Ephesians 4:32 - Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
This devotion pairs with this weekend's Lutheran Hour sermon, which can be found at lhm.org.
"Nature abhors a vacuum," is an old observation. It means that the world is always eager to fill empty spaces. How eager is it? Consider this demonstration performed in Magdeburg, Germany, in The Year of our Lord, 1654. It began when members of the audience were invited to inspect two large bronze hemispheres—two halves of what was basically a giant metal beach ball split right down the middle. The two halves fit together to form a sphere three feet across. The audience observed how the two sides could be easily connected and disconnected, like two halves of plastic Easter egg. Next, the audience watched as the hemispheres were joined, and it was announced that a vacuum pump would be attached to a port hole, and the air on the inside would be removed.
Then the real show began. Once a vacuum was created inside the bronze ball, audience members were again invited to try separating the two sides. It was impossible. To emphasize the point, two teams of eight horses were hitched to the connectors on each side of the sphere. One team of horses pulling in one direction and the other pulling in the opposite direction. Still, the two hemispheres refused to part. After the horses pulled with all their might, the valve on the port was opened, the air rushed back in, and the two sides parted easily as before.
Do you know why? Air pressure—the weight of the atmosphere around us. Every square meter of surface area on the earth has roughly ten tons of atmospheric weight pushing against it. So, as long as the bronze was strong enough to keep from caving in, the horses didn't stand a chance of overcoming 40,000 pounds of atmospheric force. It turns out, the old saying isn't quite true. Nature doesn't actually hate vacuums. But the atmosphere is extremely pushy, and ever eager to fill empty spaces.
Over the last few weeks on these Friday devotions, we've been revisiting forgiveness. And in our Lutheran Hour sermons, I've been visiting with Daniel Paavola about his book on forgiveness titled, Flowing from the Cross. In that book, Daniel offers a profound observation about forgiveness. If we want to forgive, we cannot make our minds into a vacuum. The spiritual atmosphere we inhabit is too pushy. The old hurts and grudges keep rushing in to fill the empty space. "The only way we can forgive," Daniel writes, "is when our mind is filled with another story besides our own. Only when we first remember can we hope to forget. We forget when we remember a story that's more memorable than our own" (Paavola, p. 122).
When you feel the weight of past sins pressing on you—your own sins and the sins of others—you can't just clear your mind and move on. But when you retrace the steps of Christ, when you try to imagine the weight He carried to the cross, where His body was broken and His blood poured out for the forgiveness of sins, then His story will start to displace your anger, bitterness, resentment, and regret. And so, you begin to forgive others, as God in Christ first forgave us.
Modern scientific principles tell us that even when all the air is removed, even in a vacuum, there's still something there. Behind the void, there are vast fields of quantum forces, behind the fields—endless waves of gravitation; behind the waves—a bottomless sea of immeasurable energy. And Jesus tells us that behind all that, it's not a principle, but a Person—the God who died for the love of sinners, and lives to fill His creation with forgiveness, life, and salvation.
WE PRAY: Dear Father, help me to be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving as You forgave me. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Speaker of The Lutheran Hour.
1. Is there a story of some former trespass against you that still weighs on you?
2. Even if you can't name a single great sin against you, how might the cumulative weight of a thousand small grudges, irritations, and offenses have the same effect?
3. Which parts of the story of Jesus best display for you the gravity of God's love for sinners?