IF YOU HAVE NO PAIN, YOU ARE DEAD
Exodus 14:1-35, Exodus 15 VU876, Matthew 18:21-35
September 11, 2005 by Tad Mitsui
580, 635, 642, 641a
One day, a doctor was listening to a patient”s endless litany of aches and pains. The doctor had his turn. He said, "At your age, sir, when you get up in the morning and don”t have any pain, you are dead." Pains are God”s way of telling you that you are alive, but that you have to pay attention to a ceratin parts of your body. Pain is a warning. There is something terribly wrong with you, if you don”t feel any pain. Pain is a gift just like pleasure is a gift. A leper does not feel pain, because his body is rotting. Some of us try to ignore pain and wonder why disasters happen to us. Disasters like 9/11 and the aftermath of Katrina are the result of such denial.
The Bible teaches us to appreciate God”s gifts, be it a pleasure or be it a pain. The memories of the past can be good and bad. We all like the memories of good times that make us feel happy, and do not like bitter memories that make us feel angry or sad. You have to be able to take up the uncomfortable part of your live as a warning, just as much as you appreciate the joy of life.
On the shore of the Red Sea, the Hebrew people faced a difficult situation. They were caught between the sea in front and the enemy behind. They complained bitterly to Moses, "Did you have to drag us all out into this God forsaken desert only to be killed by the Egyptian army? Back in Egypt we aere slaves, but at least we were stewing meat for supper." Obviously, they had completely forgotten all the miracles God performed to free them from the life as slaves. Those who refuse to appreciate God”s gifts, can see only the negative side.
When you don”t like a challenge and do not want to see any problem as a warning in life, you see everything in front of you negatively. Future is always hopeless for those who can not accept a challenge, because they have no eyes to see the gifts of God. They cling to the nostalgic memories of the past and refuse to go on with life. This is what happens when you do not recognize problems and hate challenges. You see future only as a pack of troubles.
In the face of water on front and enemy behind, Moses took a walking stick and dipped it into the water. A strong wind blew the water away and they were able to walk across the bottom of the sea. Those who were brave enough to face an unknown future as a challenge won the day. They had courage to wrestle the bull by the horn.
The Hebrews remembered God”s mighty acts of the past with gratitude, thus could see a potential trouble as a difficult path but as an exciting adventure. They must have been terrified but they trusted God”s unchanging love and found the way out of the trouble.
The Jews could run fast because they were a bunch of escaping slaves carrying very little possession. The Egyptians, on the other hand, were a mighty army wearing heavy armours riding the horse-drawn chariots made of metal and wood that weighed tons. So the Egyptians got bogged down on the muddy sand. When the tide came back, they drowned. How true this is in our lives too. We surround ourselves with stuff. We love stuff. There is nothing wrong in that. But we must also be ready to let go of it. Otherwise, possessions may drag you down and will make you immobile when you have to move fast.
Of course, you must give thanks for good things. But do not dwell in nostalgia of good things past. You must also learn to appreciate the lessons that the difficult experiences teach us. Otherwise, you will end up hating the world, and everybody and everything in it. This is why forgiveness is a most essential life skill. Forgiveness allows you to let go of the bitter past and go forward in your life.
It is clear from the Gospel reading for today that Jesus thought forgiveness most important. It is letting go of the bitter past in order to get on with life. Jesus said that we must forgive not just once, but seven times, even seven times seven – 49 times. Forgiveness makes it possible for people to let go of the past and to accept each other. Our lives can not go on without acceptance and support of each other.
Two things are sure in our lives. We can not go back to the Garden of Eden, no matter how wonderful it is. We can not look back on the pot of stew in Egypt and dwell on it. Also, we have to let go of the bitter memories of difficult times. Like Paul said, "When I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways." Let us thank God for the good things, let us forgive the past while appreciating the lessons learned, and move on like adults. If you keep the balance of good and bad of the past, life before us is wonderful.