So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation…
—2 Corinthians 5:17-18
Reconciliation is one of the toughest things Jesus asks us to do. It is hard to forget all of the hurt people have caused us, even when we are ready to forgive them, and move forward. Reconciliation requires more work than simply saying the words, “I was wrong and I’m sorry,” and “I forgive you.” It requires vigilance, and to truly see one another as a new creation, not as the same old people we were before. And it means that we have to keep ourselves from falling into old patterns – of quickly snapping at someone who has hurt us, but who is trying to be different. We have to let people be new.
How many times in an argument with a loved one does all the stuff you both did in the past come up? This is the sort of obstacle we have to avoid when we want to live into new lives. Because if you forgive someone, but then hold onto the old junk that happened, you are the one mired in that old life – you can’t see the other person in a new light, and you are also not living a new life. It’s repeating the past, which is like eating leftover meatloaf from last week – it tastes bad and will probably make you sick.
This is not to say that everything old is bad. Fine wines are often best when aged. But we cannot live on fine wines alone. The Hebrew and Greek scriptures are life-giving, but only when we can understand them in our own words, and apply them in our lives today. Holding onto old hurts and grudges is not life-giving. In fact, holding on to grudges turns you into the person you are condemning, someone who hurts others out of your own pain.
We need to choose new life instead. Like a garden needs to be weeded regularly, our hearts and minds need to be tended, pulling out the weeds of petty arguments and sharp words, so that love, kindness and trust can grow. So if you are living out reconciliation with another person or a group of people, try to see them through the eyes of love first. You will see whether or not they have been transformed through God’s grace and forgiveness. If they continue to behave in the old, hurtful ways, you can still be reconciled to them by keeping your heart kind and peaceful – hoping the best for them, but simply choosing not to engage them anymore. This stuff is not easy. Jesus never said it would be. It is the hardest thing in the world. And it is the most rewarding.
Reflect: Do you tend to hold grudges? Do you forgive easily? What does it, or would it, look like to forgive every person who hurts you, and keep working at it?
Notes are from A Heart for Reconciliation, by Megan Hansen and Michael Rinehart. Available on Amazon, it offerers daily readings through 2 Corinthians.
The texts for the six weeks in the Narrative Lectionary are as follows.
- 5/22/2016: 2 Cor 1:1-11, Consolation
- 5/29/2016: 2 Cor 2:1-10, Forgiveness
- 6/5/2016: 2 Cor 4:1-15, Treasure in Clay Jars
- 6/12/2016: 2 Cor 4:16—5:10, Walk by Faith not Sight
- 6/19/2016: 2 Cor 5:11-21, Reconciliation
- 6/26/2016: 2 Cor 8:1-15, Generosity