Most times those who are in authority are inflexible and they govern and rule with impunity. They are very quick to cut down and tear apart especially when plans do not go their way. They probably act in this manner because they are figures of authority and cannot be easily challenged by their subordinates.
God, on the other hand, is totally different. The Gospel of Luke 13:9, making reference to the notion of the cutting down of the fig tree offers us a different insight.
He states that: “It may bear fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down”. It is clear that the chief purpose of God is the salvation of all souls, which is why He sent His only Son, Jesus, to save and redeem all. Thus, God provides us with several chances in life.
These avenues ought to assist us to repent and ultimately seek His pardon and salvation. Psalm 86:15, says that God practises incredible patience with us: “O Lord, You are a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness”.
Micah 7:18 states: “Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of His inheritance? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in steadfast love”.
Because of the overwhelming patience, God often grants us a second chance which provides an opportunity for us to improve, repent and seek salvation. The Gospel of Luke 13:1–9, God will observe our conduct and deportment and, if needed, give us a second chance: “If it bears fruit next year; if not, then you can cut it down”.
It is because of the enduring patience of God people like Peter, Jonah, Mark, Samson and David received a second chance and they were ultimately forgiven.
A note of caution that we all need to always recall is that offering forgiveness is not quite the same as making reconciliation and peace. Sometimes we genuinely struggle to find the proper balance between showing mercy and enabling a harmful person to continue to do danger.
It is clear that we ought to be willing to forgive everyone who wrongs us, just as Jesus, the Master, forgives us. However, when someone continues to unrepentantly violate our space, the prudent and God-fearing person must learn how to establish some limits and boundaries. Therefore, if someone is a repeat offender, we can offer forgiveness but we must maintain some distance until the person is truly transformed and changed.
While this may seem contentious, it is quite possible to practise if we walk closely with the Lord, Jesus Christ. As the favourite hymn teaches: ‘Just a closer walk with Thee. Grant it, Jesus, is my plea. Daily walking close to Thee. Let it be, dear Lord, let it be’.
In the letter to the Romans 1:18–32, the apostle Paul cautions us of the consequences when we deliberately reject repentance from God. Paul states that God turns us over to a reprobate mind, the person who can no longer seek Him and at that point, he becomes engulfed in sin.
Situations like these may occur in our daily lives when forgiveness has been offered and restoration made possible but the other person or persons deliberately refuse to repent and reject all efforts to reconcile.
In that case trying to offer a second chance may not be very wise and prudent. Then, and only then, we may have to heed the advice given in Matthew 18:17: “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector”.
Let us pray.
Almighty and ever-living Lord, we acknowledge that we constantly fail and behave in a reckless manner. We are quick to cut down and destroy others as soon as they commit an error. We are sometimes very inflexible and rigid. We do not keep Your commandments although You give us many opportunities.
Lord, we firmly believe that You are a benevolent and merciful God who affords second chances; a God who gives sufficient time to repent and seek salvation. For this, we are genuinely grateful, since they help us to grow and develop spiritually.
We admit, O Lord, that it is very difficult to practise the art of giving second chances in our daily lives since some people take advantage and exploit us. Help us, dear Father, to be like You: merciful and forgiving and providing others with a second chance.
Help us, O heavenly Father to have the proper balance. Give us the wisdom, knowledge and discernment to know when and how to give second chances. On the other hand, we are extremely thankful to the numerous persons who were merciful to us and also afforded us second chances. Help us dear Lord to be more tolerant with others and give them a second chance. We make this prayer, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
By Fr Gabriel Julien