Let us begin with an exercise in imagination.
I want you to picture a pie chart.
At first, when you look at it, it looks like it is all one color.
Let’s say, white.
But as you study it, even use a magnifying glass on it, you are able to see one very fine, black line.
As you pull away from the chart, the black line blends into all the white.
This is the pie chart of sin.
The white represents sins for which a person can atone, ask for forgiveness, and receive it.
That very fine, black line represents the one sin for which a person cannot atone or receive forgiveness.
So if the overwhelming majority of sins can be forgiven, why do so many churches spend so much time on justifying judgment and condemnation?
One of the very first things we learn about Jesus is that he came here to save the sinners.
The righteous could fend for themselves.
He ate with sinners. He taught sinners. He defended sinners. He healed sinners.
And yet Saint Paul tells us, Don’t care about the sin people of the world commit. They are on their own.
Care about the sinners in your own church. Punish them. Shun them. Expunge them from your midst.
I wonder if God was tempted to slap Paul upside the head at that point.
Don’t eat with them?
And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him. And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him.
What about that?
And Levi wasn’t even a member of the church of Jesus. At least not when he met him.
The meal changed everything, though, didn’t it?
I wonder how strikingly the world would change if every time we heard or saw someone sinning, the word that came to mind was, Forgivable.
Would that change the way we treat others, do you think?
I want to go deep into my past now.
Back to when my study of spiritual warfare was brewing, both in lessons and in experience.
I had studied it since I was a child, but I found the study tedious.
Clearly I am not a prophet.
At the most intense point of this study, when my sleeves were rolled up and sweat regularly flowed down my back from the exertion, I worked through the matters of spiritual weapons.
Excruciatingly picking up one. Applying it. Applying it again. Finding my way of using it. Feeling the wonder at seeing its effect.
There are, essentially, twelve.
- The first is love.
- The second is forgiveness.
- The third is confession.
- The fourth is anger.
- The fifth is kindness.
- The sixth is foolishness.
- The seventh is pain or suffering.
- The eighth is vulnerability.
- The ninth is The Law.
- The tenth is The Lord’s Prayer.
- The eleventh is The Truth.
- The twelfth is The Sacrament of Holy Communion.
Cruelty is not on the list.
Neither is judgment.
Or even punishment.
I won’t go into the meaning and use of these weapons at this time. It’s taken too much out of me just to write the list here.
And not continue to keep it hidden in a very old notebook behind some children’s poems.
Now it may appear that this list is like a smorgasbord. You walk up, see if anything appeals to you, and take what you want.
And perhaps, from time to time, that may be an option.
But this list is designed to be a series of steps that you take when you are in battle.
And so on.
You stay with one weapon until it is time to put it down, balance yourself, and take up the next.
But there is something not shown here: what happens in battle after the last weapon has been used.
Coming to the end of the list does not mean that that the battle is over.
In some ways, it is just beginning.
These weapons are your preparation.
The next step does not have a number.
It’s not part of the list.
It is Doing Battle With Empty Hands.
Doing battle with no weapon.
Just yourself. And your opponent.
This means that it is up to you to depend on yourself wholly.
Your ability to allow God to show you the way.
Your ability to be still.
Your ability to trust God.
It is an absolute act.
The one that gives you the ability to transform the reality that is before you.
This may sound like just pure fantasy, and yet we know this.
Even if we don’t know that we do.
We know that when Christians were killed in the Roman arenas, that some of the people looking on saw what they saw and knew that in the seeing they now believed in the Christian God.
We know that every single day Mother Teresa found a way to feed and house the people she ministered to. Even when there was no rice to cook, or a place to put yet another suffering body. She just prayed and kept on walking.
And waited until they were filled by God.
And in these daily simple acts, the world around her changed.
This is what we are all meant to know. This is what is supposed to be taught us in church.
That there is only one unforgivable sin.
And the determination of that one sin is not something humans can do.
It is completely in the hands of God.
So, basically, everything that people do that disturbs us is forgivable.
And we shouldn’t be working so hard to stand between God and those who need him.
Because, there are really only three kinds of people in the world:
- Those who come to dinner;
- Those who require our assistance with getting to the table;
- Those who need The Meal so their souls can be restored.
That’s all there is.