The List
Copyright 1984 by Tim Arensmeier

        Reconciliation has been a theme of the Christian faith for . . . ever.  As a kid I learned that in and through Jesus Christ, people could experience reconciliation.  While I knew something of what all that meant, it took a personal experience in Europe to bring into focus some of the implications of that reconciliation.

        Jan (my wife) and I had gone to Germany as missionaries where we were ministering to a target group of US servicemen in Europe.  Our particular base of operation was in the vicinity of southern Germany.  We had colleagues salted ‘n peppered around about 6 military bases in Germany.  Several were four plus hours drive away.

        We arrived in Germany in June of 1967.  Shortly after, we met our staff colleagues, as well as other missionaries also serving in similar capacities.

        As work went, and meetings happened occasionally, it increasingly became evident to me that there was apparently some tension existent between me and a colleague from another mission board.  We met approximately every four to five months.

        Occasionally, at meetings, something would surface which just didn’t make sense to me, and/or I would be challenged, or seemingly snide comments would appear to come my way from one particular individual.  A couple of times, I actually asked the question:  Is there a problem between us?  The less than warm, “No!” never conveyed the sincerity which I sensed necessary.

        Finally, I called our local director of the mission board, and asked if he would join me in going to the city where our next meeting was to be held -- a day early!  When asked why, I suggested that it had to do with a Matthew 18 matter.  Our director knew the passage and without further question agreed to make the extra day available.

        Upon phoning the individual, whom I’ll call George, the question was asked as to why our director and I would be arriving a day early.  When I suggested that it had to do with Matthew 18, I was queried as to what that was all about.  I merely commented that I felt that it would be beneficial for our local director to be present when we talked.  There was a significant silence, and a reluctant agreement to the meeting.

        When the time came, our director, George and I spent most of a day doing anything other than being available to seriously discuss anything.  We were even taken on a brief sightseeing tour of the area, accompanied by several other people.

        Finally, during dinner in the evening, around a table filled with at least seven other young servicemen, I pointedly asked if after dinner I could take George and his wife and our director out to coffee and dessert in a quiet restaurant in town.  My question was responded to with a negative, but it was offered that we could do coffee in their breakfast room.

        We eventually found ourselves seated around a small table, coffee ‘n goodies available.  As George began to tell us some of his aspirations about how to conduct his ministry, at one point I interrupted with a comment about which I was immediately ashamed, but which ultimately accomplished something.  I said that I thought his particular idea was kind of dumb.

        With that, he virtually exploded!  I mean . . . today we’d say that he went “postal.”  He began a rage about me which took several moments, during which his wife was leaning back against her chair; our local director was leaning back against his chair, and I was joining them as George was “in my face!”

        After a very few minutes, he wound down, and while I kept quiet – not, admittedly my nature, but due to having memorized Job 9:20 in the King James Version [If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me:  if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse.], he finally stated in a kind of apologetic tone of voice, only to warm up again when saying, “I’m sorry, but that’s so typical of you, Arensmeier!”

        After a few moments of tense silence (during which our local director remained silent . . . ), I asked, Is there more?  To which George responded with some apparent sarcastic anger, “Do you care?”  I said that I did, and to my amazement he reached into his hip pocket and brought out his DayTimer.  After a few moments of searching, he located a page (this on about 2 x 4 inch paper) and on the top was . . . my name!

        I glanced at the page (upside down as it was facing him across the table) and observed a date at the start of a list of my faults.  This was in December of 1969.  The date in his list was in June of 1967, two and a half years earlier!

        Silence.  I asked what was on the page.  Again, he asked if I cared.  I acknowledged that I did, and he started reading.  He hadn’t completed his initial observation before, in my heart I knew that what he had written was true, and that I had indeed spoken out of place and had been offensive.

        Upon finishing reading that comment, I agreed with him, and apologized for being wrong.

        He was stunned and silent.  He then began reading the second item, and upon completion, I again agreed that his observation was accurate, and that I’d been wrong again . . . still almost two years before!

        After what seemed to be around five minutes of this exercise, he turned the page, and to my amazement there was another page and a half of my faults!

        Now, don’t get me wrong.  If you’ve known me for more than a week or two, I’ll give you that you may well be starting a list of my faults.  But, I’d never before in my life heard of anyone actually bothering to write one down and keep it!

        About half way down the second page (and, he wrote with a very tiny script!), he closed his pocket  DayTimer, returned it to his hip pocket, and informed us all, “Well, that’s enough for tonight.”

        To my astonishment, I anticipated that we’d all get to do this again someday?

        Again, silence from our local director.  To his credit, it was more his nature to be a lover than a fighter.  Now, while directors of mission boards and local groups should be loving, it has always been my opinion that they should also be capable of herding the  “General Pattons” under their charge.

        At this juncture, I prayed the shortest prayer in the Bible.  Remember Peter?  He actually walked on the water one time.  And, as long as his gaze was focused on our Savior, he actually did walk on the top of the water.  However, the passage tells us of a large wave looming up, which got his attention, and as he took his eyes off of Jesus, he started sinking in the water, at which time he called out:  Help, Lord!

        Many a time during a normal day, I find myself praying that little prayer, in the quiet of my heart, “Help, Lord!” as I frequently encounter details and events which I may not be confident of handling on my own.  This was one of those occasions.  I honestly didn’t have the faintest idea of what to do, and my local director was again silent and functionally of no help at all.

        I believe that God likes to answer prayer, and at times, immediately.  I felt nudged of the Lord to ask George a question which I would not have otherwise thought of:  “Are we reconciled?”

