Shame And Grace Part 19 - A Reconciliation Message

Nov 29

Shame And Grace Part 19 - A Reconciliation Message

Fri, 11/29/2013 - 06:38 — Thabo Mokete

There is the kind of message that comes suddenly, unexpected and too wonderful for words. Especially when it is the thing that one has desperately needed to hear for so long. Such is the message of reconciliation when it comes.

It finds us in a state of need. It comes at the hour when one feels a split within. A sense of having gone far astray from the ideal path, of having violated something, or even of failure. There are hostilities going on, even if quietly. To be human is to experience this state of things within at one time or another.

It is mostly the area of religion that tends to display the human hunger for forgiveness and restoration at the core. Various religions have for the longest time addressed the same point of concern in the soul of a human being: Separation and guilt. 

Many of them sacrificed (some still do) sheep, goats, cattle and whatsoever maybe offered to higher powers, in a quest to be forgiven and restored.

The most wonderful thing began to appear, however. From as early as 2000 years ago, writers of the New Testament books wrote in different ways, but all shared one view: God has already sent such a message to the world, of making things right with human beings.1 This message was revealed ultimately through the Christ.

It said that God Himself, has already reconciled the world to Himself.2 What remains is for the world to come home. When put this way, it is clearly pointless to try and do anything in order to be forgiven or to earn the right to be restored to favour with the gods or God. It is done!

This is to say that even though we cannot change the things that happened yesterday, God's act of reconciliation creates a new meaning to them. Though we remember them, the blame, the judgement and guilt associated with them is removed. They don't count. They have been taken care of. Cancelled.3

Overcoming the separation

In the moment of reconciliation, separation is overcome. We are forgiven, and brought back home to God and to life.4
When such a message breaks into our world, we realize it goes against our usual order. It performs a kind of surgery in our thinking. It has either come or it has not come.

When Jesus tells the story of son who was lost and found,5 we see the message trickling through to the son after he has lost everything he thought he had. It came on him, as if out of nowhere. He realized beyond a doubt that he was lost, that he had strayed and sinned against heaven and his father. However, he still had the idea that he had to become a servant and earn the right to be in that household. That part is our usual way of thinking.

What Jesus does though, He brings in the radical nature of the message as the son appears over the horizon to his father's house. The father runs to him before he has said anything. The father has forgiven! Already. That is mind-blowing. He embraces his son. The son has rehearsed his speech of apology, and regret, and is indeed sincere about it. But the father does not even let him complete the speech. The fact that the son has come home is a cause for celebration.

When we open up and confess the wrongs we know we have done, we are not doing anybody else a favour. It is never a performance to earn forgiveness. By expressing our consciousness of guilt, we release it and lay it in capable hands. This frees up our minds to receive the forgiveness that has already taken place.

We realize one more thing. Reconciliation is not religion at all. It is a ministry for all human beings who experience separation and guilt.2 It is the Creator's act of bringing to Himself His own beloved creation. Whether we say we are religious or not religious, we are all expected home.

One way or the other, when have a sincere desire for forgiveness and restoration, life will bring us to that place where we hear the message of reconciliation. It may be through religion, therapy, a relationship, pain, failure, loss, self-inquiry or a combination of such.

What we are coming to here is that the work of religion, psychology or self-enquiry is done when we experience the forgiveness and reconciliation that has come.

We must all come to the place where we hear the message the Creator has given, of making things right with us. That place is called understanding.

Thus, the tragedy is no longer that people have sins, but that they do not hear the message.
But we cannot hear the message as long as we think we can defend ourselves and make things right.
For as long as we think we have done the right thing, we have no need of being forgiven.
For as long as we think we can punish ourselves to atone for the things we did, we cannot be re-established and be at peace. For no amount of suffering can ever make things right, since the separation will still be there.
For as long as we are in denial about the sickness that is taking place within, we are not in a position to hear.
For as long as we think we must keep certain laws and rules to be acceptable, the mind is dirty and we have missed the message.
As long as we think that we can and actually do get away with murder, we have not had the stroke of grace. We are not in a position to hear any message of reconciliation.

That is how we will know we are hearing the message, when we start living free from the guilt of the past, regardless of current consequences. In the same instance when we let others go free from the wrongs they have done against us.6 Just as it is in love, we know we are receiving it from the source when we give it to others. We instantly become agents of reconciliation ourselves.7 That is how mind-blowing it is to hear the message.

The reconciled become reconcilers
Thus the message is not only that the wrongs we did are cancelled, but also that the wrongs done against us are also cancelled.  For in the moment of reconciliation, the distinction between the forgiver and the forgiven disappears. Hostilities cease.4
 
This reconciliation is universal. It brings us together with God, with life, with our own selves. It becomes possible, as people say, to “forgive yourself and move on”. We begin to see and understand not to destroy the things we care about. For in our unreconciled state, the very things we care about become targets of our hostilities.

As Paul Tillich pointed out, even the section of life we call our 'loved ones" is one place where hostilities tend to burn secretly in the heart.4 To receive the message of reconciliation is to be reconciled to all these also. It is to begin a lifestyle and freedom of being in a world of forgiven people, beginning with ourselves.

Ultimately, all the wrongs in the longest list do not count. What matters is are we hearing that message? Are we coming home where we belong?


References:

1. Colossians 1:19 -21
2. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19
3. 2 Corinthians 5:17,19, John 8:11
4. Tillich, Paul. The New Being. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1955. http://www.religion-online.org/showbook.asp?title=375 .
5. Luke 15:11-32
6. Matthew 6:14-15
7. 2 Corinthians 5:20

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