[forthright] Free From Accusation -- A Parable for Our Time / Being Both Righteous and Kind

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From: Forthright Magazine <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Wed, 11 Mar 2009 07:00:40 -0700 (PDT)
Forthright Magazine 
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Straight to the Cross

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COLUMN: HANDS-ON FAITH

Free From Accusation -- A Parable for Our Time
 by Barry Newton

A father had two sons, both of whom had brought
disgrace upon the family. Tension plagued their
familial relationship. One day the father privately
called each son to join him at the kitchen table
because he wanted to share with them a wonderful gift.

When each son arrived, the father began by recounting
how that son's choices had frayed their relationship.
Then, just as his son's eyes would begin to roll with
"I've heard this all before," the father said, "I am
freeing you from accusation. No longer will I hold
something against you. I love you and I want our
relationship to be restored."

Upon hearing this, the first son smiled slightly as he
felt a tremendous burden lifted. He had been set free.
No longer would he be viewed as a disappointing son. In
view of this precious gift he had received, he resolved
to honor his father by conforming to those attitudes
and activities that would please his father.

When the second son received the father's gift, he too
smiled and felt the same tremendous burden being
sloughed off. With a renewed sense of freedom, he
proclaimed how much he loved his father for this
undeserved gift.

Unlike his brother, however, he focused on doing
whatever pleased himself. Even regarding areas where
his father's wishes were known, he would pursue what
seemed best in his own thinking. His standard response
to all queries was, "this does not matter; grace covers
it."

Which son understood grace?

Does grace transform what was previously unacceptable
to God into suddenly becoming divinely approved?

Does grace cause us to conform to an acceptable
standard?

How will a person or a congregation of people, who have
not first picked up their crosses in order to serve
God's will, use a concept like "there is no
condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus?"

"For the grace of God which brings salvation … teaches
us to say 'No' to ungodliness and world passions, and
to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in
this present age." Titus 2:11,12 

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COLUMN: REALITY CHECK

Being Both Righteous and Kind
 by Stan Mitchell

"And her husband Joseph,being a just man and unwilling
to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly"
(Matthew 1:19, ESV).

Now you've got to see the story from Joseph's
perspective. There his fiancée Mary was, great with
child, and Joseph knew that his relations with her had
been absolutely correct.

So what had happened?

The answer was obvious, though a little startling for
he must surely have had a good idea of her character.

She had been unfaithful to him, enjoying sexual
relations with another man! We forget this, you see,
because we remember those Christmas tales with the bit
about being "with child by the Holy Spirit."

We know that, but Joseph didn't!

Then we learn that Joseph was "a righteous man." Today
we usually hear another word attached to the word
"righteous" - "self righteous." And we fear for Mary.
Will there be a scene? Will he self righteously shame
her for her loose morals? Will he in his perfectly
understandable hurt and humiliation lash out?

Joseph is the unsung hero of this old, old story. His
righteousness leads him not to angry judgment of Mary
but to loving consideration for her feelings. Clearly
he can no longer marry her, he thinks, but he can "put
her away quietly." Her feelings and reputation will be
spared, because a righteous man need not be a ruthless
man. 

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