        By now, it is probably obvious that much of what George had recorded in his book had to do with my being obnoxious and arrogant.  At this point I’ll admit, in advance, to my next comment truly sounding arrogant, but please bear with me.  If, in the course of your work, you have become somewhat accomplished at what you do, it probably is true that you seldom have questions posed you which take you totally off guard.  Fair?

        His response to my question was, “What would it mean if you and I were reconciled?”

        At this point, I again found myself praying that quiet little prayer of the heart, “Help, Lord!”  For it was evident from his tone of voice that I’d better answer with something other than, “You would like me,” as he very obviously didn’t want to like me!

       Again, to the Lord’s praise as being a God who hears and answers prayer, my mind was directed to what St. Paul had been inspired by God to write nearly 2,000 years ago in his second letter to the church in Corinth.  The passage was II Corinth 5:17ff.  Knowing that George knew that passage and what was included in it, I said, “I believe that if you and I were reconciled, neither of us would have a list of each other’s faults standing as an impediment to our being able to communicate.”

        Silence for a moment.  Slowly, George reached into his hip pocket while saying, “Then, we’re not yet reconciled.”  He again found the pages with my faults listed on them, and began in the middle of the second page, and continued until he reached the top of the third page.  At that point, what he read truly intrigued me.  Remember, when he had started, I immediately identified with him, and agreed that I’d been out of line.  The closer we came in history, with all honesty, the more fuzzy were his observations, and while I continued to apologize, I honestly couldn’t identify with some of his statements.

        The final comment he read was, “While we were at our meeting in Wiesbaden, Arensmeier was away at the bathroom too much.”  Excuse me?!  I did recall that one.  I'd had the flu at the time.  I felt that it was an act above ‘n beyond the call of duty to even show up!  And, he was offended?!

        To his credit, before I said a word, in tears, he ripped the pages out of his DayTimer and scrumpled them up and threw them into the wood burning stove.  He apologized for having kept the list, and asked what was on mine for him.  I told him that I didn’t have a list, and only that night had been thinking that rather than his keeping the list, I wished that he’d have just said something to me on those occasions when I’d offended him.

        We were reconciled.  While we will always function in pretty different ways, I’ve since been invited to speak to a group he was hosting in his home, and we’ve talked comfortably about issues and the Savior without a sense of tension between us.

        I returned home to Jan and our girls the next day, and found her outside our home watching our daughters play in the snow.  She had known of my desire to get to the bottom of what was happening between George and myself, so quickly asked how the time had gone.

        I related essentially what I have conveyed above, and while talking with her noticed that she was becoming somewhat pensive.  I finally asked what she was thinking.  She looked at me.  She looked at her boots, and finally said in a low voice, “I have a list . . .”

        Interestingly, while not on paper, her list was every bit as debilitating to real emotional intimacy and needed to be dealt with.  We talked, prayed, cried and finally experienced a disappearance of The List.

        To me, the essence of the Good News of the gospel is that God doesn’t have a list of my faults (sins) standing as an impediment between Him and me.  The book of Colossians cites that God’s “list” of our sins was nailed to the Cross of Calvary, in, through, on and by the person of Jesus Christ, who in time and space has paid the penalty of death, perfectly satisfying God’s holy expectation of us, and satisfying His holy wrath against us – all in His Son, Jesus Christ.

        If the holy sovereign sin-hating judge of the Universe has no list of my faults (known and secreted) against me, how dare I have a list of anyone’s faults keeping me from loving them?

        Or, as I recently found myself again asking a friend who was having a problem forgiving someone their offenses, “Just what is it about the death of Jesus Christ on the cross of calvary that is inadequate to satisfy that person’s sins against you?”

        After all, the apostle Paul said, “Be kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ has forgiven you.”  Ephesians 4:32

        It is of interest to me that unless we apprehend how God in Christ has forgiven us, we don’t have a chance of truly “forgiving” anybody.  After all, the old “Forgive ‘n Forget” just doesn’t work.  We’re too smart!  We don’t forget.  That’s because God doesn’t “forget.”  He deals with it, by accepting Christ’s death instead of demanding ours for our sins.  Therefore, in a similar fashion, we need to accept Christ’s death in the place of expecting, wanting, wishing for, someone else’s death in exchange for their hurting us.

        It is an extension of the process of sanctification or discipleship that we actually learn to forgive others because of Christ, and by accepting His death in their places, just as God the Father accepts Christ’s death in the place of ours.

        But, isn’t that the essence of applying the grace of God to others?  We receive grace in justification, we share it in sanctification.

        As you reflect on some of these thoughts, they are offered with the prayer that you will personally enjoy the forgiving love of God, in Christ, and that He doesn’t have a list of your sins, provided that you have personally acknowledged your sin, and have appealed to God for the salvation of Jesus Christ to be applied by faith to your life.  It is also my prayer that you will increasingly be able to extend forgiveness to others, truly, based on your appreciation of how God, in Christ, has forgiven you.

        A final comment:  After presenting this material to a large group of pastors in Northern California, several years ago, the retired “dean” of the pastors was asked to close the conference in prayer.  They placed a small stool behind the podium on which he was to stand and see over the podium.  As he was preparing to pray, he address the pastors conference with this:

Brothers, I trust that you all were as fascinated at our brother Timothy's lectures as I was.  I also trust that you will take what he has told us all to heart, and that you will return to your homes . . . utterly listless.

        If I may be of assistance to you, please don't hesitate to get in contact by clicking Here.

        Soli Deo Gloria!


Web posted:  April 5, 2002
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