Book Review: ‘The Course of Love’, by Alain de Botton

28420702This novel gives a brief overview of Rabih and Kirsten’s marriage (or at least the first sixteen years of it), interspersed with sections of commentary, as if they were a case study in the ups and downs of love and marriage. I quite enjoyed it, although I found the actual story rather sparse – it was mainly summary, with very little detailed conversation and action.

I agree with much of the author’s ‘take’, and especially his view that Romanticism is an inaccurate and inadequate lens through which to view real-world relationships, including love and marriage. I also applaud his decision to present a real-life love story, not just a ‘beginning of love’ story. I’m glad I read this book, but I wish it had been longer, with more detailed action and dialogue, less summarizing, and probably less editorial commenting.

Would I recommend it? Yes, very much so. Be prepared, though, for a very different kind of story told in an unusual way.

Living in God’s Kingdom Now (a sermon on Luke 10:25-37)

One Sunday afternoon in winter in the early 1980’s I was driving on a gravel road toward a small First Nations reserve where I was going to lead a service. On the way into the reserve I saw a car in the ditch, with a couple of people trying to push it out again. I was already late for the service, and I knew that if I stopped I would be even later. I was about to go on by when I remembered the story of the Good Samaritan! Was I going to be yet another example of the priest and the Levite who ‘passed by on the other side’? I quickly pulled over, snarling a bit about God’s sense of humour, and helped the people to push their car out of the ditch. I was twenty minutes late for the service, but the people seemed to understand when I told them what I’d been doing!

As we heard in our gospel reading, the parable of the Good Samaritan is part of Jesus’ answer to a series of questions put to him by a lawyer. We find those questions in Luke 10:25-28:

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher”, he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself”. And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live”.

As we begin to think about this text, the first thing we have to be clear about is the question that the lawyer was asking Jesus. When the lawyer said to Jesus “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”, what did he mean? What is eternal life?’ Older translations of the Bible used the phrase ‘everlasting life’, and so generations of Christians have grown up thinking that the main characteristic of eternal life is simply that it never ends – like Super Mario, only worse! So ‘eternal life becomes chiefly a matter of going to heaven when you die and living there forever. In fact, to some Christians, that’s the main thing salvation does for you: it assures you that you’ll live forever in heaven when you die.

But in the original language of the New Testament, Jesus says nothing at all about the duration of life and nothing at all about heaven. The phrase he uses in the original language can be translated literally ‘the life of the age’, and the word ‘age’ means the new age, the age of the kingdom of God. Let’s explore this idea for a minute.

In the time of Jesus, Jewish people believed that the world’s rebellion against its creator would not last forever. God would intervene; God would send the Messiah to end injustice and oppression and bring in peace and prosperity. God would reward his faithful people and punish the wicked – not in some future, non-physical existence, but in the physical world of time and space.

But some people asked “What about those who were faithful to God and died without seeing this happen? Have they missed out on their chance to participate in the kingdom of God when it finally comes?” “Not at all”, was the reply; “they will be raised to life again so that they too can share the joy of God’s kingdom”.

The next question, obviously, was “How can I be sure I’m going to be one of those who participate in the new age to come, the age of God’s kingdom?” The usual Jewish answer in Jesus’ time was “By faithfully observing God’s laws, including keeping the Sabbath, avoiding unclean foods, offering right sacrifices and so on”.

We can tell from the things Jesus said that he firmly believed in the idea of the coming of the kingdom of God, but he modified it in a couple of ways. Firstly, most people in his day believed there would be a clean break; the old age would end and the new age would begin. But Jesus acted on the assumption that there would be an overlap period; the new age of the kingdom of God began with his life, death and resurrection, but the old age of evil is continuing in parallel with it until he returns and his kingdom is finally established forever; as we say in the Nicene Creed, ‘He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end’.

The second difference is that most of Jesus’ contemporaries saw the new age of the kingdom of God being established by military force. In contrast, Jesus told parables about yeast gradually working its way through the whole loaf, and about a tiny mustard seed growing into the largest of plants. To him, the kingdom would be spread by the power of God working through disciples who lived the lifestyle of the kingdom in their daily lives. And what are the characteristics of that lifestyle? Love for God, and love for one’s neighbour.

