Lesson for the week of Nov. 6: Reconciliation start with God, self, others and the world
By VICKY BRANTLEY and JOHN BRANTLEY
Scripture: Matthew 5:17-26
Dear God, Teach me not to compartmentalize you. Amen.
The Sermon on the Mount material is taught in the context and common experience of our faith community. The collection of parables and lessons instructs disciples both now and then how to live as people of God in the world. There is a strong temptation to segregate our living. We have one self at work or in public. We have another persona in our home life, and maybe a different self when we are at church. The new avenues of social media on the Internet give people yet another voice and perception. Each of these different masks or layers is shaped by different relationships and contexts. The heart of the lesson this week is working to live and be with everyone the same true self we are before God.
Righteousness Can Exceed the Professionals
In most cases, there is a vast difference between being right and being righteous. Jesus pleads with us in this parable to live on a foundation of what is God-like thinking and behaving. Our goal is neither to become God nor to be perfect, but to more perfectly follow God’s example of living that we see and hear in Jesus Christ.
The leaders and teachers of the day were committed to vocations being the best. Much like the old slogan “Be all you can be,” Jesus was teaching a new model and standard, “Be all God can make you become.” Our spiritual profession is to become God’s people rather than pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. That only gives witness to what we can do. Our work is to trust God to help us become the people God needs us to be.
It is said that in the Highlands of Scotland, a sheep would often wander off into the rocks and get into places that they couldn't get out of. The grass on these mountains is very sweet and the sheep like it, and they will jump down 10 or 12 feet, and then they can't jump back again, and the shepherd hears them bleating in distress. They may be there for days, until they have eaten all the grass. The shepherd will wait until they are so faint they cannot stand, and then they will put a rope around him and pull him up out of the jaws of death. Why don't they go down there when the sheep first gets there? They are so foolish; they would dash right over the precipice and be killed. And that is the way with us; we often won't go back to God till we have lost everything. The Good Shepherd brings you back the moment you have given up trying to save yourself and are willing to let Him save.
First seek reconciliation
The business of reconciliation is seldom about what is fair. The healing of broken relationships, trusts, and promises begins when someone takes the first step of faith to extend grace, hope and new life. It is rare that the injured party initiates the healing process. Many folks waste years of passive-aggressive acts hoping to find justice, favor or to get even. Don’t wait for someone else to go first; you lead the way toward forgiveness. Jesus goes first in working to reconcile us and becomes the model for us to share with each other. General Oglethorpe once said to John Wesley, "I never forgive and I never forget." To which Wesley replied, "Then, Sir, I hope you never sin."
Reconciliation is not always easy. When opposing forces become so ingrained in one’s point of view, it is often difficult to get persons to see a matter from another’s perspective. When other people take a long time to do something, they're slow; when we take a long time, we're thorough. When they don't do something, they're lazy; when we don't, we're too busy. When they succeed, they're lucky; when we do, we deserve it.
Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, was reminded one day of a vicious deed that someone had done to her years before. But she acted as if she had never even heard of the incident. "Don't you remember it?" her friend asked. "No," came Barton's reply, "I distinctly remember forgetting it."
A penny for your hearts
Driving 10 miles to save two cents per gallon of gas may help us mentally justify our membership in a shopping club. Finding and sharing righteousness is a “Don’t miss the forest for the trees” kind of a thing. The wisdom of Jesus says: come to terms with what is at stake. If it’s your life, don’t get stuck trying to be right, justified, forgiven, loved or made whole and lose yourself and your neighbor or a friendship in the process. God wants you to have these things in the first place. Receive the gift, let your self go and let God lead.
John Wesley said, “Suppose we cannot reconcile all the children of God to each other, however let us do what we can; let us contribute, if it be but two mites towards it.” Anyone committed to reconciliation must be about finding understanding with God and oneself, others and the world.
Take Action Write or call someone who you wish would offer you forgiveness and share his or her response with your class next week
“Help us accept each other as Christ accepted us; teach us as sister, brother each person to embrace.” Hymn #560 United Methodist Hymnal