Remember Me

My Mom often said, “It doesn’t hurt to ask. If you don’t ask, you won’t know.” She was right.

People are so often stressed about not being “good enough”, but the most powerful evidence that Heaven is gained by faith alone – not by any human effort – may be the testimony of a dying criminal who just asked.

Jesus on the cross was bloody, gory, weak, suffering, publicly shamed and ridiculed. In the eyes of most, there was nothing to recommend Him as a human or king, and certainly not as any kind of savior. He was accused of being – and, indeed, appeared to be – a lying, blasphemous, cult-leader of a criminal under a common death sentence with two other criminals. In that moment, His appearance gave no one cause for faith. Those suffering and dying with Him were admittedly guilty. They had no good works that were recorded, they certainly were not baptized, did not speak in tongues or prophesy, and had no time left to perform redemptive acts. In that moment, they had nothing to offer anyone – certainly not God. Like many in the crowd, the criminals jeered and taunted the bleeding, dying Jesus.

But one of them changed.

And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” He was on a cross, scared, dying in shame and agony. Couldn’t hurt to ask, right?

Nowhere is it written that Christ said, “Sorry – you need to be baptized. You need good works. You need evidence of the Spirit. Sorry, man.”

Instead, at this evidence of faith alone – a shaky faith born of pain and fear – Jesus told him, “Today you shall be with me in Paradise.”

As Jesus bore the darkness of this world into death to earn redemption for all who believe, he took along the criminal dying right next door. Just because he asked.

No other reason.

So do Christ followers need to do good things? Should we study the Bible, love one another, and act kindly? Yes, of course. But we are called to lives of love and caring and acts of goodness because we have already received grace and are already destined for Heaven, and because we want to share His mercy and our hope with others any way we can. Not because we need to earn our way to Heaven – that way has already been earned for us. We have chosen to believe, we have asked in faith, so Christ has given the gift of eternity. He remembers us – always.

So today, if you just want a some peace in your life, some hope, some assurance, some comfort – even if you are not sure who He is or how He can give it – try a little faith. It doesn’t hurt to ask. If you don’t ask, you won’t know.

“Jesus, remember me.”

Resurrection chalk art by our family. Design chosen by our daughter Maggie.

Fierce Forgiveness

Christ tells us to forgive 70 x 7. That sounds like a lofty goal, but have you ever had to work so hard at forgiving – or been offended by the same person so repeatedly – that you actually counted up to that 490th time? So does that mean when we hit 491, we are exempt from forgiving? If so, I think there should be a revenge app that plays the theme from Jaws when the counter flips to 491.

Sometimes forgiveness is easy. But sometimes – well, sue me – sometimes I don’t feel particularly forgiving. Forgiving certain offenses rips at my brain and tears at my gut. My anger is especially fierce against hurts to my children or others I love.

But carrying unforgiveness causes me to hold anger in my soul and bitterness in my heart – the very same heart and soul that I have given to Jesus as a dwelling place within me. Who would want to live in that? Who would even ask anyone to live in that? There is a reason He tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who curse us. I have discovered it is quite difficult to hold a grudge against someone I pray for regularly – or even irregularly. When I close my eyes to pray for someone, God opens my heart to the fears and struggles causing that individual to be unkind or thoughtless. That makes me look at my own fears and failures, and then I see how much I share with that person, after all – and my heart breaks a little, surrendering my grip on the negativity. I cannot help but release my resentment and forgive. This does not relieve the hurt entirely, but the bitterness and the anger are lifted and compassion flows instead.

Not all offenses are major – some are light and easy to forgive. But others generate pain, and pain leads to anger, and I must wrestle fiercely with myself and God before finding peace in forgiving those offenses.

Offense can be fierce. Anger is fierce. Forgiveness must be fierce. There is nothing more fierce than battling the powers of Hell and death in order to offer grace. As a Christ-follower, I am called to be a living, breathing carrier of the very grace and forgiveness that was given to me – no matter the circumstances. So on the days when my heart burns with hurt, I remember that Christ burned with so very much more. My soul is humbled – my defenses are lowered. His mercy flows hard and fast through me. And the light of forgiveness bursts outward in a fierce healing rush.