Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Vantage Point -- Preaching the gospel to ourselves.

Every great and deep difficulty bears in itself its own solution. 
It forces us to change our thinking in order to find it.
Niels Bohr 

It’s not always easy to say you’re sorry. After all it takes a deep introspection where we take a long look at our own sins and what it cost Christ to effect such a great reconciliation between God and me and humanity. And than again, we see ourselves the way we truly are. One thing we need to to always we need to preach the gospel to ourselves.
This proclamation to the self may just be the jumpstart that each of us needs to start engaging our neighbors and our co-workers with the message of God’s reconciling love in Jesus Christ for the first time. At the same time we may find ourselves all the more capable of re-inviting that friend, that sister or brother that we know we lost along the way. Because the point is not to invite someone in order for him to leave a broken world into a broken family.

I recall an incident some years back where I wanted to talk about the topic of forgiveness and reconciliation. I wanted to hear four different voices and so I asked four different people to look at some Scriptures, to think, to do some soul searching and to take up the challenge to speak/preach/share what God put on their heard. One person I asked was a retired pastor who after thinking for three weeks came back to me with these words; "Manfred, thank you very much for the opportunity but after praying and thinking, I have nothing to say! That came as a surprise and so I kept on listening. In the next half an hour or so he shared with me the hurt and feelings of anger he had in his heart regarding a former daughter in law, feelings he felt powerless to control. 

Jesus falls under the weight of the cross: I am trying to be mindful of perspective & vantage point; from whose perspective will WE be seeing the events unfold?...

I am trying to be mindful of perspective & vantage point; from whose perspective will WE be seen?

I think, many can sympathize with his older pastor, father, man and husband. Some may wonder how a pastor can hold on to anger, hold on to a grudge, to unforgiveness and is therefor incapable of reconciliation. I think that is a good and necessary question, if this question is turned towards us, towards me. Throughout my life I have seen people holding on to something other than grace, be it grudges, anger, pride, fear, you name it just like this old pastor.

God, however, never lets an opportunity be wasted. After the conversation I looked into my own life once again, searching for spots and moments in my life that were void of grace, forgiveness and most importantly of reconciliation. I found some and the older I get, I realize that all my "wisdom" does not make it easier to fill the emptiness with love. What I see other people doing, rationalizing broken relationships and even using Scripture to validate their reluctance for reconciliation it also in me. 

One of the reasons for our reluctance for reconciliation is that we would have to die to our ourselves, our evaluation of the person, or the situation and to clime the peril road of the cross to gain a vantage point other than my own.

Maybe some will remember the movie "Vantage Point" with Dennis Quiad and Forest Whitaker, although an action movie it shows the limitations of our vantage point to see the whole truth. What I got from that movie was that I need other peoples view, and time of reflection to have a better understanding of any given situation. I need to listen and to learn. We, however, tend to reject the need to learn and to listen because of our human nature of being in love with ourselves at the expense of being in love with others. What I realized in the story with the pastor that he and his family were not schooled in the arts of empathy, forgiveness and reconciliation. He, in fact the whole family I later learned, was caught in a no-win bind of emotional and moral foolishness, unable to extricate themselves from their mutual blame and recrimination of hurtful words and actions of the past. Forgiveness is indeed more complicated within family relationships in part by the ambivalent emotions we feel toward on another, that is true in both, the biological family as well as the church family. Another reason for the failure to forgive and repent is that we underestimate the subtle but powerful effects small negative feelings have on our love relationship. 

A grudge, a small resentment that never produces a vengeful deed. 

Art Lent 5 BWhen we hold a grudge against someone, it adversely affects our ability to a love relationship with him or her. It is a barrier to developing deep friendship that is built on trust and mutual respect. I might not even be aware that my grudge is causing me to hold back in any given relationship, it certainly prevents the development of goodwill. Our silent reactions to even minor offenses, filled away as memories, will over time affect a relationship. The sole reason for the biblical command not to hate [to have a negative emotion] your brother or sister in your heart [being silent], but instead to rebuke, is to give the other person the chance to reflect upon the bahaviour and the hurtful effect that it had with the hope that the relationship will be fully restored. Relationship is less about how you see the quality of the relationship, or what you yourself think about the action but how it affects the relationship. You may feel fully justified in your action, just as the old son in the story of the Prodigal son, but what mattered to the father was relationship restored.
 or your holy purposes
I mentioned that God never lets a teaching opportunity pass . . . he is teaching me that the worldly notion of irreconcilable differences within His relationships and therefore within His body does not exist. It also taught me that we have listened much more to the teaching of the world via movies and books than we like to admit. We live by the saying that life is too short to hold on to negative emotions and so we simply move on with life. But life is actually not too short, it is eternal and everything we move on from follows us. Life and the myriads of relationship it offers is too important to let grudges come in our way.       

Father, you have used all types of people f or your holy purposes:
prostitutes, murderers, persecutors, liars, thieves, swindlers,
the illiterate, the ignorant, the greedy, the blind, the lame,
and even the dead.
Grant me the grace to treat everyone I meet no matter what
the circumstances as someone for whom your son died and rose again. 
Let there be no unwholesome or unholy distinctions in my eyes
and no unworthy favouritism in my actions.
Rather, make me a vessel through whom your son shines.
In Christ's name I pray.     


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