Tag: Reconciliation

A Lament for Today

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I lament for us today,
because fear motivated us more than love;
because we stopped seeing our brothers and sisters created in the image of God;
because the Golden Rule did not apply to our opponents.

Now, the greatest call of followers of Jesus is to become agents of reconciliation.
Our Savior brought us who were far from Him near, so that we might do the same for our neighbors.

The Good News of the Gospel motivates us
to give a voice to the voiceless;
love our enemies;
forgive those who hurt us;
extend grace to each other;
because Jesus has done this for us.

Let our laments turn to confession and listening.
May our hearts soften in compassion for each other.

Amen

Photo credit by Matthew Henry.

Breaking Bread

My Grandma grew up in New York City during the Great Depression. She developed a toughness in speaking her mind and defending what she considered right. Her life changed when she began to follow Jesus; radical grace complemented tough, gritty truth.

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The church I grew up attending had a special communion service. Fresh loaves of bread sat out in the front of the sanctuary. The pastor gave instructions to take the bread and find a person who you might have offended or needed to forgive. It became a tangible way for the church to practice forgiveness as Jesus taught.

On that particular night, Grandma approached the front. She took the loaf and turned to the pastor, “I have felt bothered and upset at you, and I would like to ask for forgiveness.” As they broke bread together, tears began to roll down their faces.

I have heard that story from my Grandma a dozen times. When she talks about that pastor, I can hear her admiration for him. It has become a powerful picture to me of forgiveness.

Consider the night that Jesus gave communion to His disciples. He broke bread with a man who would betray him. Another person would deny him. Almost all of them would abandon him. After Jesus had resurrected, he broke bread with these very same people for their reconciliation. The Savior, who taught on forgiveness, practice it to the people who hurt him.

The Gospel motivates us to break bread because Jesus has graciously broken bread for us. Breaking bread means putting aside our desire for revenge. It moves us from bitterness to compassion. And in a simple act of eating to stay alive, we come to see that we all need grace from our Savior.

Imagine a community of people who sought reconciliation instead constant bickering. People would see the love of Christ at dinner tables and perhaps the literal act of breaking bread like my Grandma. Sometimes before our tough conversations, we simply need a meal together.

Who has God called you to break bread with today? Maybe, you can take the first step of reconciliation like what Jesus has done for you.

Photo credit by Mike Kenneally.

When to Walk Away

I have come to appreciate my wife Robyn’s wisdom. Often, people will ask for her perspective. It comes with a territory as a professional counselor. Last week, a person asked her about handling disagreements.

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As Robyn responded to the question, she shared a thoughtful piece of wisdom, “Sometimes in the heat of the disagreement, we need to kindly walk away and then plan on coming back to the conversation.”

Walking away from a conversation means recognizing gridlock, neither of us can hear the other in the present moment. So we agree to finish the conversation later in affirmation of each other. With a little time and perhaps even perspective from another we can have a more productive conversation.

How many times have we dug our heels into a disagreement? We defend our viewpoint. The other person supports theirs. No person moving towards the other in understanding, but, on the contrary, the debate escalates with no sign of working together.

Rather than digging our heels into the ground, we can learn the moment to walk away. Not out of anger, but out of the realization that sometimes both people need space. Then we can come back to the conversation with grace and understanding for each other.

Photo credit by Dan Gribbin.

Gossiping and Processing

People will frustrate us. Some might even hurt us. Miscues and miscommunications happen on a regular basis with our family and friends. It occurs intentionally or unintentionally. When we experience disappointments in relationships, we need a space to speak our mind.

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Speaking our mind about our relationships has to do with not only what we say, but how and why we say it. The difference becomes a matter of gossiping or processing. The space where we talk about our disappointments and frustrations of others can either leave us in resentment or moves us to maturity.

Jesus in Luke 6:45 says, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

The writers of Scripture do not run from the pain we experience from others. Rather their insight concerns what happens in our hearts. They focus on not taking revenge, letting unforgiveness fester, and pursuing peace. Jesus calls us to look into our hearts to recognize the unhealthy patterns of how we see others when they disappoint us.

Talking about the conflicts in our relationship deals with our hearts. We can fall into the trap of gossiping of others in unhealthy ways or learn to process the situation healthily.

What’s the difference between gossiping and processing? Here are four indicators of having the right motivation for speaking our mind in the midst of relationship conflict:

They vs. I

Gossiping makes the problem about the “other person.” It speaks in the third person and assigns motives to actions without knowing all the facts. On the other hand, processing uses “I” statements. These statements give the other person the benefit of the doubt, but more importantly, help separate feeling from reality. It’s not that our feelings do not matter, but often they do not give us the whole picture.

Shifting from “They” to “I” begins to help us see our part in the problem rather than blaming the other person.

Quantity vs. Quality

Simply put, gossip looks to broadcast the problem to as many people as possible, quantity. Processing pursues quality relationships and conversations. Quality relationships includes people who will listen well, but will give us the truth about the other person and our role in the problem.

Campaigning vs. Feedback

Closely aligned to the last indicator, gossiping campaigns. We share our relational problems with several people for them to side with us rather than the other person. Gossiping builds a case with an audience.

Processing looks for feedback. After speaking our mind, we start asking the question, “Am I seeing this person and situation rightly?” Processing wants to pursue growth and maturity. Gossiping remains in the same place.

Winning vs. Reconciliation

Gossiping makes the goal of winning. How do win the relational disappointment? We take revenge on the other person by airing our grievances with multiple people. Sometimes we hold a grudge against them. Inside our hearts, we have held on to bitterness.

