Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Reconciliation--An Interesting Doctrine

Some friends and I are working through Cloud and Townsend's book, How People Grow. This book written from a Biblical standpoint helps me understand the process of spiritual growth. As a new believer I was often frustrated because I thought when I got saved I was instantly going to be changed into the person God had created me to be, but it didn't happen. I still struggled with sin, with negative thoughts and emotions, and with maladaptive ways of dealing with hurtful memories and hurtful relationships. This caused me, a perfectionist, to struggle with a lack of assurance of my salvation. My imperfections, the ugly and hate-filled thoughts that sometimes passed through my head made the person I longed to be seem out of reach. We eventually landed in a great Bible teaching church and fellowshipped with loving, godly believers several times a week. These transparent people talked often about how to rightly handle the word of God and how to apply it to our lives. I grew in my relationship with God, my assurance of salvation, and in my relationships as I began to understand the process of sanctification. When we began working through the book, I was struck by how much the doctrine of reconciliation plays out in the gospel and in our growth as believers. I was also struck by the fact that through the gospel we are not only reconciled to God, but to others and to ourselves as well. 

To understand reconciliation, we need to remember God created us to be relational with Him and with each other. In the Garden Adam and Eve enjoyed a pure, unadulterated relationship with God and with each other--a relationship that was open, vulnerable, and without any shame. When they sinned, their relationship with God became fractured and they became alienated from God. Colossians tells us bluntly that we, too, became enemies of God as demonstrated by our thought life and by our evil behaviors. By their choices, Adam and Eve also fractured their relationship as was shown by their feelings of shame and the desire to cover their nakedness. As Cloud and Townsend put it, their  vulnerability and intimacy was replaced by alienation, unfairness, adversity, and a whole lot of dishonesty. We don't have to read very far into Genesis to see the truth of that. And in their attempt to become like God they became fractured people who were actually less of themselves. 

As believers, we know we are reconciled with God through faith in Jesus Christ. Paul in his letter to the Philippians tells us we are to work out our salvation. When I read the words "work out" I was so  relieved because I realized this thing called Christian growth isn't an instantaneous thing, it is a process that takes time and energy. It is what I call practical reconciliation with God, with ourselves, and with each other. 

Practical reconciliation with God occurs as we read His word and interact with Him over it. Sometimes it is reading narratives of how God and His Son related to people and looking for His interaction in our own lives. Sometimes it is meditating on passages of Scripture and asking Him questions about them and waiting for the Holy Spirit to teach us the deeper things we miss on our own. Sometimes it is praising Him for His attributes and for being a God who actively and passionately pursues broken people. Sometimes it means being radically honest with Him when we are struggling to trust Him or when we are struggling with issues of sin and find ourselves wanting to hide from Him or cast blame on others as Adam and Eve did. It is being radically honest about the feelings we experience, both positive and negative, and reframing our circumstances and suffering through the lens of His truth and His loving, compassion. 

Reconciliation with others begins to occur when we are in a right relationship with God. It living out the "one another" verses contained in the Scripture--love one another, live in harmony with one another, do not judge one another, forgive one another, instruct one another, greet one another, do not deprive one another, submit to one another, and comfort one another. And, these one another's are just the beginning, there are many others contained in the Word. Practical reconciliation can also mean choosing to stay present and involved when relationships becomes difficult. It can mean separating from some people, leaving the possibility for relationship open once sin and hurtful behaviors are acknowledged and changed. Practical reconciliation lived out well is important, because iron sharpens iron and if we hide and run from the hard of relationships we won't grow. It is also important because the world is watching the church and if we can't love one another and work through the hard, why would they want what we have? 

Reconciliation with ourselves is a new idea to me. The Scriptures instructs us to love God and to love others as we love ourselves. Over the years I have heard pastors say we all love ourselves and I remember thinking, "If I loved my children the way I love myself, I would be sitting in a jail cell right now." I have come to believe our ability to love ourselves was as fractured by the Fall as our ability to love God and others was. For me, practical reconciliation with myself included things like learning about my identity in Christ and replacing my identity as a victim of trauma with that. It included learning about the depth of God's love and trusting it even in the face of the hard, the aftermath of sin and shame, and the midst of prayers that seemed to be unanswered. It included spending time with Christian therapists who did not judge me, but gave me a safe place to share the shameful parts of my story, my life, and myself. It also meant learning how trauma had impacted my views, thoughts, choices, reactions, and actions so I could choose to move out of victimhood, learn to love my enemies, and refuse to let Satan use my suffering to keep me from experiencing God and His joy. It meant leaning in to the very things Satan had used to try to destroy me so God could display His glory and healing power in my life. That was what helped God's love become a driving force in my life instead of past trauma. The doctrine of reconciliation is an interesting doctrine as it helps us understand more about God's infinite love and grace.           

No comments:

Post a Comment


Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!