So you see the difference between Jesus and the lawyer who questioned him. To the lawyer, ‘eternal life’ is future, and the question he’s asking is “What’s the pass mark? What do I have to do to get in?” He understands the two commandments – loving God and loving your neighbour – as qualifications he has to have in order to enter the kingdom and receive eternal life. But to Jesus eternal life is already present, and the two great commandments are not qualifications for eternal life; they are eternal life. It’s not “Do this, and you will receive eternal life as a reward”, but rather “Do this, because this is what eternal life looks like”.

There are two things we modern Christians need to notice here.

The first is that these two great commandments are not the price of entry into the kingdom of God. If they were we’d be in trouble, because they’re way out of our reach. Can you love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength – wholeheartedly, with no reservations, with every fibre of your being given to God and nothing given to evil at all? Can you love your neighbour as yourself every moment of the day? I know I can’t do it. If this is the entrance exam for the kingdom, I fail every day. But the good news is that God reaches out to people who fail and accepts them by his grace. So the first step into the kingdom of God is to put our faith in Jesus and accept his love as a free gift of grace.

The second thing we modern Christians need to remember is that once we’ve received the gift of the life of the kingdom of God, we will spend the rest of our lives learning to live out these two commandments. Everything else is just clarification. All the services we attend, all the Bible studies in which we participate, all the sacraments we receive – all these things are just resources to help us become people who love God with our whole heart and love our neighbour as ourselves. According to God, that’s the meaning of life; everything else is window-dressing.

So eternal life is not so much about how long we live but how well we live. It’s about the power of the Holy Spirit living in us now, so that we can become the kind of people who love to live by these two great commandments of Jesus.

But what does this mean in our daily lives? Like a good member of parliament, the lawyer asks a supplementary question, and we could understand it as asking ‘What does eternal life look like on a daily basis?

The actual question the lawyer asks is in verse 29: ‘And who is my neighbour?’ The thing I want you to notice is that nowhere in this parable does Jesus answer that question; rather, he tells us how to be a neighbour to those in need.

Why doesn’t he answer the question? Because it’s the wrong question to be asking. The lawyer still hasn’t understood. He still thinks of the two great commandments as the entrance exam into the kingdom. “Who is my neighbour?” really means “What’s the least I can get away with? Exactly who do I have to love? After all, if I live in a village of fifty people and only twenty-five of them turn out to be my neighbours, why would I want to waste time loving the ones who won’t bring me eternal life?” This is the lawyer’s attitude. Jesus’ story of the good Samaritan, on the other hand, shows that the life of the kingdom of God is all about showing mercy to those who are in need, whether we get rewarded or not.

In his story, Jesus doesn’t spell out exactly why the priest and Levite didn’t help the man; the point is simply that they saw a need and did nothing. Perhaps they didn’t even really see him. In the 1999 movie At First Sight, a blind man whose sight has been restored by surgery discovers that sighted people don’t see everything. He and his girlfriend walk past a beggar on the street and she doesn’t even notice. Perhaps the priest and the Levite were in that kind of space.

What about the Samaritans? Who were they? They were the descendants of foreign nations brought in by the King of Assyria when he destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel in the 8th century B.C. They had adopted some aspects of the worship of the God of Israel, but the Jews considered them to be heretics who had perverted the true faith, and they would have little to do with them. The irony in Jesus’ story is that the priest and the Levite knew the law of God but didn’t practice it; the Samaritan’s beliefs may have been questionable, but he was the one who actually practised the law of God!

Of course, the Samaritan could have used all kinds of excuses for not helping the man. He could have said “Maybe the bandits are still around, waiting for me to stop and help so they can rob me too”. He could have said “It’s his own fault” or “It’s not my responsibility to help the needy – the government should do it”. He could have said “I can’t afford two days’ wages to pay for his medical treatment” or “I’m too busy with my business to take the time to help this man properly”. He could even have said “I think the church should help people like this; I’m going to call Rabbi Jacob and get him down here as fast as possible!” But he made none of these excuses. He saw the need and he responded with the love of God. He loved his neighbour as himself.

Let me make two observations in how we might apply this story to our own lives.

First, this story shows us that Christian living is not out of our reach. You don’t have to go to the ends of the earth to serve people. All you have to do is move through your normal day with your eyes open. Back in the 1960s a Texas oilman named Keith Miller was learning to live as a new Christian in an oil company office. He made a decision that every time he went for a drink from the water fountain he would pray for the other people in his office. However, he found that he didn’t know enough about them to pray for them. So he started inviting them out for coffee and listening to them, and gradually as they got to know and trust him they opened up to him about their lives and their struggles. He soon discovered that there was a Christian mission field right there in his oil company office!

The chances are that in your office, or on your block, there is someone whose marriage is ending, or someone who is struggling to make ends meet, or someone who has an illness that causes them a lot of trouble, or someone with an addiction problem of some kind. Living the life of the kingdom of God simply means noticing these things, and doing what we can to help. That’s what the Samaritan did.

But I also need to point out to you that this picture is incomplete. Luke chapter ten has five more verses, which we will read next week! In them we will read about two sisters, Martha and Mary. Martha was busy preparing supper and organising things for Jesus, and scolded her sister Mary who simply sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to him. But Jesus defended Mary, saying that ‘Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her’ (v.42). In other words, in order to keep a proper balance in our Christian lives there are times when we need to stop working and simply sit in God’s presence, listening for the word of Christ.

There’s one more thing I need to say before I’m through. Sometimes when you’re in a really deep sleep and are dreaming hard, you think you’ve woken up, but eventually you discover that it’s just part of your dream. Something like that can too easily happen to us as Christians. It’s easy for us to fall into the trap of thinking that because we’ve talked about something we’ve actually done it. We think we’ve woken up to the Word of Christ, but in fact we’re still dreaming.

In John 5:39-40 Jesus gives us a warning: “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life…yet you refuse to come to me to have life”. That’s what the lawyer was doing. He asked about the commandments, but in fact he already knew the answers to his questions. His problem wasn’t lack of information; his problem was that he wasn’t practising what he already knew. And so often that’s true of us too. We know what Jesus is calling us to do. We’re well aware of these two great commandments. All that remains is for us to ask for the help of the Holy Spirit and then go about our day with our eyes wide open to human need and our hearts full of the love of Jesus, taking every opportunity we can to make a difference. Talking is good, but if talking doesn’t lead to doing, it’s just so much hot air. As Jesus said to his disciples in another context: “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them” (John 13:17).

A personal update

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Feeling pretty good this morning. On January 1st I weighed 217 lbs, had a (tight) 40″ waist and was wearing 18 1/2″ collars. I was tired of being so big, of being on blood pressure and cholesterol medication, of having sore knees and not feeling fit enough to do the outdoor stuff I wanted to do. I was tired of feeling worn out about work and not having the energy to tackle the projects I wanted to tackle.

So I decided to do something about it. Quit making excuses, quit blaming my body type and DNA. I decided to ask for help from God and my wonderful wife (who has been 1000% supportive of me all the way), I made a simple plan, and started out.

After about four and a half months, my doctor did my annual physical, did a few tests, and told me I no longer needed my blood pressure and cholesterol pills. He also asked me how far I was planning to go. I said, “What would you recommend?” He did the numbers and said ‘170 lbs’ (I was at about 180 at that point). I agreed with him, and so we set 170 lbs as a goal. That would be a loss of 47 lbs.

Today, 183 days after I began this project, I reached my goal of 170 lbs. I’m now wearing 36″ waist jeans (straight cut, not relaxed fit), my collar size is 17 1/2″, and I’m feeling better than I’ve felt in twenty years. I have way more energy, and last week when we were hiking in the mountains I couldn’t believe the difference.

Thank you so much to all my friends and family, and especially to Marci, for your incredible support, without which I couldn’t have done this. Thank you God for helping me to stick to this, one day at a time. Thank you also, God, for giving me patience (this was not a crash diet, it was basically not eating between meals, no dessert except fruit, cutting down on sugar, replacing bread with ryvita – that sort of stuff – it was what Eugene Peterson calls ‘A long obedience in the same direction’).

Everyone who’s ever done this knows that losing weight is only half the battle; keeping it off is just as difficult. Please keep me in your prayers, my friends!

A Prayer for Canada Day

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Almighty God, you have given us this good land as our heritage. May we prove ourselves a people mindful of your generosity and glad to do your will. Bless our land with honest industry, truthful education, and an honourable way of life. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance; and from every evil course of action. Make us who came from many nations with many different languages a united people. Defend our liberties and give those whom we have entrusted with the authority of government the spirit of wisdom, that there may be justice and peace in our land. When times are prosperous, let our hearts be thankful; and, in troubled times, do not let our trust in you fail. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

 – The Book of Alternative Services of the Anglican Church of Canada, p.678

The Fellowship of Forgiven Debtors (a sermon on Luke 7:36-50)

When I was a teenager I remember hearing my dad say that he’d like to have a sign on the door of his church that said ‘This Church is for Sinners Only’. I think some people were shocked and surprised when they heard him say that; it sounds so strange and counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? You tend to think of the church as a place where we learn not to sin, not as a place for sinners. But to Dad, these words were an important reminder of the gospel of grace, which tells us that we all fall short of God’s will for us – we’re all sinners, in other words, whether we should be or not – but that God reaches out to us in love whatever we’ve done, and invites us to turn to him and be forgiven.

This reminds me of the famous words of John Newton’s well-known hymn:

‘Amazing grace (how sweet the sound),
that saved a wretch like me!’

To John Newton, this was his own story. He had spent the early years of his life as a sailor and a slave trader. He had lived in complete disregard for God’s commandments, not only abandoning his own faith but also trying to undermine the faith of others. But gradually the Gospel message had broken into his life. A two-week long storm at sea became the catalyst for the beginning of his conversion, and eventually in his late thirties he became a Church of England minister and a preacher of the very Gospel he had once tried to discredit. He felt that, like Saint Paul, he had been ‘the chief of sinners’, but God in his grace had forgiven him and made him a preacher of the Gospel to others.

Newton never forgot his early life of sin, and he never lost his sense of God’s continuing mercy toward him, despite his many failings. This gave him a tender attitude toward the sins and failings of others. He often said that when you know how much God has forgiven you, and continues to forgive you every day, you can’t help having the same forgiving attitude toward the people around you.

Our Gospel reading today has this same emphasis. We read that one of the Pharisees, named Simon, invited Jesus for a meal at his house. Dinner parties like this were very public. What we know today as ‘private life’ didn’t exist in those days; doors were left open all the time during the day and people wandered in and out at will. The dining table would have been in a U-shape, with guests not seated on chairs or the floor, but reclining on couches, leaning on their left elbows and using their right hands to reach for food and eat. The couches would have been angled away from the table so that the feet of the guests would be behind them.

There was a strict etiquette about these formal meals. As each guest came in, the host would greet him with a kiss of peace. As the feet of the guests would be dirty and tired from the dusty roads, the host would ensure that water was provided and the servants would wash their feet. Olive oil might also be given to anoint the heads of the guests. These were the unwritten laws of hospitality; these were the ways the hosts would show respect and honour for their guests. Luke does not let us in on the secret yet, but later on in the story he will tell us that none of this had been done for Jesus. Simon had invited Jesus to this meal, but had then given him a public snub by not honouring him as he would an ordinary guest.

The NRSV translates verse 37 ‘And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house…’ One commentator thinks this should be translated as ‘a woman who was known in the city as a sinner’. ‘Sinner’ here would have meant at least that she had lived a promiscuous life, if not that she was actually a prostitute.

We can read between the lines that this woman had already had an encounter with Jesus which had transformed her life. Verses 40-47 explain that a person who has been forgiven a huge number of sins will respond to this forgiveness with great love. Jesus explains the woman’s acts of love by the fact that she has been – past tense – forgiven a great many sins. “Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love” (v.47). It seems reasonable to infer that Jesus has already met this woman and has declared God’s forgiveness to her, perhaps even that very day; she has come to Simon’s party to say thank you to Jesus for all he has done for her.

