thecleric asked: Glen, thank you, you are a blessing to me and you do great work. Question: my dad was murdered when I was 7. Coming from a non-Christian home this made me have no desire for God until I met my wife who introduced me to Jesus. I’ve forgiven the murderer (who is in jail) and have been thinking: should I reach out to this man and if so how? I worry that he doesn’t want my forgiveness or that I’m only doing it for myself (to perhaps get some closure). As someone in prison ministry what do you think?
Unka Glen answered: I think beware of ideas that sound “Christian”. More often than not, they’re designed to make us feel Christian. You have no need for that. You are a Christian my brother, and a plenty strong one at that, judging by what you’ve overcome, and I’m just flippin’ proud at know ya.
Could this be a sort of back-handed selfish thing? Well, just about anything can be said to be self-serving in some way, but the key question to ask yourself is: would I still do this, if nobody ever knew about it? Do you need the closure? If you’ve forgiven this brother (and I know that’s a multi-layered process), then it’s closed.
Speaking as a prison ministry professional, I can tell you that it would almost certainly mean a great deal to that inmate. There’s an image of inmates as bring either cold people or hustlers, but I can tell you I’ve met far more cold and hustling individuals in three piece suits, than I have wearing prison uniforms.
It would mean a great deal to this man, and benefit him on some level almost certainly, and if you want to do that, I’ve got your back all the way. But do I think you’ll get anything out of it? Nope. Not likely. If it’s about ministering to him, then that doesn’t matter. If it’s about you, write him a letter, leave off the return address, and say your peace.
But let’s land on this: how amazing is the love of Christ? Look at the extremes it takes us to! Think of how transforming and transcending it is. You’ve forgiven the unforgivable in others, because you were forgiven a debt you could never pay. Look at the extremes that the enemy went to, just in order to keep you from finding this love, but you found your true self, you found your Heavenly Father, and nothing will ever be the same again!
katieunjaded asked: Hi Unka Glen! Thanks for the huge blessing that is your blog. :) Lately I’ve really been struggling with the balance between finding my identity in Christ, and not being self-centered at the same time. There are a lot of issues on my heart I want to bring to God, and find healing on (insecurity, misconceptions of beauty, etc.), but every time I start, I feel like I read some other Christian book or sermon telling me how selfish it is to pursue those things. So, in a word… help? What’s the balance?
Unka Glen answered: The struggle you’re having is because this isn’t a matter of balance, it’s a matter of taking the proper steps towards the goal. When you’re angry, the goal is forgiveness. When you hate, the goal is love. And when you’re insecure, the goal is to find your identity in Christ. Your goal is the last step in the process. So having goals assumes that there are steps along a journey to get there.
If you don’t have much in the way of experience in ministering to people, and you’ve never helped map out those steps for others, you end up simply telling people to jump the whole way there in one leap. Jesus rebuked this by saying, “you weigh people down with burdens they can hardly carry, but you won’t lift a finger to help them” (Luke 11:46)
The goal for you, indeed, is to become self-less. To be “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3), to live into the words of Christ: “I am the vine, you are the branches” (John15:5). We have been united with Christ. Thus we long to lose ourselves in Christ. But as I say, this is the goal, not the the first step.
So let’s look at what a good first step would be. I think the first thing that starts us seeing ourselves as “other” than God, is our sins. He’s perfect, we are not, so there’s a natural sense of separation there. Thus, I think the first step is accepting God’s forgiveness.
You see, to be forgiven means acknowledging that you are a sinner, that you are imperfect, that you have gone your own way in life. To be forgiven implies there is something that needed forgiving. But in recognizing that forgiveness is being offered, there is another implication, that something far greater than my sin has eclipsed all other considerations. That thing is God’s love.
If you accept that you are forgiven, then you have to accept that something caused it to happen, and that’s not something in you, it’s something in the heart of God. Insecure people don’t see themselves as sinners in need of forgiveness, they struggle with feeling “as if” they’re bad, wondering if everyone around them sees them as bad, worrying over how they’re perceived.
Insecurity is about constantly needing to be reinforced about things you are unsure of.
But a humble Christian KNOWS without a doubt that “nothing good lives in me”, as Paul said (Romans 7:18), BUT they also know that Jesus went to the cross to pay for all that bad-ness, and offer forgiveness. Accepting that forgiveness fully, means leaving your ego behind, dying to an old image of yourself, and emerging with only one thought: I am the Lord’s servant.
Anonymous asked: Is it true that if you don’t truly believe that something you did was wrong, even if you repent, you’re not really forgiven by God? For example, if I speed and tailgate to intimidate a slow driver, and then I ask God to forgive me for scaring that person, am I truly forgiven, if I believe deep down that they deserved it? That they were just too freakin’ slow and they SHOULD be scared?
Unka Glen answered: What you’re talking about is justice. If someone is on the highway, and they’re not properly monitoring their speed, they’re making life less enjoyable for the rest of us, and they must be taught a lesson, even if you need to put your life, and theirs, at risk to do so. That’s what being a hero is all about. Fixing all the wrongness in the world is dangerous, messy, and often goes unappreciated.
I get that.
In this case, if this is the right and just thing to do, what is there for God to forgive? If however, this is a response that is out of all proportion, and is in fact a product of your own lack of Godly patience, well then, that’s a different deal isn’t it?
There are all kinds of situations where we feel justified in reacting the way we do, and yet our conscience tells us otherwise. In that case, repent, without reservation, or excuse, and know that God will accept it. If you just don’t know if you were wrong, it’s okay to pray something like:
“Please forgive me if I’ve done anything wrong here Lord, I did what I thought best, but my own judgement has led be down the wrong path before. If I did something wrong here, I want to know it, and see it, and repent of it. If this was the best response to a bad situation, then please give me a peace about my choices.”
Either way, this we know for sure: God had a choice to act according to judgement, or according to grace, in dealing with you. He chose grace. And on nearly every page of the New Testament, He makes it clear that He intends for you to choose grace as well.
Consider the parable of the unmerciful servant. A man who owes the King more than he can pay, begs for time to pay it back, the king does more than that and cancels the debt altogether. Then the freed servant sees someone who owes him money, and literally tries to choke it out of him. Then Jesus finishes the story:
“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (Matthew 18:33-35).
So… yeah. If you missed the point, YOU are the servant with a sin-debt you couldn’t pay, HE is the one handing out justice.
If you’ve received grace, you’re meant to insist on it in all your relationships, and in all your ways of viewing the world. Grace should be the color of your universe. If a genie in a bottle gives you one wish, pick grace. Your favorite song: Amazing Grace. If we made you sum up your whole life and testimony in just one word, it should be: grace.
i-jot asked: What’s the difference between conviction and guilt?
Unka Glen answered: Oh, they couldn’t be more differenter (shut up spell check, you think you know everything).
Let’s look at some of the more obvious differences: