The Hardest Step … Hello weekend readers! We have ended August and now climbed into September. Where does the time go? I’m looking forward to fall, one of my favorite seasons. We see color changes in our trees, school is back in session, and yes—football season has arrived (oh my, not my favorite but I watch it occasionally).

And that is what brings me to “the hardest step.” I read a devotion the other day where a person was at a college football game and it was so boring that he turned to one of his favorites: people-watching. His seat was on the end of a long row of bleachers and there was a constant flow of fans up and down. What caught his attention was how many of them tripped on the step that was right in front of him. He felt motivated to see why so he measured the step (reminds me of my dad who couldn’t stand things ‘off kilter’). This step was about a ¼ inch higher than the others. Really?—a ¼ inch isn’t much, yet people constantly tripped on it. He finally stopped watching and found another seat because the profanity of stubbing your toes became prolific!

There is more to the story which was pretty comical, but in the end, the writer still couldn’t believe something so small could trip people up. And that problem really hit me in my mind and heart because I related it to reconciliation, forgiveness, trying to patch-up differences and such. Why is it that the tiniest of things can literally separate a friendship, tear apart a family, a marriage, etc? We’ve all experienced this on both the giving and receiving end. I know I look back at some of my “mis-steps” and so many of them seem so childish yet some of the consequences ruined relationships.

It’s like that old saying, “don’t burn your bridges” but we do. And trying to undo the burned bridge is liken-to stubbing your toe on an incorrect step size! To me, measuring is very important. Perhaps we should measure the scales when we go off into a rant and “stub out” a good friendship/relationship. What side of the scale wins? None—it’s never a win-win and usually ends in a total loss—the scale is empty.

The Apostle Paul knew that, and he reminded the people in Colossae about it. Using The Voice translation, read the commentary and then the Scripture below. There is much to learn in both for us just as there was in Paul’s day! [Col 3: 1-15]

Paul knows the people in Colossae are facing many religious and philosophical options, none of which are neutral. Notice Paul doesn’t say, “Just add Jesus to what you already believe,” or, “Factor Jesus into your philosophy,” or, “Include Jesus in this or that ritual.” The claim that “Jesus is Lord” does not allow that. If Jesus is Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer of all creation, then all other teachings must give way. All people must bow before Him and only Him.
So it comes down to this: since you have been raised with the Anointed One, the Liberating King, set your mind on heaven above. The Anointed is there, seated at God’s right hand. Stay focused on what’s above, not on earthly things, because your old life is dead and gone. Your new life is now hidden, enmeshed with the Anointed who is in God. On that day when the Anointed One—who is our very life—is revealed, you will be revealed with Him in glory! So kill your earthly impulses: loose sex, impure actions, unbridled sensuality, wicked thoughts, and greed (which is essentially idolatry). It’s because of these that God’s wrath is coming [upon the sons and daughters of disobedience], so avoid them at all costs. These are the same things you once pursued, and together you spawned a life of evil. But now make sure you shed such things: anger, rage, spite, slander, and abusive language. And don’t go on lying to each other since you have sloughed away your old skin along with its evil practices for a fresh new you, which is continually renewed in knowledge according to the image of the One who created you. In this re-creation there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian and conqueror, or slave and free because the Anointed is the whole and dwells in us all.” Paul then tells them the key to remain unified is to show compassion and forgiveness toward one another.  Since you are all set apart by God, made holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a holy way of life: compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Put up with one another. Forgive. Pardon any offenses against one another, as the Lord has pardoned you, because you should act in kind. But above all these, put on love! Love is the perfect tie to bind these together. Let your hearts fall under the rule of the Anointed’s peace (the peace you were called to as one body), and be thankful.”

Is this not a beautiful and powerful direction to help you tackle “the hardest step?” That’s why forgiveness is very much like that step. It’s just a little bit higher than anything else we practice with our Christian faith, and it’s the one step a lot of us seem to trip on the most. When we forgive, it is a decision, and not always an easy one. But if we can’t forgive and we withhold forgiveness, we will be the one who cannot overcome the hardest step. Despite how hard forgiveness can be, Jesus tells us it is at the very core of our Christian faith, a foundation for faith. Read Jesus’ words in Mark 11:25: “…and when you assume the posture of prayer, remember that it’s not all asking. If you have anything against someone, forgive—only then will your heavenly Father be inclined to also wipe your slate clean of sins.” [MSG]

Let’s not be just merely recipients of forgiving grace through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross; let’s follow Jesus’ mandate as people called to be givers of that forgiving grace—no matter how high, low or broken that step may be in front of us. Pastor John Eldridge says “When we choose to forgive, we not only live out a foundational tenet of our faith, but also we put a stop to the endless cycle of revenge — releasing the burden of bitterness and making the world beautiful through grace.”  I know I want to be a part of that step even if it’s often very hard—don’t you?