Saturday, September 24, 2011

September 25, Proper 21: When Bad Things Happen to a Good Messiah; # 1 in a series, Kingdom Characters

Exodus 17:1-17, Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16, Philippians 2:1-13, Matthew 21:23-32

Last winter and spring I preached a series of sermons on the Kingdom of God, because the Kingdom of God is the great theme of the Gospel of Matthew. What is the Kingdom, what does it include, what life is like within it, how do we see it, how do we seek it, how do we receive it. Today I’m starting another series, more about us, the citizens of that Kingdom, and what the Kingdom offers us, who seek it, and what it expects of us, who receive it. I will focus this series on the word “character”: Christian character, godly character, Kingdom character.

This focus was given to me by one of you, this past week, when you wrote me in response to my sermon last Sunday. You felt a connection with an article in the Sunday New York Times magazine, describing how two schools in New York City are trying to teach good character. An educator friend of mine sent me a copy of that article the next day. The issue of “character” is in the air. So my plan for the coming Sundays is to ask one question of every set of our scripture lessons: “What do these lessons have to tell us about Christian character?” I don’t know yet what the answers will be. The title for this series is “Kingdom Characters,” in the plural, because we’re not expected to be all the same.

But in our epistle lesson St. Paul challenges us to have the same mind and to be of one mind. Of course he does not mean that we conform our minds to each other, that you conform your mind to my mind or I to yours, but that we all aspire to the mind of Christ—which is a challenge to us all. Character needs challenges. You develop character by working out your challenges, especially suffering, pain, and loss. It was true for Jesus too. He was not an angel, he was a human being, he had to develop his character, especially through the challenge of his loss and suffering, and the shame of the crucifixion.

We can observe the mind of Christ, the mind that we aspire to, when he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, yes, who for the sake of his mission did not defend his honor as the rightful prince of Judea, nor did he hang on to his position as the legitimate Son of David, or grasp the rights of his position as the lawful Messiah of Israel.

To not hold onto your position is something rulers just don’t do. I heard Jimmy Carter tell Charlie Rose that he considered his presidency a failure, simply because he did not get reelected. How much of what Barack Obama does is driven by his natural desire to get reelected; it is what rulers do, they want to hold on to their positions. Not Jesus, though. What he held to was his mission, even at the cost of his position, trusting that the God who had commissioned him would see him through the fear and trembling to work it through. This was so unusual his opponents didn’t know what to make of him and so they were afraid of him. And that too was part of his suffering, that he was feared and opposed by those he came to save.

Look at the gospel lesson. It takes place the day after Palm Sunday, when Jesus entered the city like a prince, and cleansed the temple like he owned it, throwing out the money-changers who no doubt had to give a cut to the temple authorities. Of course the authorities want to know what right Jesus has to do such things, and what are his credentials. His question back to their question is right on point, because the answer to his question is the same as the answer to their question. And they do have an answer, but they will not say it, because they fear the people and they want to protect their position. They can’t be certain that the people will rise against them, but to people in power every potential threat is a real threat, as Dick Cheney has written.

They weren’t bad people, the chief priests and the elders. Jesus was pushing all their buttons. They were in a tough position, between the Romans and an unruly populace, and so to keep things under control they hang on tight to their position, and they back off from the right choice, the risky choice, the courageous choice.

Stanley Hauerwas has written that your choices and the succession of your choices are what determine your character. Your character is not static but dynamic, you work it out by the choices that you make. And the choices you make today both open up and close off the further choices of tomorrow. Your choices have momentum and a trajectory, they position your inclinations and your leanings and your posture and your attitudes as you address your life. Your choices also leave with you a residue, with things like compassion and sympathy and with what that magazine article called “grit”, and with other things like shame and guilt. The composite of these attitudes and aptitudes you can call your character, the role that you have written for yourself in the ongoing drama of your life.

