“Making Known Christ’s Forbearance”
April 10, 2016: The Third Sunday Of Easter
Acts 9: 1 – 16/ Psalm 30/Revelation 5: 11 – 13/ John 21: 1 - 14
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
Our theme for today is “Making Known Christ’s Forbearance.” Our mission as a Church is to know God and make Him known. Forbearance is defined as a quality of someone who is patient and able to deal with a difficult person or situation without becoming angry. It is not true that God the Father is an angry God and God the Son is the merciful God, like the good cop and the bad cop. What we see in Jesus is who God is. God is not the God that we say for centuries had been an angry God who annihilates and kills people and that He is also a God who forgives people. Otherwise, God the Father has to accept Jesus Christ, repent and be born again.
Psalm 30:5 says, “For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime.” Many times, we think that God’s anger is forever. Psalm 103:8-10 says, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. He will not always strive with us.
Nor will He keep his anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.” God is a God of mercy and He is a God of justice; but the God of justice deals with sins. We think this is not justice because for us, justice is an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.
What Jesus would forgive is a sin that has incurred. The God of justice deals with our sins. Romans 9:20 says, “On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? We think that God shows partiality that He only gives some mercy. God, although He was willing to demonstrate His wrath, endured with much patience. What if God punishes those who sin? It is God’s choice to have mercy on us. He doesn’t play favorites in giving His mercy. He shows mercy to all men. He shut up all in disobedience to show mercy to all.
God dealt with sin by putting all in the Cross. God remains a God of justice, but sometimes, we have Psalm 30 in reverse and we think that God’s mercy is for a moment and His anger is for eternity and He has no forbearance. We think that God is a God who can save a handful. We justify “righteous” anger, but we are not perfect yet; so are we sure that our anger is righteous? We justify our “righteous indignation.” Some Christians justify little things, throw Scriptures to justify how one thing is wrong and make their anger on something justified because they are holy. They say, “I can’t stand on unrighteousness.” We cannot be sure that our anger is one hundred percent righteous. Even God who can say this has an anger that is only for but a moment and His mercy is forever, for eternity. We cannot exhaust His mercy.
St. Paul had a vision on the way to Damascus where he was going to persecute the Christians more and Jesus death with him. In Acts 26:11, Paul gave his testimony before an emperor and while pursuing the Christians, he said that he was furiously enraged at the Christians even to the point of pursuing them to the other cities. No wonder Ananias was so afraid of him when God called him to minister to Paul. Ananias argued with God, “Lord, don’t you know who Paul is? He is very angry at Christians.” Paul had his zeal for what he thought was God’s justice.
In Paul’s testimony in Philippians 3, he was a Pharisee and was blameless. He followed his religion to the letter and he had zeal but not according to knowledge. He realized later that God was after restorative justice, not punitive or retributive justice. Jesus tells him on the road, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” This is an idiomatic expression for an animal’s resistance, which is in vain, to be being prodded with the goads. Jesus was telling Paul, Saul at that time, “It is difficult for you to go against my direction because your anger is against the grain of the divine nature of which you are supposed to be a partaker.” Paul’s eyes were not opened to correct theology, but were opened to who God really is – the God of love; the God who has forbearance not a Punisher of men. Jesus did not condemn Paul. Paul was a murderer; Paul had furious rage in his heart; but Jesus forgave him. He did not deal with him according to his sins. He did not count his sins against him.
Jesus asked Paul, “Why are you persecuting Me?” He did not say, “Why are you persecuting My children, My Church.” He did not condemn Peter. Peter denied Him three times. At one time, Jesus called His disciples and Peter went to the beach where Jesus was and Peter saw fire. Jesus prepared a charcoal fire to cook fish. When was the last time, not so long ago, did Peter see a fire and warmed himself? It is when he denied Jesus in the courtyard of the high priest. It reminded Peter of what he did. I am sure, Jesus was reminded, too, but Jesus asked him, “Peter, Peter, do you love Me more than these?” There are a couple of interpretations of the word “these” this statement – fish; and the disciples. Before Peter denied Jesus, he said, “Lord, I love You more than these, because I will go to prison with You.” On the question of Jesus, Peter replied, “Yes, Lord, I love You.” Jesus asked him the second time and the third time. On the third time, Peter felt grieved.
There are two different meanings of love as spoken by Jesus and as spoken by Peter. When Jesus asked Peter, “Peter, Peter, do you love Me?” He was asking him, “Do you love Me with the kind of love that would make you sacrifice your life for Me.” This is agape love. Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, I love you like a brother.” It is not quite the agape love. Jesus asked him the second time, “Peter, son of Jona, do you love Me more than these guys? Would you give your life for Me?” Peter answered, “Lord, I love You like a brother.” On the third time that Jesus asked Peter, He asked him, “Peter, Peter, do you love Me like a brother?” This is when Peter grieved. Now, Peter thinks that Jesus can’t see him loving Him as to give his life for Him. Peter said, “I can’t hide anything from You. You know my kind of love for You. You know I love You, and You know how much I love You.” Jesus, on this third time said, “Feed My sheep.”
