At church this morning, the pastor’s sermon was entitled “Check, Check, Check.” What’s that mean exactly? Well, the pastor told a story about a plane that crashed, and pilots since that time were required to make sure that everything was in order before they launched. There is a pilot in our congregation, and he took the pastor and his wife on a flight. According to the pastor, the pilot had a checklist of things that he had to check before flying.
The pastor said that, similarly, Christians should have a checklist. Do we forgive others? Are we patient with others? Are we concerned about the outcast? Are we concerned about the well-being of the community as a whole?
When should Christians look over this checklist? And is there ever a point when they can honestly say that they have satisfied the requirements on the checklist—-when they actually can put a check-mark besides these requirements that indicates that they have fulfilled them? Speaking for myself personally, I cannot say that I have satisfied those requirements fully. Let’s take the first item on the list: Do I forgive others? Well, it depends. Sometimes my anger is there, and sometimes it is not. In some cases, interacting with people on a regular basis has placed me in a position in which I have to put the past behind me for my relationship with them to run fairly smoothly. Christian author Philip Yancey once wrote that, when people ask him if he is a Christian, he says that he is—-in spots. Well, that’s how I can describe my forgiveness of others, my patience, my concern for the outcast, my concern for the community, and really every aspect of my Christian life: they’re in spots. They exist, but they are imperfect, incomplete, mixed with a lot of rubbish. Most people can probably say the same thing about themselves.
I think that an appropriate place to look over a spiritual checklist is in prayer. And I do not particularly have in mind me grading myself over how well, or whether, I have satisfied certain criteria. What I have in mind is this: when I pray, I affirm before God that I forgive those who have wronged or offended me. I affirm that I myself need forgiveness and thank God for forgiving me, and I pass that forgiveness on to others, asking God for help. I ask God for patience. People say one shouldn’t do this because then God will create troubles in a person’s life to teach her patience, but my response is this: the troubles are already there without my praying for patience, and I need God’s help to patiently endure them. That’s why I pray for patience. I can show concern for the outcast by praying for them. If I want my concern to move from prayer to action, I can, if I feel so convicted and moved, ask God to show me what actions are appropriate. And I can pray for the community. My checklist is basically a checklist in which I pray about these things, and check them off when I have done so. There is a Bible verse that, in my mind, supports the approach of using prayer time as an opportunity to forgive and work on one’s attitude, with God’s help. Mark 11:25: “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (KJV).