In the ancient Greek dramas of Aeschylus and Sophocles, the characters are always in bondage to the choices of their past. This bondage is compounded by the grip of Fortune, with a capital F, and by the selfish ambition of the gods and goddesses. You get the same thing in the Iliad and Odyssey, which is what the Philippians will have been educated in.

  So they must have found it liberating, and maybe a little scary, to learn from the Gospel that neither Fortune nor the gods have any such power, and that the Lord Jesus offers freedom from the bondage of your past. You are always free to choose what’s right, even when it’s difficult. Jesus offers that freedom to the chief priests and elders, they still have the choice to heed the parable and let go of their position and be welcomed into the Kingdom. With the Lord Jesus, every judgment is an invitation and every challenge is a welcome. But for you to receive his freedom he requires of you a transformation instead of just an adjustment in your trajectory, and that transformation risks the loss of your position, and so you regard his challenge as an obstacle.
How you handle obstacles and opposition is the real test of your character. If you aspire to the mind of Christ, you will face opposition from the outside, certainly, but the more critical opposition is from inside yourself, when you oppose yourself by means of repentance, or with that long term character trait of “humility”. That’s a challenge if you want to get ahead. The only way to get to be Caesar, for example, was by selfish ambition. But by humility I don’t mean softness, and by repentance I don’t mean groveling. I mean resting from your momentum, not pushing your trajectory, risking your position. Emptying of everything but yourself. That is the mind of Christ.

Which has its benefits. It means you do not have to defend yourself or prove yourself. Jesus did not defend himself to the priests and elders, he knew who he was. He did not have to assert his authority or fight for his position, because both his authority and his position were grounded in his character. You can have that freedom too by being grounded in your character when your character is a Kingdom character, sharing the mind of Christ.

He emptied himself. He did not grasp at the rights of either his earthly royalty or his heavenly divinity. He emptied himself because that is God’s character anyway, this is the God who bends towards us—who yields to us, who yielded, for example, to the complaining of the Israelites. That is the character of God, and Jesus kept choosing for that kind of character his whole life, even to the loss of everything he had. And so his Father gave it all back to him as a gift, a greater position, and the name above every name, the name of “the Lord”, Adonai. We Christians believe that Jesus is rightly called the Lord God because he had in him the fullness of God’s character. When you aspire to the mind of Christ you are aspiring to the mind of God.

I close with a paraphrase of that final verse in our epistle: “Work out your Kingdom character in fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to desire and to choose for God’s good pleasure.” And God’s good pleasure is nothing other than Love. God’s love is built into God’s character, so that I can even say that God can’t help it, loving you. And that certainty of God’s love is the position in which you stand.

Copyright © 2011, by Daniel James Meeter, all rights reserved.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

September 18, Proper 20: When Good Things Happen to Bad People

(photo by Jane Barber)

Exodus 16:2-15, Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45, Philippians 1:21-30, Matthew 20:1-16

Our gospel lesson is called the Parable of the Vineyard. The Parable of the Vineyard is pictured in the stained glass window on the north wall, in the right-hand panel. You see the figure of a worker standing at a grapevine, and before him is the inscription from Matthew 20:4, “Go ye also into the vineyard.”

I have never seen this subject in a stained-glass window in any other church, and I would love to know why this subject was chosen, and if it was chosen by the Lott family, the old Brooklyn family who gave it. In 2002 the window took on new meaning for us after the accidental death of Alan Q. Hayes, an elder here. The bookmark in his Bible was at this parable, so that’s what I preached on at his funeral. His death was unfair. And the parable is about when our feeling of unfairness affects our belief in God.

A vineyard is harvested as quickly as possible, so that the grapes can be pressed all at once. As the day wears on, and if the crew is running late, you hire more hands. That’s expected, and you can pay the later workers less. But this owner didn’t pay them less—he was generous with them, which the early ones felt as unfairness instead of generosity. But it was fair, objectively, because the owner paid them what he promised them. But we resent the gifts that other people get when we don’t get them too.