Processing pursues reconciliation. When we want to discuss our relational problems with a close friend, they help us see the road to forgiveness and Christ at work in us. They tell us where we have gone wrong and help us give grace to the person who hurts us.

This week, you might experience disappointments in relationships. How you handle it reveals Christ’s work in your heart. Start by asking God for forgiveness for the times you responded in the wrong ways and for the grace to respond healthily in the future. Then identify the people in your life who will listen to you process and will help you see the reality of yourself and the other person through Christ.

What other differences do you see between gossiping and processing? Share in the comment section below.

Photo credit by Arnel Hasanovic.

Comebacks

Philadelphia loves the Flyers, Sixers, Phillies, and especially the Eagles. In living that area for seven years, I will never forget the summer of 2009. The Eagles signed Michael Vick to their team. He had just come out of prison for his role in dog fighting. His coming to the beloved Eagles had mixed reactions. Callers debated him on sports radio, and comment sections on online articles brought the discussion to the internet.

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Soon the season started, and Vick sat quietly on sidelines. Early in the 2010 season, Vick rose from a backup to starting quarterback. The Philadelphia fans embraced him. I would listen to the radio shows which once debated his arrival, now ecstatically cheer for him.

We love comebacks. Beyond the outrage of a person falling from grace, a part of us hopes for them to rise again. It’s not just in sports. Jean Valjean personifies it in Les Misérables. Bands after years of fighting will get back together. Some political figures even experience redemption.

Comebacks do not negate the evil perpetrated, but they call people to experience confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

Why do we embrace comebacks? Because these stories embody the Gospel. Whether we realize it or not, we identify with the person who falls from grace. Their worst moment displayed for all the world to judge. Grace surprises us. Rather than condemning, Christ forgives us and redeems us. Putting ourselves in someone like Vick’s shoes realizes our need for grace and mercy.

Chuck DeGroat, author and professor, recently shared a quote on January 25th by John Calvin in the Institutes saying this:

The image of God, which recommends him to you, is worthy of your giving yourself and all your possessions. It is that we remember not to consider men’s evil intention but to look upon the image of God in them, which cancels and effaces their transgressions, and with its beauty and dignity allures us to love and embrace them.

The idea of the image of God invites us to see others and ourselves as Christ sees us. Perhaps, this is why a falling out with a friend bothers us. We feel the need to right our wrongs. You and I long for freedom from guilt and shame. The hunger for forgiveness and reconciliation originates from God created us in His image.

Comebacks reveal the justice of wrongdoing, but the hope for redemption. You and I live in that tension. We look in the mirror recognizing our brokenness, but we find our value in the redemption God has given to us in creating and forgiving us. Experiencing the Gospel means realizing our comeback to the Father like the prodigal. Furthermore, seeing God’s grace bring comebacks in others.

In what ways do you hope to experience a comeback today?

Photo credit by David Straight.

MLK Day 2016: A Prayer

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Today, we remember the life and influence of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
His life embodied Your words on the Sermon on the Mount,
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
He had the audacity to believe that You bless those who repay evil with good, rather than evil.

Almost fifty years have passed since King’s death, and we still face similar issues.
At times, we have overlooked injustices.
We sometimes lack the compassion to walk in another’s pain.
Political affiliations separate us from each other.
It seems now more than ever; we need the peace that You offer.

Lord, forgive us.
Forgive us for not seeing each other as created in Your Image.
Forgive us for continuing the fight rather than seeking reconciliation.
Forgive us for not practicing presence by listening to others.
Forgive us for not moving towards each other in love.

The Gospel reminds us that You bring peace.
Though sin alienated us, You brought us near through Your grace.
Thus, You removed the wall that divides us from each other.
We stand at the same level at the foot of the cross.
We realize the message of the Gospel brings us closer to You and each other.
You are our peace.

Give us hearts motivated to bring peace.
Move us to have empathy for each other.
Teach how to extend the grace you have freely given to us to each other.
Let us love each other in words and deeds.

Prince of Peace rule in our hearts and lives.
Let us reflect on this day how to embody Your peace and reconciliation in remembering the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Photo credit by Michael Wilson.

An Advent Prayer for Peace

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This Advent season feels further and further from Silent Night.
All seems far from calm.
All seems far from bright.
The darkness of tragedy engulfs us.
Our pain reminds us of the brokenness of the world.
Peace can be hard to come by.
Debates upon debates consume conversations.
You have seen and heard our infighting and arguments.
We worry about the future and anxiety fills our thoughts.

The Prophet Isaiah refers to You as the Prince of Peace.
The Gospel writers recount You calming the storms.
Paul describes you in Ephesians as One who preaches peace to those near and far away.
Lord, in this season of Advent, we ask for Your peace.

We ask You for the forgiveness of our sins.
We confess being strife-makers and not peacemakers.
At times, fear has motivated us more than the Good News of the Gospel.
Sometimes our words have lacked kindness and compassion.
Give us the grace to see others, even our enemies, as You do.

Let us experience Your peace this season.
Teach us how to reconcile with each other as You have reconciled us with Yourself.
May the Incarnation remind us that You are with us, and You know our pain and weaknesses.
During this Advent season, make us peacemakers embodying Your humility, generosity, and meekness.

You are our peace.
In You, we have experienced grace and mercy.
Darkness cannot overshadow Your light.
Like the shepherds, we still need the message of “Fear Not” and the Good News of the Savior.

Photo credit by Dakota Roos.

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