Peter can’t hide anything from Jesus, but Jesus accepted Peter as he was, where he was, at his stage of maturity, and as a Christian disciple, and still entrusted His flock to him with a hope that one day, he will mature enough to give his life for the sake of Jesus and the Church. In fact, Jesus told him, “When you were young, you would go wherever you wish. But when you grow old, when you mature, against your will, you will have to go places, to the extent of being martyred.” Nobody wants to be martyred; Peter did not want to be martyred; but then, even if it is against his will, his agape love that he developed up to that point cause him to accept a death that he would glorify God with. Jesus accepted Paul also as he was – a murderer! Jesus had faith in them to have love for Him one day.
There was this drug addict that went to his Pastor. He said, “Pastor, do I have to quit drugs before Jesus can love me?” The Pastor said, “No.” He goes, “You don’t understand. Do I have to quit smoking marijuana before Jesus would love me?” The Pastor said, “No.” The man said, “You don’t understand.” The man pulled a cigar-sized marijuana and waved it in the face of the Pastor asking him, “Do I have to quit this thing before Jesus could love me?” The Pastor said for the third time, “No!” The guy said, “I don’t think I understand.”
We don’t understand. We can’t fathom God’s mercy and forbearance. Does this mean God condones drug addiction? No! He wants them to change! And He does this by loving them because it is when they realize God’s love that they would want to quit and they will realize their filthiness. Paul did; Peter did; and this is the same with the prodigal son. I am sure that the prodigal son, stinky as he was when he was received back to the house, desired for himself to take a shower. He may have felt embarrassed for his smell to the people around him and maybe too that he couldn’t stand his being stinky.
God takes risks with people to whom He gave free will. He did it for you; He did it for me. He is not slack, but He is longsuffering. He is not willing for anyone to perish, including the person you are mad at, the person you gave up on, the person you hate, the person you are furiously enraged with and the person you don’t think you can forgive. He died for them too, just as He did for you. To God this person on your mind is not far from forgiveness than you are. In fact, he may not be as bad as you think and probably, we are worse than they are.
St. Paul thought that Christians were the scum of the earth and that they deserve to die. He went after them even from far places. Then, he realized, “I am the chief of sinners. I am the foremost of them. It is a good thing, I do not have a counterpart, a Saul in the Christian camp, to go after me thinking I am the scum of the earth.” There is the spirit that deceives us to think that someone has to die, somebody has to be taken out of the picture, somebody has to be eliminated, someone has to be thrown away or ex-communicated, somebody has to be rid of so that the world will be a better place.
This is what the spirit of the mob on Good Friday thought. This is what terrorists think. Certain people think that they are doing God a favor and making the world a better place by killing other people of a certain religious persuasion. There is the holocaust where a certain military dictator thought the world would be a better place if a certain group of people are annihilated. This is why there is the 9/11. This is why people think of abortion because they think that the world will be a better place if a baby doesn’t enter into it. Actually, it is just one’s world that they would destroy. This is why some groups believe in capital punishment that there are people who don’t deserve to live. We had the EDSA Revolution thinking that the Philippines would be a better nation after it. We think of euthanasia, but do we do it for the patient, for their sake or for our sake because we are tired of taking care of them?
This is all about the spirit and like St. Paul, he realized that he was the chief of sinners. We see the speck in other people’s eyes, but don’t see the log in ours. God takes a chance with us and know that if or when we realize His love, we would love Him with an agape love in return. Peter and Paul did by dying for Him and Jesus’ confidence in them did not prove to be futile.
We are to know the forbearance of God in a real, intimate way, just like Peter and Paul did. Then, this will change us and it will cause us to have this forbearance. Those who are loved, they love. Those who are not loved, sometime get into serious problems. There may be ‘black sheep’ in the family because they lack love and attention and get into problems. Those who have received mercy, forgiveness, they also love. Jesus said to the Pharisee, “He who has been forgiven much, they love much.” If we realize the mercy, the forgiveness that we receive from God, we would love and forgive much. Thank God that He loves us so much that He gets our attention like He did to Paul so that we can experience His love. Then, we can apply it to all men – for our loved ones to our worst enemies.
Philippians 4:5 says, “Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men.” As we experience God’s forbearing spirit, we make known that same spirit to all men. This is my prayer for you. This is my prayer for me because I want us to see the Kingdom and this is the very way it is in the kingdom of our God.