In this parable Jesus does a couple things. He pictures how we are with the grace of God when we see it lavished on other people than ourselves. And he illustrates his own ministry, and why so many good people among the Jews found him offensive. It’s not that he was not loving and gracious with them. It’s that he was no less as loving and gracious to bad people as he was to good people. He is generous to everyone, not as they deserve it, but as they need it. Jesus does not give out points for good behavior. That means there is no point to be good, except just to be good. Being good has to be its own reward. And being good will not exempt you from suffering and sorrow.

Twenty years ago, Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote that best-selling book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. I was always troubled by the book’s implicit assumption, that it’s okay when bad things happen to bad people. Jesus turns this upside-down. If Jesus wrote a book he’d call it, When Good Things Happen to Bad People. There’s a take-home for today: What is the distinctive message of Jesus among all the religions of the world? Answer: “When Good Things Happen to Bad People.”

The way of Jesus was the way of God in Israel. You see it in the story of the manna from Exodus. He that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack. God blessed them as they needed it, not as they deserved it. God provides, God does not reward. You can’t impress God, you can’t win God, you can’t control God, you can only receive from God.

The children of Israel hardly knew this God. They’ll have been much more familiar with the gods and goddesses of Egypt than with this god of their distant ancestors, who had been silent for 400 years, this god, for all they knew, whose kingdom was the desert and whose palace was a mountain, where they have to go to meet him. Well, they were now his guests, in his realm, and as his guests they felt he was obliged to feed them. It was only proper hospitality that God should gave them manna. Moreover, they were purchased by blood from slavery to the pharaoh, by the blood of the Passover lamb, and now they belong to this god, and as his servants they have the right to proper rations. God is obliged to give them their rations as long as they’re on the march.

I think Moses is upset because of the way they asked for it, not asking in faith, but as complaining, insulting God, slandering the liberation God won for them. Ingrates! Well, they’re afraid. They are free, but they don’t know what freedom means, and freedom is scary. They don’t know what to expect from this god, and their years of slavery had trained them in distrust and resistance. Through the whole of the Exodus they are passive-aggressive, defensive, untrusting, unbelieving, always acting in victim mode.

People prefer the misery they know to the freedom they can’t predict. They would not have left Egypt voluntarily, despite their suffering there. The plagues were designed to force them out as much as to make Egypt let them go. The Red Sea was a barrier not only to Pharaoh’s armies but also against their going back. They were resistant to God’s grace and generosity. They are a microcosm of the human race. They are us. We all experience God’s generosity as unfairness.

The manna is a gift designed to train them in receiving grace. We need to be trained in receiving grace, because we are unable to receive it even when we need it and crave it, so God helps and trains us in receptivity. God was teaching Israel the discipline of receptivity by sending the manna six days out of seven, with double on the sixth day, and none on the seventh. It was an exercise in trusting and obeying, a training in receiving.

Why do we resist God’s grace? Maybe we sense how much it challenges us. Either, like the Israelites, we’re trained to be victims, or like the vineyard workers, we have a notion of  our own deserving and we don’t like to be treated out of generosity. Both of these are selfishness, the one developed as a survival strategy and the other the natural compulsion of self-regard. In either case, God trains us to get out of ourselves. God challenges the Israelites to look up, to look out into the desert, and there they see the glory of the Lord. They had to look up into what they were afraid of.

God trains us also in the patterns of receptivity. One of the reasons that Our Lord instructed us to celebrate Holy Communion frequently is because it is a very physical enactment and reminder of our need for receptivity. We have to come up to the table, and hold our hands out to receive, worthy or unworthy. You’re worthy only if you’re willing to be counted among the unworthy. It’s a gift to teach us the reception of God’s gifts. It’s another gracious circle. The gifts of God in particular are designed to teach us how to receive the gifts of God in general. We are willful people, and proud, and fearful, and the world is unkind and unfair, so we are reminded and rehearsed in the disciplines of receptivity.

