"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering." (Romans 12:1, MSG)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor of love...

This weekend I spent some quality time with very dear friends and colleagues in ministry at a holy place (Warren Willis Camp) having holy conversations (seeking to connect ourselves with God's dreams for our church).  One particular passage kept entering my mind, from Jesus' prayer for his disciples in the garden before he was arrested:
"And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one." (John 17:11, NRSV)
Jesus obviously knew what he was praying when he asked for our protection and that we "may be one" as he is one with the Father.  I believe that Jesus prayed specifically for our oneness because achieving the kind of unity he had in mind is the most difficult work of the church in the world.  This is because we live in a culture where vast amounts of energy and resources are spent to stress what divides us, rather than celebrate what unites us.  An election year can sure go a long way toward helping you realize that disheartening truth. 

Stress, disunity, and tension are things that broken people bring with them from outside the church, as they come seeking refuge from the pain and suffering they have experienced in the world.  Little do they realize that if they stick around long enough, if they take the initiative to go deeper in their faith and get involved in the every day life of a community of faith, they may will one day experience stress, disunity, and tension inside the church.  This is where the real work of the church begins.

The church, as the body of Christ, must lead the way in demonstrating the sheer power and beauty of forgiveness and reconciliation.  If we can't get this right for ourselves, if we can't prove to those in our midst that relationships inside the church can be made whole even after they have been fractured, how can we possibly expect people to go home and restore relationships outside the church, such as broken marriages, broken relationships between parent and child, or broken lifelong friendships?

Jesus said this about reconciliation:
"So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come offer your gift." (Matthew 5:23-24, NRSV)
It seems to me that Jesus is saying, "Before you do anything else, if you have a relationship that is broken, go and deal with it... be reconciled."  As the church, we are called to do a great many things; but this passage leads me to believe that demonstrating forgiveness and reconciliation should top the list.  After all, isn't this the whole point of the gospel, the  very reason for God's saving work through Jesus Christ on the cross?   

Thankfully, I've experienced the power of forgiveness and reconciliation in relationships both inside and outside the church.  To be sure, this work of forgiveness and reconciliation was by far some of the most difficult and emotional work I've ever participated in.  But it was so worth it, proving to be a genuine labor of love.

As you rest today, I encourage you to pray for relationships in your life that may be suffering.  Then, go and be reconciled.

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