Checking your baggage

My wife and I were recently in line to board a plane.  As we approached the lady scanning boarding passes was clearly anxious and irritated, “Did we check the size of your carry-on bag?  Put it in the ‘size-wise unit’ cause I don’t think it is gonna fit.”

I’m thinking, “Wow, you’re pretty uptight.  Seriously, these bags we bought were called ‘carry-on bags’ at the store.”  What actually came out of my mouth was “Sure, we’d be glad to.”  I nervously jammed the bags in, and smiled with a look of “Ok?” She scowled and waved us through.

I’ve often used the image of checking luggage as a picture of releasing past emotional issues in order to move forward.  There are certain items, primarily unforgiveness, which won’t fit under the seat or in the overhead bin if you’re gonna follow Jesus.

One of the disciples asked Jesus “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”  Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

He then went on to tell a story of forgiveness, and how holding on to unforgiveness would bring something like torture to your life (Matthew 18:34-45).

I’ve heard it said another way, unforgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die…

Unresolved issues of the past are like oversized baggage that will restrict spiritual progress and maturity.  It’s true in friendship, families, marriage and even churches.

As a pastor I see some people who live “one offense away from leaving” – moving from one church to another.  Every church is imperfect so the scenario ends up repeating.

That’s why in newcomer’s gatherings we talk about checking your baggage.  We challenge people coming from hurtful situations to go back and bring resolution whenever possible.  Maybe they’ve been hurt, offended, misunderstood or mistreated.  It can be very painful, and is impossible to avoid.

Some end up reconciling and returning to their previous church.  That’s a good thing!  Others experience a greater release and blessing.

We have to learn Ephesians 4:32  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Otherwise, we carry baggage into future relationships guaranteeing failure.

Sadly there aren’t “7 easy steps” to checking your baggage or being free from the past.

The stark reality is more like these “8 steps to checking your baggage”

  1. Forgiveness is hard work
  2. Saying “no” to gossip brings rejection
  3. Praying instead of complaining and reciting offenses requires restraint and courage
  4. Speaking the truth in love can cost you relationship
  5. Challenging others to go directly to the one who has offended them can elicit anger
  6. Letting go of the past means you can’t take revenge
  7. Keeping no record of wrongs requires daily focused prayer
  8. Making amends requires swallowing pride
We all need the loving support of others to take these steps.  But until we check those bags we can feel all alone.  Thankfully we aren’t!


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