A take-home here is that progress in the Christian life is not about getting better and better at being good. That way lies the temptation of merit and deserving. Progress in the Christian life is getting more and more receptive to God’s grace. It is learning to say “Thank you, God, thank you for your mercy.” Even while walking through the desert, and risking hunger and thirst. Do you want to be a better Christian? Don’t work on your performance. Work on your receptivity and gratitude.

It’s hard to say thank you when you feel like you’ve been suffering. It was suffering for the vineyard workers who had worked all day, and were hot and thirsty and exhausted, to stand on line for their wages, and watch the other workers get paid the same for much less work. Your suffering is watching others get a break when you don’t, and when, time after time, you get what you have coming to you, but they get more. Your suffering is to accept God’s providence which never provides you with what you deserve. Your suffering is to accept that merit is irrelevant. But so is faith. Your suffering is to accept with open hands your life as you are dealt it. And that’s what faith is too.

Your suffering is a worthy investment. It yields a life of confidence and joy. St. Paul says that it’s a privilege to suffer for Christ. St. Paul suffered double, as a Jew among the Romans and as a Christian among the Jews. He wrote Philippians from jail. The Philippians suffered by an allegiance to Jesus as Lord, which was illegal in a Roman military town, and they could be rounded up at any time. The privilege is not to seek out suffering, but to recognize the fact of it, and rightly to interpret it, and to regard it not as victimization but as a privilege. That’s what love does. You can clean toilets as a victim, or you can clean them out of love.

You suffer by living in-between, between the great huge gift way ahead of you, and the many small gifts behind you, and right before you the unfair, broken world which God has promised to save but hasn’t yet. You stay within it and you bear your part of it. Your suffering is in your receptivity, your awareness of incompletion, that things are not how they’re supposed to be, and you still believe, you believe in the goodness you have seen in your own life and in the gifts you have received, passing as they may have been, or as mixed with pain and grief, or as ordinary to the eyes as bread, but seeing it as bread from heaven with your eyes of faith and hope and love. The love of God trains us to receive the love of God.

Copyright © 2011, by Daniel James Meeter, all rights reserved.

Sermon for 9/11, Proper 19, What You Did Ten Years Ago

(photos by Hugh Crawford)

See Louise Crawford's Park Slope Patch report on the service.
Exodus 14:19-31, Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21, Romans 14:1-12, Matthew 18:21-35

Let me tell you what you did ten years ago, Old First, let me tell you and remind you. Ten years ago, on that Tuesday morning, when the smoke was over Brooklyn and the paper raining down, some of you knew right away that you had to open the doors of the church for sanctuary and shelter. You kept the doors open all week, every day, until the following Sunday afternoon. You did this for everyone, no matter what religion or no religion. And the people came, they sat in here in shock and grief and many came to pray. You hosted them, you gave them music for their souls. You hung up sheets of newsprint, and you put out markers, and people wrote their thoughts and prayers. The people responded with gratitude.

The sheets are up there on the walls and in the narthex. You should read them. They are part of you. Even if you were not here then, if you only came here recently, they are now a part of you, of this community of soul on soul and spirit touching spirit back through three-and-a-half centuries, you today are still the hosts and the stewards of these real prayers of real people in their time of need.

Some of the prayers were written on that first afternoon, for people known to be working on the 73th floor of building 2, for example, or in the Windows On The World. It was not yet known how many had been killed. There are prayers from later in the day, from survivors just come home, prayers of thanksgiving for having gotten out alive, but also prayers for the cops and the firemen, for Squad One, name by name, as the rumors came that they were lost. There are prayers from Wednesday and Thursday, prayers for those still missing, prayers for those who were trapped in the rubble and for those who were toiling on it, prayers of hope and prayers of grief, many statements of love and a couple words of hate, prayers by Christians and Jews and Muslims and Hindus. Prayers in French and Spanish and Hebrew and Hindi and Japanese. Prayers for the President and prayers for peace, very many prayers for peace, prayers for an end to the cycle of violence and prayers for no more war—which in the next ten years we did not listen to.

