Reconciliation is a difficult topic. We all have broken relationships within our families, long-time friendships ended over a disagreement, congregations that have been fractured for years over old slights and grievances. To have broken relationships is to be human. To endeavor to heal them, is to be a Christian.
Desmond Tutu, in commenting about South Africa’s notable “Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” once remarked that, “There is no future without forgiveness.” While holding onto a grievance insists on looking backward, forgiveness looks with hope toward a new future. Indeed, forgiveness holds the possibility of creating something entirely new for ourselves and for the world. This is what Paul was speaking about here in referring to God’s “new creation.” This is the new reality God creates in offering reconciliation to us and that we continue to create by offering that reconciliation to others.
We all know that forgiveness can be hard. We may find ourselves, at times, saying, “I just don’t have it in me to forgive.” Michael Lindvall notes, however, that at such times we should note that “in me” is not the only place to look for such strength. We commit to forgive others because God forgave us. We can ask God for strength to forgive. We can also, as Paul states, “regard no one from a human point of view,” and instead recognize those we have difficulty with as forgiven children of God.
However, it is useful to note that reconciliation does not always smell like roses. It is rare for a truly broken relationship to heal without scars. The healing that comes may also be incomplete. I have a pastor friend who told me about a remarkable graveside service he officiated. The deceased was a man who had done many awful things to his family and friends. As the immediate family stood around the grave, there was silence. After a few moments, one of them spoke for all present saying, “Dad was a blankety blank son of a blank, but we loved him anyway.” This strikes me as epitomizing the forgiveness Christian people are called to offer. This kind of forgiveness is offered without the precondition of an apology or an act of penance. It is offered regardless of whether or not the other person reciprocates. It is the faithful response to our own experience of God’s love that says, “I love you anyway.”
Here’s the sermon.
2 Corinthians 5:11-21
Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences.
We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 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; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.