Tumbling in the Sand
The texts for Sunday, March 10, 2013: Joshua 5:9–12; Psalm 32; 2 Corinthians 5:16–21; and Luke 15:1–3, 11b–32
“that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.” – 2 Corinthians 5:19
Reconciliation. This is the kind of thing that makes forgiveness seem easy. Forgiveness is just the act of acknowledging some action was wrong, but that you not going to hold to full account the person who committed it, even though it was wrong. It does not restore the relationship. It might open the door for such a thing, but it does not guarantee it. In fact, a lot of people like to think of forgiveness as a way of freeing one’s self from resentment and hurt, but that such forgiveness has little to do with the one forgiven… and perhaps there is something to that, but it isn’t really the point of forgiveness. Forgiveness is only part of the process that is supposed to occur. Forgiveness is the first step in reconciliation.
Reconciliation is about finding a new relationship after it has been broken. Reconciliation is about healing. It always involves some sort of forgiveness. It almost always involves some sort of restitution—not as a way to fix things (because in the case of so many of our broken relationships, nothing we do will fix things), but as a means of demonstrating a good-faith effort at some sort of restoration. And reconciliation involves the slow rebuilding of trust.
I kind of envision reconciliation to be kind of like physical therapy after a serious injury. I don’t think the body will ever be the same, exactly, but sometimes (if you work hard enough at it and are lucky) things can actually become stronger in the long run. I also don’t think the scars ever exactly go away, but they become a natural part of who we are. I also am pretty sure that it takes a long time before the pain is forgotten and real healing occurs. Maybe it doesn’t even fully ever occur in this life time.
It seems a hard ministry to be entrusted to us—this work, this message, of reconciliation. It seems the kind of work that requires infinite patience, great understanding, and amazing love. Things that we are often short on (or at least I am). I am humbled to think that Christ left this work to us—and that I am to participate in God’s reconciliation of the whole creation. I am also made acutely aware of all the ways that life is so counter to this reconciliation.
Like drone strikes, for instance.
Or war, in general.
Or our in-“justice” system.
Or my dependence upon goods mass-produced in nearly slave-labour situations.
Or the way food comes from half way around the world so that I have almost no intimate connection to the earth that feeds me.
Or…well, I could go on. Any situation that separates us and damages relationships with each other and creation is working counter to the work of reconciliation. I’m sure you could think of more without much difficulty.
So, I guess as I read Paul’s words, I am left to stand in awe and wonder at God’s work of reconciliation in my life…that amazing, radical love that reaches out to restore me—despite all that I do and do not do. And then, I am left to wonder … what does reconciliation look like in these broken places? How do I speak with my words and my life the message of reconciliation there? What does God’s sustaining love call me to as my heart turns toward the broken world?
Featured image: “Reconciliation” by Edna Watson. Taken from http://www.channelone.com/news/specials/gal_aborig_art_paint/4/ Information about the painting is as follows: “A contemporary painting by a darug (Aboriginal tribe) elder (Edna Watson) The painting expresses the diverse groups that have come to Australia with the Aboriginal people in the center. The circle represents reconciliation and the hands are pointing inwards and outwards as if they are joined. The central circle shows a broken earth, meaning the process of reconciliation is unfinished.”