Here follows a short article I wrote for our local community’s lenten season, focusing specifically on forgiveness:
This past weekend I spoke at a retreat; teaching from the first four chapters of Ephesians, in the second talk we looked at Paul’s second chapter to the church at Ephesus. He continues to remind his friends that the purpose of the Mystery Revealed was to bring about peace and unity to both the Jews and Gentiles. If this same letter applies to our lives today, then how are we, as a community also to experience peace and unity not only individually but corporately as well?
A young man in his mid-twenties came up to me afterwards with tears in his eyes: “My father left when I was just two years old, so I grew up without a dad. I’ve forgiven him and I have peace about the situation, but we don’t have unity – and I don’t think we ever will. Is that okay?” My heart broke for this friend: he obviously wanted to live in the reality of Jesus’ purpose of peace and unity, but when it came to his particular situation, he couldn’t see any way around it. I mused over in my own mind, instances of deep pain, whilst also wondering whom I’ve caused extreme pain to as well. Who do I need to forgive today? Who have I wronged that I need to simply apologize to and ask their forgiveness? Together we sat down, and as he told me more of his story, we walked through the pain together.
The truth is that Jesus does call us to forgive – 70 x 7 – and what an exorbitant amount of forgiveness that is, especially when the abandonment hurts deeply. And as a follower of Jesus, he is called to continue to forgive his earthly father, even when the tears well up in his eyes and the ache seems to physically lodge itself in his chest. In Ephesians 2, although Paul doesn’t then specifically address forgiveness, he does join together the themes of peace and reconciliation: you see, the wall of separation has been broken down, and in this new creation of humanity, peace is made, “…that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity” (Ephesians 2:14-16).
No longer are we divided, for Christ is our unifier! Together, we are new creations in him. Together, we experience his peace that surpasses all understanding because we then have been reconciled to God through Jesus’ work on the cross. For my friend, we ended our time resting in our big God; we thanked God for being the ultimate reconciler, and for reconciling our hearts to him, more than anything else. We thanked God that his own father has been given peace and reconciliation through Jesus as well. And we gave thanks for the peace and unity that is brought about through the god-man, even if it’s different from what the idyllic should be. Might the Mystery Revealed be your peace and your unity today, as he reconciles your heart to His.