2 Corinthians 5.17-21: . . . anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. . . All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. . . God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you. (The Message)
Reconciliation: The Fruit of Forgiveness
1. A gift – it is not deserved or earned. It is given.
2. A sacrifice – forgiveness costs the giver.
3. A humbling – to receive forgiveness is to be humble. So too giving forgiveness can be humbling. Hubris will not do it. Pride cannot receive it.
4. A work – something we do rather than something we think.
Knowing what forgiveness is – a sacrificial gift humbling to receive, costly to give, the work and the will together, the question remains, what is the fruit, the result, of forgiveness?
We forgive and receive forgiveness, is because God has so commanded. This is obedience. Have no doubt about it: if you are refusing to forgive, you are disobeying God.
Next, we forgive because it is in our own best interests to do so. In his Yom Kippur sermon, a rabbi spoke about the importance of forgiveness – of seeking it and granting it: “Jewish law requires a person to ask for forgiveness three times—it must be genuine, heartfelt and inspired by true remorse. If the wronged individual does not forgive after three sincere attempts, then the person who did the wrong is forgiven and the one not forgiving becomes guilty and now needs to ask for forgiveness for not forgiving.” Forgiveness is so important, so crucial, to the community of humanity, that to refuse to extend it when asked for is to take on the sin of the one seeking the forgiveness.
We forgive and are forgiven because it is in the interests of the one doing the harm to be forgiven. It is an act of freeing from bondage and captivity – theirs as well as ours.
Ultimately – the very reason God commands forgiveness, is that we may be reconciled – to God, to ourselves, to the world.
Forgiveness is the agency of reconciliation – cosmic rather than individual or even collective – the work of heaven and all creation.
We are creatures made to live with others. God has created all of this in such a way that what we do affects heaven as much as what heaven does affects us.
We are all in this universal boat together. Reconciliation, the fruit of forgiveness, is the essential grease to the machinery of our lives together. Without reconciliation, someone’s going to get kicked out of the boat. Equilibrium is lost. And the boat sinks.
Sometimes reconciliation looks like two estranged people coming back together into a relationship better than ever before. Sometimes it means mom and dad stay divorced, but they quit fighting and start caring about the feelings, needs and desires of the other parent as much as their own.
Sometimes reconciliation means visiting the one who murdered your loved one in prison. Or loaning your most bitter enemies money in order to rebuild their countries, as in the Marshall Plan following World War II.
Sometimes reconciliation means sharing your very best secret deer stand with the brother who never shared a single toy with you. And being glad to do it.
It isn’t easy. But it’s necessary. Our world is crumbling in on itself for the want of some reconciling hands reached out in the hope, the dream, that things might be otherwise.
Beginning with ourselves, recall basic commonalities to all the possibilities of reconciliation:
1. Reconciliation means seeing the other person as a human being who is as loved and cherished by God as are you and treating them – broken, hurt and hurting them – accordingly.
2. It means being open to the possibilities of a new relationship beyond your wildest imaginings – which also means being open to the possibility of being hurt again.
3. Reconciliation means understanding, accepting and even embracing as good that we are all in this boat together and that we are all essential to the boat’s not sinking – none are expendable, not even those who have done me the most harm.
4. Reconciliation means living in to the reality that redemption is the way – the only way – for humanity to survive and thrive on this planet. As Abraham Lincoln once famously said, “a house divided against itself cannot stand”. To be unreconciled is to live in a permanently divided house, which is to say, no house at all.
As Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians, we are made new . . . we have been given a fresh start . . . that start comes with a challenge: don’t bring the old hurts, the old wounds, the old grievances with you into this new life. . .
God has entrusted God’s message of reconciliation to us! It is an extraordinary gift.
Isn’t it time and past time to drop our differences . . . roll up our sleeves and get busy doing the work – the work of making things right between us?
That, after all, is why we are here.