Few of the prayers are signed. But we don’t have to know the names of those who wrote them, because they prayed for all of us, not only for you who lived here then, but also for us who lived beyond New York, around the world. These prayers were personal at first, but over the decade they have become more universal, and when we read them now they blend into a great, thick prayer, a single prayer of many different voices.

A couple years ago these sheets were damaged. We had stored them up in the steeple, and then the tornado blew a window in, and it threw these sheets around and some of them got soaking wet, and the ink and colors ran together and the words were blurred. They look like abstract water color paintings, with random broken phrases legible. It seems right somehow, and fitting, that the thoughts and prayers have blended into each other, and have blended into the choruses of heaven.

On that first Friday evening, I came here too, with Melody. We had just driven here from Michigan. We saw the people sitting in the narthex and in the sanctuary, with their candles and their flowers, sitting in small groups or alone, and we saw all these sheets, still new and fresh. We walked down Seventh Avenue, and every other church was closed up tight. But you were open. You had discovered your mission to offer sanctuary to anyone seeking spirituality and hope. That’s why you are being blessed by God, Old First, even in your struggles and your weaknesses.

None of those sheets have prayers of victory, like in our reading this morning from Exodus 15. Maybe the members of Al Qaeda were praying like that, but no one here was praying like that. It might have been different if the pillars of smoke and fire were pillars of salvation, like for the Israelites at the Red Sea, but the fiery pillars here were of destruction and of loss. In Exodus 14:31 it says that the Israelites saw the great work that God had done, and “they feared the Lord and believed in the Lord.” Well, those prayer sheets reveal that many Brooklynites who saw the great evil those terrorists had done were able still to fear the Lord and believe in the Lord. The record is there, and we are the witnesses.

So now what? At least two things. First, you have to keep on doing what you did then, Old First, this mission given you by God, to offer sanctuary to anyone seeking spirituality and hope. You did it this summer too with the respite shelter. You can learn new ways to practice this, with our building, with our small groups, and in your personal relationships.

Second, you have to make another kind of sanctuary in the midst of human sin and violence, and you do this by forgiveness. Forgiveness not just as a single act, but forgiveness as a system, a cycle, which goes the opposite direction of the cycle of vengeance and violence. Violence generates further violence, and you oppose that cycle with the cycle of forgiveness generating more forgiveness. That’s what Jesus means when he says that his Father will not forgive us if we don’t forgive others. It’s not that God is punishing for not forgiving, it’s that God has built the world this way, that forgiveness is a cycle which you have to enter into in order to receive from it.

Forgiveness is not easy, especially the ones who wronged you don’t deserve forgiveness and and they don’t repent. This takes work. When the Lord Jesus says seventy-seven times, he means a single evil that someone does to you can be so hurtful and destructive that every day you have to forgive him all over again. You did forgive him yesterday, but then today you see how much your life is still affected by his sin, and you have to forgive him once again. It’s about remembering and forgiving, not forgiving and forgetting. It’s not even about accepting. And forgiving might include non-violent resistance. Seventy-seven times, remembering and forgiving again.

You need to remember what they did ten years ago, and tell the awful truth of it, for another sixty-seven years, and then forgive them, for, as Jesus said upon the cross, they didn’t know what they were doing. To forgive means to be free of it, to not let your freedom and your future be determined by their sin. You make a space of freedom in the world of human misery and suffering, you make a space of love and justice in the world of human violence, you make a sanctuary of peace.

This is what you did, Old First, and this is what you are called to do, in partnership with all your friends in the community. And you can do it because you love God who first loved you.

Copyright © 2011, by Daniel James Meeter, all rights reserved.

