Me: Jesus, it's me again. Forgive me for bothering you so much, but this problem is eroding my innards. I had a terrible row with him today--again. Sometimes I really despise him. Of course, as you know, being a good Christian, I didn't tell him. Heavens, I have offices in the church, and I have to be careful of my image. . .
Jesus: Image, my all-seeing eye! That's ridiculous. I saw your heart, and it was one big spiritual aneurysm. It was only my grace that kept it from blowing bits of poison through your rotten system.
Me: O Jesus, how can you say that? Why, he started the whole thing. He always does, spending ten-dollar bills on ten-cent problems. Why does he do that?
Jesus: Never mind what he does. I'll take care of him in due time. It's you we need to patch together here. Remember that sentence your friend wrote for you, "Meekness is the lack of self-justification?"
Me: Well, yes. In fact, I have it right over my desk and I read it every day.
Jesus: It isn't doing you much good, is it? Now, for your penance I want you to repeat that sentence once every hour.
Me: But I left those "works" years ago! I thought we weren't supposed to do that penance bit. . .
Jesus: I'm the High Priest and I'm telling you, repeat that sentence twice an hour for arguing about it. Now, that card you spotted in the grocery store. . .
Me: Yes, Jesus, that was really unfair. You didn't give me any time to get my wits together to tell him off. Why, that card hit me right in my madness!
Jesus: It was supposed to. I sent my Holy Spirit down there just before you went storming into the store, and had him inspire one of the clerks to put it where I knew you couldn't miss it. You see, I know your habits, even the one of lingering in front of card racks.
Me: But Jesus, that card?! It looked really neat, though--so colorful. "GOD LOVES YOU!" Wow! Like you said, I couldn't miss it. And then when I read what it said inside, "And what's good enough for God is good enough for me!" Well, Jesus, I got your message. I bought it and put in on his desk.
Jesus: Good! You did just what I wanted you to do. You followed the promptings of my Spirit, finally.
Me: It did help. He came in and apologized after he read it. But I'm still mad at him!
Jesus: That's a good word, mad. Of course you are. You're filled with pride and selfishness.
Me: But Jesus, you just don't understand. . .
Jesus: Now don't start that canard. I died for you, lady--no, woman--no lady would act the way you did that day. As for my not understanding, nonsense. Remember, I walked that same earth, and human nature hasn't changed much, unfortunately. I got murdered by people who thought they were doing the world a favor. You only got chewed out.
Me: I got spit out!
Jesus: Well, remember – I got spit on. But anyway, see what it's done for you. It's sent you to my Word. And it's humbled you a bit. We do need to work on that. But at least you're searching and praying, and I've been rushing my Holy Spirit to you to clean up that cesspool in your heart.
Me: Mercy, Jesus! Is it that bad?
Jesus: Indeed it is. You can't see it, but I can. Speaking of mercy, do you realize it's my mercy that keeps you from doing even worse things? Have you ever thought to thank me for that?
Me: O yes, Jesus! When I look at what other people do, why, I'm so grateful I'm not that bad!
Jesus: You Pharisee, I didn't mean it that way. There but for my grace and pardon, you would be doing all manner of unrighteousness. And you certainly didn't win any celestial points with that awful outburst last week. You know, woman, if you would just keep quiet you'd stay out of a lot of trouble. To borrow back from Shakespeare who I inspired anyway, "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." And because of my dreadful experience with Pilate, I inspired Shakespeare to write this, too: "The silence of pure innocence persuades when speaking fails." Only you aren't pure innocence.
Me: But Jesus, I didn't even do what he kept saying I did. Silence surely would not have convinced him.
Jesus: Did all that yelling help? Remember when I stood before Pilate and said nothing? My friend Matthew recorded that Pilate marveled greatly at that silence, because it's so human to defend ourselves. I didn't do a thing to deserve being hung on a cross. You're far from innocent, and when you are accused wrongfully you scream inwardly and outwardly. Shock him and say nothing. He'll marvel at your silence, believe me.
Me: Well, I suppose I didn't have to make that wisecrack about his German distemper when he hit me with that "You and your Irish temper. . ."
Jesus: Yes, I should give you a permanent stiff upper lip for that one. The trouble is, even if you never said it you'd think it, and it's the thought that gives birth to the deed, always. That was one of the purposes of my Sermon on the Mount: clean up your thoughts and then you'll clean up your act.
Me: I know, Jesus, but if only he...
Jesus: Oh, there you go, with your "but if onlys" again! There are no excuses and no exceptions. You're supposed to be my portrait just as I'm the portrait of my Father. It's an affront to me when you insult one of mine, and you certainly insulted him that day. He's my child, remember?
Me: Well. . . I'm sorry, Jesus.
Jesus: Yes, I believe you. Of course sorry has several connotations, but I'm Love and I'll accept it as true repentance. Now, let's see what we can do to help you better understand forgiveness. One very important thing, it's unconditional, absolutely no strings attached.
Me: Do you mean that no matter what anyone says or does, I'm supposed to drop it all as if it never happened?
Jesus: That's it!
Me: Impossible, Jesus. . .
Jesus: True, but that's without me. With me all things are possible, and that includes a brand new heart of love, and a new mind, too: my mind. My friend Paul had lots to say about the mind. Study Romans 8:6: "To be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." Your mind can't be at peace when it's filled with hate and resentment.
Me: Yes, Jesus. I have to admit I haven't been too peaceful since this last row.
Jesus: Of course not. But you can free both of you by forgiving him. Besides, I have promised the earth to the meek and humble, and the peacemakers I call my special children. But before you inherit the everlasting earth you need to change your character. It may shock you to hear this, but if you can't get along with him and forgive him here, you may not have a hereafter!
Me: Somehow that doesn't seem quite fair!
Jesus: But that's the way it is. Why did I die for your sins in which you persist? I did it because I love you. Why can't you forgive for the same reason? But - I have to stress that I don't love your sins, and I can't excuse them or allow you to excuse them.
Me: But Jesus, if it's someone else's fault. . .!
Jesus: Oh, there you go again! Besides, how do you know that? You may be just as much at fault as the other person. It's your reaction that tells on you. Your pride is piqued so you lash out. If you had a humble spirit and if you think about me and the sacrifice I made for all of you, these things wouldn't get your goat so much. Speaking of goat, you humans have a gift for making scapegoats of others when the fault lies within your own noisome spirit. You're acting like a goat, you know--very unruly. Read up on sheep and remember that I plan to put the sheep on my right. The goats will be out in left field.
Me: Yes, Jesus. I feel very sheepish. . .
Jesus: You should. And while we're on this subject of right- and left-handed choices, the final distinction is the sanctified and the unsanctified, not the rich and the poor, the educated and the uneducated, and all those divisions and so-called discernments you humans are so fond of inventing.
Me: Well, Jesus, I do try not to judge others. . .
Jesus: Ah, but you do! The moment you entertain an unforgiving thought you are judging. The first word you utter in anger is a judgment. Think about that. And I know what you wanted to call him, too! You can thank my Spirit that you at least had the grace not to say it. My friend Matthew recorded what I had to say about name-calling. Anyone who calls another a fool is in danger of the second death. You're to treat all with tenderness.
Me: But it's so hard to remember that in the heat of anger. . .
Jesus: If you had my mind you'd have no heat. You need the heat from my lamp, my Word, not the world's words. And don’t have the last word!!