Friday, October 11, 2019

Devotionals for the Heart: Forgiveness and having the "Mind of Jesus Christ"

Let this mind be in you...
A devotional by Chaplain Paul Anderson

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” –Philippians 2:5-11 (KJV)

Last week, I was forced to evaluate my sense of right, rightness, righteousness, and self-righteousness. 

If you live in the United States of America and watched the news story about Amber Guyger (a former Dallas police officer) who, according to, "killed Botham Jean in his apartment last year" and you saw Brandt who is the brother of Botham Jean, ask the Judge if he could give Amber a hug (and he proceeded to tell her that he forgives her), then you probably were forced to evaluate your mindset too.

When I saw the brother of Jean Botham offer his heartfelt forgiveness and meek request to hug the person who had unjustly killed his brother, something leapt within me.

Reflexively, I thought and posted on Facebook that “he will live outside of the prison of hatred and retributive rage, because he forgave quickly.” That action, in my mind, seemed congruent with the mind of Christ.

It was congruent with what I saw my own brother say, in court, to the man who had irresponsibly caused the death of his and his wife’s only son who was the only brother to their daughters. Nothing he could do or demand would bring back their son, but they hoped, for that man, a preferred vision for his life, going forward. They articulated it.

I know that my brother’s family live, daily, with the pain of Nathan’s absence, but to move on in their uncharted, personal path through grief, they forgave.

Later I saw lots of my friends post angst, dismay, anger and outrage at this simple and very personal deed of grief management. I was driven to reconsider my thoughts about forgiveness. I took the time to read, in context, every Scriptural use of the word “forgiveness.” Sometimes it was requested by an offender. Sometimes it was spontaneously offered by the offended.

In every case, it offered a release for the offended and the offender. Sometimes, the freedom was embraced. The most poignant time when it was not embraced is mentioned in the story found in Matthew 18:21-35 (KJV). Please take the time to read it. Let it seep into your spirit.

Forgiveness is a spiritual conundrum that can only be comprehended by spiritual discernment. It will not make sense to an angry person or to one whose scales of justice are merely human. Forgiveness does not absolve a person of debt, or wrongdoing. There still is no such thing as a free lunch. Forgiveness transfers the weight, debt of the offense and the responsibility of the offender, into cosmic accountability.

I have always had a heightened sense of justice. However, i
n my early adulthood, I began to understand how my well-doing and right-doing advanced relationships. I also began to see how nurturing my own judgmental mindset injured the same. A more mature person told me, “The best way to advance the cause of rightness is righteousness. Harshness and a punitive spirit put you in the path of God’s judgment. It makes you bitter and painful to be around. It impedes His ultimate justice. Get out of God’s way and into His will."

Now, there is the legitimate expectation of civil jurisprudence. But, the courts of popular opinion, our common pleas and communities are not the same nor equal to the court of divine presence. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 20th century, immortalized the 19th century thought of Theodore Parker when he prophetically declared that, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but, it bends toward justice.”

The Bible says this in Psalm 19:7-8 KJV, “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.” 

Brandt did not speak for his family. He spoke only for himself. He did not try to define my faith and praxis. Nor did he delineate yours. He acted in heartfelt dependence on what he thought that God directed him, through his understanding of Scripture, to do. He probably does not know as much about theology as I do, but he demonstrated more faith than I have ever been called to do.

No one can know what they would do if plunged into a similar circumstance. 

What we have then and now is an illustrative continuum that appeals to each of us to spiritually think on these things and to have the "mind of (Jesus) Christ."

Author Bio:

Chaplain Anderson served for 20 years as a U.S. Navy Chaplain. Over 26 years of active duty, he was promoted through the ranks from Seaman Apprentice (E2) to his final rank as Commander (O5) in the Chaplain’s Corps.

Prior to his Naval career, Chaplain Anderson pastored in the Allegheny East and Potomac Conferences of Seventh-day Adventists. His undergraduate preparation for ministry was completed at Columbia Union College (WAU) in Takoma Park, Md.

He has subsequently earned four graduate degrees–a Master of Divinity from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, a Master of Education in Counseling and Personnel Services from the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland and a Masters of Sacred Theology in Religion and Culture from Boston University. His Doctor of Ministry degree was conferred by Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C.

Chaplain Anderson also completed four units of Clinical Pastoral Education at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He also holds certifications in Suicide Awareness and Prevention, Civil Mediation, Alternative Workplace Dispute Resolution, Temperament Analysis, Marriage Enrichment, Workforce Diversity, and is a certified Life Coach.

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