Monday, October 26, 2015

This Ministry of Reconciliation

Ours is the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18, a frequent mention in yesterday’s sermon).  It doesn’t seem like the church believes that though. Too many of us are as full of grudges, resentment, and hostility as nonbelievers. There’s something seriously wrong with that. There's a leak in the dam, and it's leaving us lonely and separated, tearing us apart. Church, we're better than this.

We are one Body, but we walk around like islands (some bigger, more deserted, or harder to find than others). We ignore that vital truth of our oneness. What’s wrong with me is what’s wrong with you.  What’s wrong with you is what’s wrong with me—because we are one Body. Christ is the only Head of the only one Body. It is the work of the enemy to make us exclusive from one another. As much as God desires reconciliation and healthy relationship, the enemy desires utter devastation.  "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10).  Let that make us hate our defeated foe enough to yank any success from him.
  • Don't judge me because my sin is different from yours.
  • Our past mistakes are meant to guide us, not define us. 
  • How many of you have deeply offended someone? How many of you meant to?
  • Don't desire that I grovel. Desire my restoration and healing.
  • If you're feeling animosity toward someone, redirect it at God, because He's the one who allowed it to touch your life. Nothing of any eternal good comes from making it a horizontal thing. If you have a beef with anyone, ask Him what He wants to do with it in your life. Make it vertical.  There's the eternal good.
  • Deny your "self", that natural man of our flesh. True discipleship requires it. We cannot understand spiritual things apart from our spiritual selves, the self God indwells and communes with.
Acknowledge the log in your own eye before you stone me.  Take up His heart, join hands with me, and dive into the wondrous grace of this ministry of reconciliation that is ours. He gave it to us, and He only gives good and perfect gifts. Embrace it. Own it. Model it. Promote it. Withhold from the enemy yet another victory.

From Corrie ten Boom:

‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,’ he was saying, ‘I was a guard there.’ No, he did not remember me.

'But since that time,’ he went on, ‘I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein,’ again the hand came out—‘will you forgive me?’

And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow, terrible death simply for the asking?

It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’

I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.

And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘… Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’

And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’

For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then.

This glorious story of forgiveness and reconciliation from the life of Corrie ten Boom gripped me from the moment I heard it, and I knew I wanted it emblazed in the marble of my character (not saying that's a finished project, mind you).  I have experienced both sides of the miracle of extending a wooden hand and having it become an arm of forgiveness in full and genuine measure. She was an incredible, imperfect human who believed God at His word, and the fragrance of her faith still perfumes this needy world.