The Rev. Geoffrey Butcher, Priest-in-charge Trinity Episcopal Church, Russellville

If you look back on your childhood you may remember a time when you got into a little mischief. Perhaps you played a practical joke on a friend, or told a white lie, or disobeyed what your mommy or daddy told you to do. When I look back to my days as a child it seems to me that I was an angel, but my mother didn’t have the same recollection. Actually, I remember that I wasn’t always kind to my little sister. I don’t remember hitting her when I was upset, but I used to take my teddy bears into her room and let them beat up her dolls. Of course, I wasn’t expressing any mean feelings because it was the teddy bears that where beating up the dollies, even though, of course, I was controlling the arms and legs of the dollies and bears. As adults my sister and I realized that this scene was a reaction to our unhappy and domineering mother.

Looking back I know that what I did wasn’t kind. I still try to remind my sister that even though I wasn’t always nice, she’s lucky I’m her brother; and inside I know how lucky I am to have her as my sister. At least I’m lucky that she wasn’t my big sister who could punch me out every time I beat up her dollies.

Well, we all make mistakes as we grow up; and unfortunately, we never seem to get fully grown up. I used to think that adults didn’t make really bad mistakes; but the older I got I discovered that I was wrong. Every one of us at any age can do things that we should not do and for which we should be sorry.

Now imagine if one of your parents never forgot anything that you had ever done wrong; and instead of forgiving you and giving you another chance to be loved, just constantly reminded you of everything you had ever done that was bad in your life. Wouldn’t that be terrible! I just can’t imagine living with that burden; for if you are like me, you want to be loved. You want people to have a smile on their faces when they see you; and when we do something wrong, to accept your apology and be restored to a good relationship again.

The person who agreed with that attitude more than anyone else is Jesus. Jesus came to be our friend to teach us to love each other and to forgive one another when we do hurtful things. John’s Gospel says that God sent Jesus into the world, “not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17) Jesus didn’t come to be a scolding parent, to hold up all of our faults in front of our faces. He certainly doesn’t approve of the things we do to hurt each other, but he wants us to be friends, to forgive one other when we hurt each other, and to be restored to a good relationship again. He doesn’t condemn us to a billion days locked in a bedroom closet. He teaches us to love one another.

I’m grateful for the attitude Jesus taught. By following that principle my sister and I could once again play with our teddy bears and dollies – not as if they were beating each other up, but as a happy, loving, family. I also learned that God loves us that same way, and that God wants us to be in a loving relationship with him. He doesn’t condemn us for ever, but puts us back into loving relationships.