THE Defining Mark of a Christian

Forgiveness Painting by Deborah Nell

Daily Reflection – 8/12/2020

Sacred Scripture

Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18: 15-20)

Reflection

The passage from Matthew was intended to give the early church guidance about how to deal with conflict and broken relationships. This was so important as the Church was in its infancy.

At the heart of this discourse lies the truly defining mark of a follower of Christ. In fact, it is truly part of the DNA left to us in and by Jesus Christ. It’s also the most overlooked, the most abused and he most freely interpreted. It is forgiveness.

Forgiveness is meant to be at the core of who we are, and to be honest with you, if we can’t do it between ourselves in the church, how can we ever be agents of reconciliation in the world? Some of the greatest sadness I bear is the memory of parishes filled with noble, forward thinking charitable people. Yet, there were so many who could not forgive, so many who wore a breastplate of wrongs done against them, so many who bore the weight of past emotional injustice. On the surface some were viewed as pillars of the Church. As I mounted the pulpit on Sundays, I saw the inner pain and lack of forgiveness in their faces while to their fellow parishioners, they were the backbone of the church. Why did that sadden me?

Because the inability to let go, to forgive and to move on leaves a tortured soul. And even more serious is that it is so contra to the teachings of Jesus Christ. It is so contra to His memory. It is so contra to the reason He suffered. He died so that we might live. He taught us that God deeply loves each lost sinner who strays away from. This divine love that forgives and saves should be manifested in our lives. God wants us to love as he loves, even loving those whose sins may have directly harmed us in some way. That is hard.  I know that. But it is the very essence of our faith,

Jesus isn’t interested in who is right or who is wrong. He only cares about getting a broken relationship fixed. Our concerns about who is right and who is wrong often lead to giving up on relationships with others. Our natural response is to wage war with the other person, but that’s not part of the blueprint God has for our lives-and that blueprint is His word in the bible.

When you are offended, are you willing to put aside your own grievance and injury in order to help your brother’s wound? The Lord Jesus wants to set us free from resentment, ill-will, and an unwillingness to forgive. The love of Christ both purifies and sets us free to do good to all – even those who cause us grief. The call to accountability for what we have done and have failed to do is inevitable and we can’t escape it, both in this life and at the day of judgment when the Lord Jesus will return. But while we have the opportunity today, we must not give up on praying for those who cause us offense. With God’s help we must seek to make every effort to win them with the grace and power of God’s healing love and wisdom.

When someone sins against us, we have to look beyond our pain. Indeed, we have to embrace that pain in the redemptive way that Christ shows on the cross. Jesus refuses no one who is open to receive pardon, healing, and restoration.

Prayer of The Day

“Lord Jesus, make me an instrument of your healing love and peace. Give me wisdom and courage to bring your healing love and saving truth to those in need of healing and restoration.”

Daily Note

The late Jack Layton expressed it so well in the last letter that he wrote to Canadians before he died. He wrote, “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So, let us be loving and optimistic, and we’ll change the world”. If we remember his words and the words of Jesus, especially when we are in conflict with our fellow man, we will change the world. Loving our neighbor fulfills any and every other divine command, for genuine love does no harm to its neighbor.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.