Small Group Tools
Contemporary Comments 2016
Texts: Ecclesiastes 9:10; Matthew 18:1-4; Matthew 18:21-35; 19:16-30; Galatians 3:21-22; Matthew 19:27
Early in the morning of April 17, 2012, twenty-one-year-old Chandler Gerber decided it was safe to text his wife as he rushed down a deserted stretch of rural Indiana highway on his way to work. After all, this section of road was quiet, he knew it well, and certainly nobody was out and about this time of day. He saw no harm in exchanging a few digital messages. He also didn’t see the Amish buggy in the road ahead until he plowed into it at 60 miles per hour.
The aftermath was heartbreaking—two small children lay dead in the wreckage of the crumpled buggy.
Some weeks after the tragedy Gerber received this letter from Martin Swartz, the father of the two children:
“Dear Ones, Trusting in God’s way,
How does this find you? Hope all in good health and in good cheer. Around here we’re all on the go and trying to make the best we can. I always wonder if we take enough time with our children. Wishing you the best with your little one and the unknown future. I think of you often. Keep looking up. God is always there.
Martin and Mary Swartz.”
Chandler Gerber is forgiven.
“Rather than using religion to bless and legitimatize revenge,” explains professor Donald Kraybill of Elizabethtown College, “the Amish believe that God smiles on acts of grace that open doors for reconciliation.”1
When we think of idols of the soul, we often round up the usual suspects: modern media such as television, music, the internet, video games, and movies are easy targets to attack in our quest for a life purified of idolatry. In our lesson this week, however, we see how Jesus took on the idols that may be more deeply rooted in our souls, such as ambition, pride, greed, and even revenge. As insidious as the idols of modern culture can be, these ancient idols of attitude and sense of entitlement can be even more soul-destroying because of their deceptive nature. After all, aren’t we entitled to retaliation when we’ve been wronged?
The power of forgiveness is not only grounded in faith, but also in science. Psychologist Robert Enright developed a model of forgiveness based on these four phases: uncovering anger, deciding to forgive, working on forgiveness, and release from emotional pain. When he used this model to help a group of incest survivors, he discovered that those who worked the process experienced a greater sense of hope, and less anxiety and depression. Rechecking the results fifteen years later, he found that the benefits remained.2
Could it be that Jesus is also right when it comes to ridding ourselves of the other idols of greed, selfish ambition, and pride?
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