I spent 10 years in corporate America before going into ministry and academia. Working in corporate America wasn’t a great fit for me, but I learned a lot, and I’m grateful for those insights.
One of the things I learned was that, at the end of a meeting, it’s important to review the takeaways discussed in the meeting. In other words, who is going to be doing what, and when. I may need to write a document or send an email or have a conversation with somebody not at the meeting. But I want to make sure everyone else at the table knows their role as well. This goes a long way to avoid organizational dysfunction and resentment towards others by feeling like others aren’t pulling their fair share.
Bill is going to do A, B and C. Janet is going to do D, E and F. And I’m going to do G, H and I. This creates an opportunity to be collaborative and it provides healthy accountability. Everyone knows that if “C” doesn’t get done, that’s on Bill. We’ll want to figure out what happened and move on from there.
Tonight, as I was thinking about Matthew 6 - specifically the section commonly referred to as The Lord’s Prayer.
I’ve spoken before about this prayer. I’ve noted that it’s not a “honey do” list we give God, but instead focused on God’s identity and our identity. Topics which require regular calibration.
But tonight, I realized something else. In that whole prayer, Jesus gives the person praying a single takeaway.
Let’s run through the ‘action items’ in that prayer.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done…” That one’s on God. I can’t bring his kingdom or his will to earth. I can be part of it, but ultimately, I’m not in control of this.
“Give us this day our daily bread…” Again, this is on God. We’re asking for him to do something, and it’s entirely within his control, not mine.
“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one…” Same thing. We’re asking God to do something only God can do. I’m not stronger than the evil one, but he is, so I’m asking for his active involvement.
You may have noticed I skipped one action item:
“Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us…” Ding ding ding. There we go. We’re taught to ask God to forgive us, conditionally depending on something that’s entirely within our control.
Jesus gives us plenty of good, healthy guidelines to have the healthiest, fullest life possible. But only one of those items made it into his example to us for prayer. To forgive those who sin against me.
I tend to default to being a bit controlling. It takes regular prayer and everyday transformation by the Holy Spirit to avoid heading down this road over and again. So I want to be in control of every aspect of my life. But Jesus seems to say, anytime you’re considering God’s role and your role, I’ve got one takeaway I want you to write down: forgive people who do you wrong.
Honestly, that’s a difficult takeaway. It’s a good thing I don’t have a bunch of other stuff on my plate, because I pretty regularly show up at the next meeting and say, “I didn’t get this one done very well.” It means I have to go out of my way to apologize for missing the mark quite a bit.
I often ignore my takeaway and try to put God’s takeaways on my plate. Trying to control my future. Trying to make plans for the success of myself and my family. But none of these are on my list. And I’m pretty sure that’s on purpose. Because if I was supposed to make these things happen, I’d probably be quick to step on others in service of an end result I would justify as being in line with God’s plan for me.
So Jesus says, “Easy there, champ. How about you just do this one thing and I’ll handle the rest.” Almost literally.
So tomorrow, or anytime you’re feeling like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, take a deep breath and focus on doing that one thing as you live a life defined by loving God and loving others.
The rest is in good hands.