The streets are abuzz with the frantic excitement of the anticipation about who will give what gift after having eaten what meal. The reality of the business somehow escapes our rational thought and we simply blend in as one of the other millions who are focused on making it be the perfect day. The amount of effort that goes into this focus should be something that we take a step back from and examine. One of the ways in which we do examine this time of year is to remind ourselves Jesus is the reason for the season or that it really is just time to be together. These are interesting observations for several reasons. One of those reasons is that while we are correct in attempting to rightly align our holiday intentions, we often miss the next step - the step beyond the giving and the receiving.
Miroslav Volf argues in his book, Free of Charge, that the notion of forgiveness is a process of giving and receiving in a culture stripped of grace. He works to bring to the surface the notion of God's grace as a gift to each of us and as such we are to respond by giving of grace and forgiveness freely to others. This is one of the most difficult realities of the Christian life and more specifically the marital life.
How is it possible to give forgiveness when my wife does nothing but nag me about how lazy I am?
What does my husband deserve for completely ignoring me unless he needs something?
Why should I give of forgiveness when I am constantly being wronged?
Volf writes: "In many ancient religions, sacrifices served to sustain gods. Gods would die if not nourished by humans. And if gods needed sacrifices, then sacrifices could extract things from the gods. To get what they needed, gods would give what humans desired. Not so with the one God, according to the apostle Paul. No sacrifice can extract anything from God, because everything given as sacrifice came from God in the first place. To give to God is to take from God's right hand and place that very things back into God's left hand...'then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being' (Genesis 2:7)...the very existence of human beings come from God. We live, not so much on a borrowed, but on a given breath. We work, we create, we give, but the very ability and willingness to work, along with life itself, are gifts from God."
We live by given breath. As this season engulfs every aspect of our lives - lights in the trees, music on the radio, weather, increased donations, more time together - what does it mean that what we have to give others, especially our spouse, comes from God? Volf contends that to give forgiveness and love is not an option since we have been given ultimate forgiveness and love from God. As recipients of those unfathomable gifts, we are to in turn give in the same way. This notion of forgiveness and giving requires that we stop and realign our intentions. We cannot create these aspects for ourselves. We must rely upon God to give us the understanding and capacity to learn how to forgive. It is by partaking of God's forgiveness and love that we are able to begin to grasp how to do the same for others. Think about what this means for you as we continue towards this holiday. Think about what this means for you are you get into bed with your spouse these next few days. What is the Lord asking you to consider? Forgiveness? Love? He did.