Friday, February 25, 2011

Seeking Forgiveness

Last night I finally got to see the movie Get Low starring Robert Duvall, with supporting roles by Sissy Spacek, Bill Murry, and newcomer Lucas Black. What a powerful movie with a powerful message! The acting, the characters, the photography, the story--everything about this movie is tremendous. Duvall plays Felix Bush, a mysterious Tennessee hermit in the 1930s who is feared and rejected by the townspeople who tell stories about him. But Bush is old and knows his time is short, so he sets out to plan his own funeral, with him in attendance--live! That's all I'll reveal, but this is one of those "must see" films. The acting is incredible, the story compelling, and the message universally resonant.

Get Low reminds me of another very different movie with a very similar theme, The Ultimate Gift with James Garner, though the latter story comes from the opposite end of the spectrum--an extremely rich and highly respected businessman. What both of these two great movies have in common is the dual theme of forgiveness and redemption. One looks for it just before he dies, the other after he is dead (posthumously via a video, because he didn't get it before--forgiveness, that is).Another theme common to both movies, by the way, is transformation, though in The Ultimate Gift it is not the one seeking forgiveness but the one giving it who is transformed. Regardless of which side of forgiveness you are on, forgiveness is transforming.  Both of these movies resonate with us because of the universal experience of failure.  We have all failed. Some worse than others, but all nonetheless.

Who of us has lived very long without at some time experiencing the pain of having failed someone, having committed some terrible mistake, having hurt a loved one, having caused someone else irreparable harm, or having sinned a grievous sin? Who of us doesn't carry burdens of the past with them? For sure there are folks who have lived relatively good lives and have always tried to do the right thing, but I suggest they are few and far between. Most of us have not always tried to do the right thing. And even those who have still have failed from time to time. As it says in Romans, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3.23).

Those failures and sins often entrap us in our own self-imposed prisons.We hold them inside, unwilling to confess to those we've hurt, unwilling to seek redemption. Whether from pride or fear or shame or desire to punish ourselves, we build walls to keep others out and our failings in.

But Jesus came to free us from our inner prisons, to lift the burdens from us. He appeals to us, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light." (Mt 11.28-30).

Nothing is as freeing as forgiveness, both in the giving and the getting of it. That's why the New Testament talks so much about freedom. Galatians 5.1 says "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery." Jesus desires for us all to experience the fullness of freedom that comes through forgiveness, which ultimately only he can provide.

So lay all your burdens on him. Experience the freedom he offers--the freedom of forgiveness, the joy of redemption, the never-ending adventure of transformation. The greatest adventure there is is the adventure of knowing Christ and all the has to offer.

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