I’m not sure if we live in hard times or just a hard world. Haven’t the times before ours been hard too? I can at least conclude that we have our share of challenges as a country, a city, and a church. I keep looking to find God in the midst of it all.
I need to see Him working in the midst of this brokenness. Otherwise we have no hope to fight for tomorrow. So where is God in the midst of all this ugliness? Where is He in the disgusting acts that have stolen the lives of the innocent? Where is He when people write bitter words that cut at the humanity of others?
I think God is near in this time of trouble (Psalm 46:1).
A man named Simeon once told Mary that through Jesus the “thoughts of many hearts will be revealed” (Luke 2:35). Today the true thoughts of peoples hearts are on full display. The ugliness of brokenness was already there but now it’s being displayed through a new medium–social media. Videos now expose candid moments that would have gone unseen in the past. And written posts give a snapshot of peoples thoughts toward others. Many times it can all be ugly.
But it’s when we see the brokenness of our hearts that we realize we need healing. What have the challenges revealed about your heart? How is God working to heal you in that place of brokenness?
The word reconciliation can be perceived as a passive path around conflict. I’ve learned that it is the costliest path through conflict and toward healing. Reconciliation comes at a cost…are we willing to pay it?
In my personal life I’ve recently been reconciled to my dad. Prior to this year I had 2-3 encounters with my dad throughout my life. His decisions and actions have caused great pain in my family. When I received a letter from a man I hadn’t seen in 10 years I didn’t know how to respond. I knew I had every right to be angry and lash out at him. But I had forgiven him long ago when I didn’t want to his decisions to limit my future.
So I reached out to my dad and listened to his story. He shared his life challenges and his remorse for not being in my life. I held none of it against him though I had every right. For me the greatest gain wasn’t his remorse…it was my dad. My dad, with all his flaws and strengths was the greatest gain for me. Reconciliation comes at a cost…are we willing to pay it?
My faith in Jesus also teaches me a great reality about reconciliation. I believe that Jesus died for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God. The powerful truth of the Gospel of Jesus is that He died for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). God did not wait for us to agree with Him before He willingly paid the cost of reconciliation. Are we willing to be reconciled to our enemies or those who don’t agree with us? This comes at a greater cost than being reconciled to our friends…are we willing to pay the cost?
For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God
through the death of His Son,
much more, having been reconciled,
we shall be saved by His life.
I’ve realized that there are still strong feelings about race in Baltimore. Many conversations are focused on the topic of race but not aimed toward the goal of reconciliation. Recently I heard the term “zero-sum” and I did some research on its meaning. What I learned helped me understand how our assumptions about reconciliation impact our conversations about race. My hope is that the overall sum of our conversations of race will lead us to reconciliation. Here are three different approaches:
There are conversations filled with anger. The assumption is that there is very little space for common ground. These conversations tend to become arguments and neither person involved gains anything. The only true gain is determined by who loses the less ground for their argument. Overall there is a regress from reconciliation so this results in a negative-sum conversation.
There are also conversations filled with exchanges of pain. There is an assumption that in order for one person to gain something, then someone else must lose something. So in order for me to feel validated someone must feel remorse. There is an exchange of pain but there is no progress toward reconciliation. Overall steps toward reconciliation are stalled in blame. So it becomes a zero-sum conversation.
Finally, there are conversations filled with grace. There is an assumption that somehow there is enough healing to fully cover the deep layers of pain. So each person fights for healing with courageous vulnerability. For each pain exchanged there is forgiveness offered. And every strand of forgiveness strengthens the bond of reconciliation. So it becomes a positive-sum conversation.
Which conversations will you lead?
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.