinated about when I'm studying the Bible is when I see texts--words, stories, images--tie together and unfold each other. Imagery congeals into fleshy subtance. Meaning precipitates. Events echo and reverberate. Propositions polymerize into connected chains. (Can you tell I'm a science teacher?)

One such instance occurred yesterday morning as I was reading the closing chapters of Exodus. In chapters 35-40 the erection of the tabernacle is described in detail. The tabernacle, or tent of meeting, was meant to be the site where sinful Israel would meet with her holy God--but not without a covering of blood, the life which atoned for her sin.

As its construction reached completion, the following words are recorded:

Thus all the work of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting was finished, and the people of Israel did according to all that the LORD had commanded Moses; so they did. . . . According to all that the LORD had commanded Moses, so the people of Israel had done all the work. And Moses saw all the work, and behold, they had done it; as the LORD had commanded, so had they done it. Then Moses blessed them. (39:32, 42-43 ESV)

Then the following words bring the building phase to its end: "So Moses finished the work" (40:33).

As I chewed on this passage, Genesis 1:31--2:3 came to mind.

And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

The italicized words may be a coincidence, an artefact of my overly-enthusiastic imagination. But didn't Moses pen them all? It seems to me that there is some direct and intentional parallelism going on here. But what might it mean? In creation, God finished the work he had done; he saw that it was good and blessed it with his favor and approval. When Moses saw that the people had finished the tabernacle according to God's commands, he blessed them as well.*

The story doesn't end there, though. As the sign of his approval, the Lord's radiant shekinah glory-cloud moved in to the tabernacle and took up residence, dwelling there among his people. "Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle" (Exodus 40:34). Whereas once he refused to meet with sinful, idolatrous Israel within the borders of her camp, opting instead for the top of Mt. Sinai or a tent of meeting outside the camp, God now moved to dwell among his people and reveal his glory there.

Does this imply that in the creation of the universe, God was preparing for himself a place to dwell as the universe's King? Or does it perhaps reveal that the tabernacle is the creation of God's new dwelling place on earth? Should the reader infer that Israel herself is the beginning of a new, redemeed creation of sorts? Taking it further, what does this mean for the church, the fullness of Israel, where God dwells with his covenant people by means of the life-offering of Jesus Christ? I haven't put a lot of thought into it beyond this, but I think it is so awesome to see these sort of connections in Scripture. To me they reveal so much; they are the lifeblood (no pun intended) of study. How much of this stuff is going on in the New Testament as it echoes and retells the Old, and we just don't see it?

"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God' " (Revelation 21:3).
*Another thing I thought of was that in Genesis 1, God commands or speaks, and his Spirit carries it out. In Exodus 35-40, God lays out the plan for the tabernacle in his commands to Moses, and the Spirit fills Bezalel and Oholiab with the wisdom and skill needed to craft and engineer it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Update 1/6/09

Man, I guess I haven't had a legitimate post on here in a while. But that may become the norm, sad to say. I haven't been reading much, and books often prove to be food for thought. Internet access is hard to come by these days--not to mention that my laptop is kaput. On top of that, I've been traveling a lot, including several days in Michigan to see my grandfather before he died last Friday.

I've actually thought very little about him over the past few days. I'm not sure why.

I didn't cry when I found out. I'm not sure why either, but I know that it has been several years since I last cried. At least I came close this time.