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May 16 – Putting Ourselves in the Best Light

People looking for employment always need letters of recommendation. People writing those letters today need to be careful. They will want to tell the truth, but if the employee hasn’t been the best, telling the truth may lead to a lawsuit. This has led to mental gymnastics that people on both ends need to check out. For instance, an employer writing such a letter for that lazy employee that hangs around the water cooler half the day might put it this way: “You’d be lucky to get him to work for you.” If the employee is inept, the recommendation might read “I highly recommend this employee with no qualifications whatsoever.” If the employer wanted to warn the prospective new employer not to offer him a job, he might say “I would urge you to waste no time in making this candidate an offer of employment.”

Perspective is important in such situations. If you are the prospective new employer and you don’t pick up on the letter writer’s angle, you might think that the candidate was perfect for the job. Any time we write such a letter, or look at our resume, we want to make ourselves look as good as possible. Paul’s nephew discovered a plot against Paul. The commander of the Roman forces in Jerusalem immediately sent Paul to Caesarea to protect him from the plot against him. He wrote a letter to Governor Felix explaining why he was sending Paul. In that letter was this intriguing sentence: “This man was seized by the Jews and they were about to kill him, but I came with my troops and rescued him, for I had learned that he is a Roman citizen.” (Acts 23:27)

Talk about damage control! He learned that Paul was a Roman citizen after he had arrested Paul and ordered him chained and flogged to get information from him about the riot. As the centurion was about to commence the flogging that would continue until morale improved, Paul asked a simple question: “Is this legal to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t been found guilty?” Citizenship has its privileges and Paul brought out his citizenship papers to deal with an unjust situation once again. Claudius Lysius, the commander, didn’t bother to mention that part of the incident in his letter, because such a mistake could have cost him dearly. Instead, by putting things in the best light, he shaped the battlefield in case Paul decided to make a complaint against him.

Have you ever noticed how we shape the battlefield with God? We begin our confessions with something like “God, I know that this is wrong, but I have good reasons for doing this,” and then confess our sins. In essence, we no longer confess our sins absolutely, we write recommendations to explain away our rebellion. There are some who would point out that because we have grace from God, we don’t need to worry about our sins. I would agree in part: we have grace and forgiveness from God for all sins that we have ever committed, are committing, or will commit. That doesn’t give us license to do whatever we want and then claim either that it’s not wrong to do that act, or that it’s acceptable because God forgives that sin. When Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins He also died to take away the power of sin over our lives. Because we are forgiven, the power of sin should no longer control our lives. Yet today, many claim to be followers of Christ while living in and making excuses for their sin. If God’s grace is working in our lives, not only will God forgive your sin, not only will He show mercy, He will also take away the power sin has over us. We can’t continue in sin, and claim to love God.

Lord, it’s easy for me to come before You and seek to justify my rebellion, my sin. I have lots of good reasons for engaging in sin. Remind me that forgiveness takes away the power of sin so I can live right.


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