The woman seems to have been temporarily deflected from her original purpose; we read that she ‘brought an alabaster jar of ointment’ (37) to anoint Jesus’ feet, but she does not immediately use it. She stands behind Jesus – remember that he is reclining on a couch with his feet extended away from the table. She is overcome with emotion and begins to weep, bathing his feet with tears, wiping them with her hair and only then anointing them with the ointment. In those days, this would have been scandalous behaviour. Women in Israel at that time kept their hair covered and only let it down in the presence of their husbands in their own bedrooms. To let down your hair in public and use it to wipe the feet of a man you were not married to was shocking; in the eyes of the people at the feast, this woman would have been acting like a prostitute with one of her clients.

This is certainly the way Simon the Pharisee interprets her actions. He even questions Jesus’ status as a prophet; a true prophet would know what kind of person this woman was! The unspoken inference is that if Jesus knew she was a prostitute he would not allow her to touch him or even be near him. Evil was seen as highly contagious; the only way for good and holy people to preserve themselves from evil was to avoid evil people altogether. The woman had come into Simon’s house like a contagious disease; it was Jesus’ duty as a prophet to rebuke her and send her away, and he was not doing so.

Note that Simon did not voice this opinion to Jesus; Luke tells us that he ‘said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him – that she is a sinner” (v.39). Prophets know things other people don’t know, and they use that knowledge, in Simon’s view, to declare God’s judgement. However, Jesus is about to demonstrate to Simon that he is indeed a prophet. Simon has not spoken out loud, but Jesus knows what he is thinking! And he uses that knowledge to rebuke Simon, not the woman, and to invite him into a different way of seeing reality. Simon is wrong; Jesus knows ‘what kind of woman this is’. He knows that she’s made in the image of God, she’s a forgiven sinner overcome with gratitude for the grace of God, and in her gratitude she is expressing her love for Jesus, who has made it possible for her to be forgiven.

So Jesus tells the little parable of the two debtors; one owes the creditor five hundred denarii – that is, about eighteen months’ wages for an ordinary labourer – the other fifty. Neither of them can pay, so the creditor cancels the debts of both. Which one will love the creditor more? Simon can’t avoid the conclusion: the one who was forgiven the greater debt will feel the most love for the creditor.

There is more to this little story than meets the eye. Let me ask you this: do you think Simon sees himself as a debtor to God? Probably not! In his view, the woman is a sinner; he is not. And even if he is, he certainly doesn’t see himself as someone who ‘can’t pay’; he’ll work harder, make the right sacrifices and ritual actions, obey the laws, and in time he’ll pay what he owes. Jesus is inviting Simon to see himself as being on a level with this woman; they’re both sinners owing a debt to God, and neither of them can pay the debt. Simon’s debt may be small and the woman’s may be great, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re both bankrupt! As someone once said, if you line up a bunch of swimmers on the coast of California and ask them to swim to Hawaii, it won’t matter in the long run whether some of them are better swimmers than the rest! Some may drown after a mile, some after thirty miles, but none of them are going to reach Hawaii!

But how can this be? How can Simon be a sinner? After all, he’s a Pharisee! He’s been circumcised, he’s kept the Sabbath, he gives tithes of all he earns, he carefully observes the food laws and keeps away from bad company! He is an upright man!

Yes, but Jesus says the heart of the law is the two great commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbour as yourself. And on that very day, in his own house, Simon has offended against the second commandment. He has not loved his neighbour as himself; he’s snubbed his guest by refusing to extend the traditional courtesies to him. He didn’t give Jesus the kiss of peace when he came into the house – which is as if Jesus had come into your home today, extended his hand in greeting to you, and you had stubbornly kept your hand at your side. He hadn’t provided water for the foot washing or oil for the anointing of the guest. In this way Simon has not loved his neighbour as he loved himself; he has not done to others as he would have them do to him. So he too is a sinner, and he too stands in need of God’s grace and forgiveness.

