by Erin Barger
Zechariah 3:1-5: Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning sticksnatched from the fire?” Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.”Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.”Then I said, “Put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the Lord stood by.
I Corinthians 13:4: Love keeps no record of wrongs.
In our quietude, during this season of Lent, are we a people of forgiveness? Do we seek it humbly? And do we stand ready to offer it freely?
Ella Deloria, a pioneer educator and anthropologist, grew up on a Sioux reservation and, in her career, published different studies based on the harmony in Native American relationships. The following is the result of one such study; in this example, a young murderer is brought before the victim’s community to be sentenced by Sioux wisdom:
The angry relatives debated the kind of punishment fitting the crime while the wise elder listened. After a good while he began to speak. Skillfully, he began by going along with them.
‘My brothers and Cousins, my Sons and Nephews, we have been caused to weep without shame … No wonder we are enraged, for our pride and honor have been grossly violated. Why shouldn’t we go out, then, and give the murderer what he deserves?’
Then, after an ominous pause, he suddenly shifted … “And yet, my Kinsmen, there is a better way!”
Slowly and clearly he explained the better way. It was also the hard way, but the only certain way to put out the fire in their hearts and in the murderer’s.
‘Each of you bring to me the thing you prize the most. These things shall be a token of our intention. We shall give them to the murderer who has hurt us, and he shall thereby become a relative in place of him who is gone.
… And from now on, he shall be one of us, and our endless concern shall be to regard him as though he were truly our loved one come back to us.’
The slayer was brought to the council not knowing what his fate was going to be … but the council’s speaker offered him the sacred pipe saying, “Smoke now with these your new relatives, for they have chosen to take you to themselves in place of one who is not here. It is their heart’s wish that you shall become one of them; you shall go out and come in without fear. Be confident that their love and compassion which were his are now yours forever.”
And during that speech, tears trickled down the murderer’s face. He had been trapped by loving kinship … and you can be sure that he made an even better relative than many who are related by blood, because he had been bought at such a price.”
Friends, of what does this remind you? Perhaps God’s own love for you … maybe the judgment scene in Zechariah where the devil stands to accuse us and Christ snatches us, the burning sticks, from the fire to give us new clothing and, praise God, a new name. This, a new name, is something Israel wrestled an angel for; he longed to escape the identity of “Deceiver,” the meaning of his former identity as Jacob. We, too, had a name to escape. That name is for each of us something different and is determined by our own personal rebellions against God, our own personal reasons for dethroning God and elevating ourselves.
But this is all past if we choose. Our new name is Righteousness. Will we choose it?
For us, the new name is free, but cost God his best … his only Son. The gift of righteousness is possible through the blood of the Son of Man, an inheritor who is, all at once, a powerful lion and an innocent lamb. Now we can go in and come out without fear. We, who stood outside, are adopted and beloved sons and daughters. Surely we will respond with devoted son and daughtership, bought at such a price. Surely we can forgive anyone anything with this knowledge and with this new name.
Prayer: God, our world is confusing and sad … we long for justice but it feels far off. Thank you for delivering justice through your Son. Help us be your co-conspirators, your representatives, your disciples. Let us begin this by being a people of forgiveness.
Today, give us everything we need to forgive anything that stands between us and our neighbor. Let nothing come between us, God. Help us place our devastation and disappointment at the foot of the Cross. Help us live our new name,
Righteousness, as people who emulate the true fasting of Isaiah. Position us to embody the reckless grace and scandalous love that is only found in You.
You are Holy and Almighty, yet you are a God of Mercy, Long suffering, and Sacrifice.
God, help us live as your Son did in the world. Empower us and equip us to challenge Empire with the subversiveness of obedience to your Will and the laying down of our lives … may the world know we are Your disciples by our love for each other.