The studies in this book examine challenges we face as we try to forgive and reconcile with those who have hurt us. Let’s face it–sometimes it’s easier to be hurt or angry, to hold onto our sense of justice and pride, rather than let go. But both forgiveness and reconciliation are disciplines necessary for the spiritual health of individuals and communities. In practicing them, we see the reality of God’s forgiveness and his offer of reconciliation to us.
This series of posts will follow my inward thoughts as I go through the book chapter by chapter working through the ideas listed above.
“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! … If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?”
Matthew 5:43-44, 46-47
For better or for worse, there are a handful of people that have put me through a lot of pain. Whether it be direct insults, behind-the-back whispers, or betraying actions, those people have stabbed me in the heart in one way or another. Afterwards, taking the high road—the merciful, loving road Jesus calls us to follow—seems nearly impossible. So when Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, I’m less than thrilled. While I’m not usually one to get offended and hold a grudge, when someone really hurts me that wound tends to stick with me. As I mentioned in a previous post, I can barely stay mad at anyone for more than 5 minutes, so if my heart is hurt, it means a lot of damage has been done.
Luckily, the chapter I read in Reconciliation this week offered an insightful and encouraging response to my doubts about forgiving those people who stabbed me in the back. The chapter says, “By asking us—by commanding us—to do the impossible, Jesus renders every member of his Kingdom helpless. Everyone is in need of God’s grace…. How do we do the impossible? How do we love our enemies? How do we reconcile with our enemies, which doesn’t allow us to love them from afar? The answer is deceptively simple: We can do it only by the grace of God.” While we have to try to love our enemies, the only one who can give us the strength and peace to do so is the Lord. Only through relying upon him will we be able to accomplish this impossible task.
I find this fact somewhat consoling as I look toward a future full of painful reconciliations to come. Thankfully, I’m not alone. God will guard my heart, Jesus will hold my hand, and the Holy Spirit will fill my mind and mouth with just thoughts and pure words.
To conclude this blog post, I’d like to invite you to pray with me for our enemies. For just a few minutes after reading the rest of this post, close your eyes and ask the Lord to give you the strength to be merciful and compassionate to those who have hurt you. If that’s too difficult to do (and there’s no shame in that), you can join me by reading Matthew 5:43-48.
Afterwards, if you feel comfortable, comment on this post with your thoughts or stories about forgiveness and what helps you forgive your enemies.