Saturday, May 12, 2012


"You should understand this: I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but the lost to repentance. Shouldn't the sick in body, whom the devil has bound, be set free?"
-- Jesus

"GOD and man must combine for salvation from sin.

My father-in-law is eighty-one...of the age where mortality takes it toll.  Having fought off a serious staff infection a few months ago, he complained of chest pains on Thursday.  The local hospital, understaffed on weekends, determined he may be having heart problems (go figure)...and decided to ship him off to a larger facility.  The specialist there proscribed a catherization to check for and treat blockage scheduled Tuesday.  The requisite blood thinners were added to his IV and preparations made.  However, they discovered the blockage more severe than anticipated and without delay prepared him for bypass surgery on Wednesday.  After nine hours of successful surgery and four bypass arteries in place, the only concern was excessive bleeding from the additional thinners.  Fretful hours passed as a trio of nurses carefully added "thickeners" to aid in the clotting process.  At ten o'clock the worst was over as he progressed from good to "better" in the recovery process.  We, the watchers, went home.

I am not, of course, in Bill's head or heart, I can only surmise what he was going through in the process of being saved from certain least a putting off of what we know, but do not want to experience any time soon, is our exit from this life.  On a daily basis hundreds of thousands of humans do indeed exit and hundreds of thousands take their place.  We, however, are only capable of focusing on the few we hold close to our hearts.  But I digress...

If I were in Bill's head or heart I would have, like him, been concerned at the first symptoms that troubled me, like pain in the chest.  Depending on the severity of the pain I would call out for help.  In a world where the unfathomable is but a distant memory and the miraculous routine, the idea of trusting other humans beings to open up our heart cavity, handle our life-source with eerie familiarity, put us back together and send us on our way in a few days is remarkably unremarkable.

Although he was unconscious for most of the process, Bill was still a willing participant in the process of his "salvation."  He first admitted his need for help, accepted the diagnosis, consented to treatment and is now following the prescription for his rehabilitation.

There is a bit of misunderstanding, I believe, about repentance.  The simple definition is a change of mind.  Although there is no implied emotional response connected to the word, emotions like guilt, remorse, sorrow, and regret often precede the recognized need for a genuine change of mind.  Not unlike, I consider, physical pain preceding the recognized need for treatment of the cause.

What is to be understood, and Mark emphasizes in his gospel narrative (1:4), repentance brings about "the remission of sins."  Remission, though often translated "forgiveness" is literally a "a dismissal, or release" and is a precise word picture of the action of both God and man.  God dismisses the requisite penalty (the necessary suffering/pain produced by willful disobedience to His life-giving commands) for sin at the point when man releases the evil thing in him that is the source for the wrongness of his thoughts, actions, attitudes.

"They could not rid themselves of their sins, but they could set about sending them away; they could quarrel with them, and proceed to turn them out of the house: the Lord was on his way to do his part in their final banishment. Those who had repented to the sending away of their sins, he would baptize with a holy power to send them away indeed. The operant will to get rid of them would be baptized with a fire that should burn them up. When a man breaks with his sins, then the wind of the Lord's fan will blow them away, the fire of the Lord's heart will consume them."

MacDonald makes the case that even the Lord's own baptism at the hands of a reluctant John the Baptizer, was to set the example--not that He had sin in Him--but to dismissing sin from without and within as a way of life.

"Such, then, as were baptized by John, were initiated into the company of those whose work was to send sin out of the world, and first, by sending it out of themselves, by having done with it.
Not seldom, what comes in the name of the gospel of Jesus Christ, must seem, even to one not far from the kingdom of heaven, no good news at all. It does not draw him; it wakes in him not a single hope. He has no desire after what it offers him as redemption. The God it gives him news of, is not one to whom he would draw nearer. But when such a man comes to see that the very God must be his Life, the heart of his consciousness; when he perceives that, rousing himself to put from him what is evil, and do the duty that lies at his door, he may fearlessly claim the help of him who 'loved him into being,' then his will immediately sides with his conscience; he begins to try to be; and first thing toward being is to rid himself of what is antagonistic to all being, namely wrong. Multitudes will not even approach the appalling task, the labor and pain of being." 

At home, reflecting on the past few day's events, Bill remarked, "I can only imagine what the cost of this operation must be!"  I pray that the will to live, no matter what the cost, translates into a deeper understanding on his part of the cost to God to give each of us life eternal!

(MacDonald quotes from "The Hope of the Gospel--The Remission of Sins")