So do I. I may be a churchgoer; I may have been faithful to my marriage partner, I may never have killed anyone or stolen anything or cheated on my taxes. But have I loved the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, with nothing held back? Have I loved my neighbour as myself? Of course not, not perfectly. These commands are the debt I owe to God. I have not kept them perfectly; therefore I too am a sinner.

This is the first way in which Jesus’ story challenges Simon’s worldview; like the woman, he is a debtor who cannot pay what he owes. Like her, he’s entirely dependent on the mercy of God if he’s ever going to receive eternal life.

The second way the story challenges his worldview is in his interpretation of the woman’s actions. No, Simon, this is not a prostitute trying to allure Jesus into an inappropriate sexual liaison. This is a woman in the grip of God’s grace. She had always assumed that her sins barred her from coming into the presence of God. But the grace of God had invaded her life, bringing her the free forgiveness she had never dared to hope for. Of course she wasn’t in command of her rational faculties! She was overwhelmed with gratitude to the God who had forgiven her and to the man who had spoken that word of forgiveness! And of course her actions were open to misinterpretation – just like the apostles on the Day of Pentecost, when they were filled with the Holy Spirit and the bystanders said, “These men are drunk!”

The story ends before Simon has a chance to respond. We don’t know what he said or did. Jesus is challenging him: this woman whom you dismiss as a sinner is in fact your sister in God. Like you, she was made in the image of God. Like you, she had a debt of sin she could not pay. God has forgiven her sins and accepted her. Will you also accept her, despite her reputation? Luke leaves the story incomplete to challenge you and me; we’re invited to supply the ending in our own lives.

Let me close with these two final words of application.

God knows everything about me. There are embarrassing stories about my life which I have been brave enough to tell some of you, but you can be absolutely sure that there are others I would never dare tell you. If they were broadcast on a screen in front of you all, I would hang my head in shame. We all have those stories. I know you have them, and you know I have them. And God knows them all.

How does God respond? He comes among us in Jesus as one of us; Jesus is the walking embodiment of God’s love for all people. But what do we do with him? Through our political and religious leaders, we reject him, scourge him, mock him and kill him on a cross.

What comes next in this story? If this church is not for sinners only, surely the next act is an act of revenge and judgement. But no: the Gospel tells us that God is a God who loves his enemies, and so Jesus’ response is to pray for his murderers: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). On the cross, he models the unconditional love of God for all people. It’s nothing to do with how deserving we are. In fact, there’s absolutely nothing you can do to make God love you more, and there’s nothing you can do to make God love you less. God already loves you more than you can ask or imagine, and nothing can change that.

Do you believe that? The woman in our story believed it. Jesus said to her “Your faith has saved you; go in peace”. He wants you to go in peace this morning too. No matter what that sin is which is troubling you so much, he wants you to bring it to him this morning, leave it at his cross, and dare to believe that it is forgiven. We can do that this morning as we receive the bread and wine of Holy Communion. The broken bread speaks to us of Jesus’ body broken on the cross; the wine poured out speaks to us of his blood shed for us. To come to the Lord’s Table is to come to the cross; we come with faith, we hold out our hands, and we eat and drink the forgiveness that God offers us.

And having received this free forgiveness, he wants us to look at each other with different eyes. Simon looked at this woman and saw a despicable sinner; Jesus looked at her and saw a woman made in God’s image, overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s grace.

What do you see as you look around the church this morning? Christian congregations are like families, and like any family we accumulate resentments. Also, we express our love for God in different ways, and some of those ways look a little strange to others in the congregation! But Jesus is calling us to learn to see each other with his eyes. C.S. Lewis reminds us that, next to the sacrament we will receive in a few minutes, the holiest thing we will look at this week is our neighbour, and we should treat him or her accordingly.

You and I are debtors who couldn’t pay our bills, and we have been freely forgiven. What should be our response? Delirious joy, of course! Who cares what other people think of us? We just want to thank this Jesus who has brought such love into our lives! And then our second response is to have a gentle attitude toward our fellow debtors who have also been forgiven. “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us”. How many times do we pray that prayer without thinking about it? Now’s the time to think about what it means, and to ask God’s help so that we can live by it.