Friday, September 02, 2011

September 4, Proper 18: The Costly Method of Reconciliation

(photo © jane barber:

Exodus 12:1-14, Psalm 149, Romans 13:8-14, Matthew 18:15-20

The take-home for today is right up front, the gospel lesson, the method of Matthew 18, the three-step process of reconciliation, the discipline of making peace. Learn this pattern, take it home, start to practice it. The point is not that you have to say something every time someone offends you. Good grief, we’re all sinners, we’re all clumsy, we bump each other all the time, and ordinary life is a contact sport. You can’t call every violation. But, when you do have to call a violation, when you do have to say something, this is how you have to do it.

First you have to go alone, in private. This is to protect your offender, to keep him from public embarrassment. You see, this step expresses love and it requires love. It’s hard. It’s so much easier to complain about him to other people, and to undermine his reputation. But it’s love to go to him in private. Especially when you have cause to be angry at him. This love is not love as a feeling but love as ethical action. It is hard, it is a sacrifice, to consider his interest in spite of his offending you.

The second step is to take a couple witnesses. If the first step was to protect the offender, this step is to protect you. If she hasn’t accepted your sacrifice, now you are vulnerable and open, and you need to protect yourself. Love does not require you to make yourself a victim. It is not a bloody sacrifice you make, but a sacrifice of thanksgiving. You need to honor yourself as much as you have honored her. This is a hard step too, because it’s getting complicated, and you’re bringing other people in, and having to explain it without prejudice. You might decide to let the whole thing drop. Jesus does not require you to go the second step. But if you feel you cannot let it drop, then this is the only second step that you may take.

How do you know whether to drop it or not? Well, will you be tempted to resentment, will it fester, will you get bitter, will you act victimized, which becomes its own offense? Just by bringing in those witnesses you are refusing to be victimized. You do have the right to go the second step, because you opened with an act of love and in good faith, and you deserve to not let the refusal of the offender to be last word. This is not just self-respect, this is about the importance of truth in the world, the ethical importance of the true story, the version of the story which is true. There is more to community than just our feelings and relationships—there also is integrity. Words have power, stories have power, and the truth itself deserves a hearing. You owe it to the world that some fair measure of the truth is stated and confirmed by witnesses.

And if he still doesn’t listen, then you have to consult with the witnesses whether to go the third step. And their vote should count more than your own. They may encourage you to take it to the church. For Roman Catholics, that means the hierarchy, who deal with it. For Mennonites you do the opposite, you bring it to the congregation as a whole. The Reformed Church takes it down the middle, you bring it to the board of elders, the officers in whom the congregation has invested its discretion and authority. The pastor chairs the board of elders, but the pastor has no vote. The elders have to follow some very strict rules for doing this, rules that go back to 1586, stringent disciplines that really protect the offender, and which keep requiring attempts at counsel and reconciliation all along the way. In my thirty years of ministry I’ve watched elders do this several times, and it’s always painful for everyone involved, the elders too.

No elder likes to do it. We wonder what right we have, who do we think are we, we have our own failings too. But Jesus says that even in our weak and stumbling efforts, God in heaven will back us up. He’s saying that headquarters will back us up if a few of us do it in his name, and by implication, according to his standards. We don’t have to be perfect. We just have to keep loving.

What does it mean to treat him as a “Gentile and publican”? It can’t mean to shun him and have nothing to do with him. In Jesus’ time that was impossible anyway. It doesn’t mean stop loving him. The author of this gospel was a publican whom Jesus loved. Jesus ate and drank with publicans and sinners. He’s talking here about the special sacred meal of the Passover. Gentiles were not circumcised, and publicans, to do their jobs, had willfully to keep themselves unclean, so they could not share the sacred meal. And that’s the sanction of the elders, the only sanction they have, to ask the offender not to take communion (which no elder wants to do). The suspension is temporary, unless the offender keeps being adamant, and only then the excommunication.

My own grandfather, because of his adultery, was suspended from communion by the elders of the Third Christian Reformed Church in Paterson, New Jersey. It was just months before I was to be baptized there, and that’s why I’m not named for him, it would have really hurt my grandmother. But my parents did not shun him, they kept loving him, and eventually he came to live with us here in Brooklyn, and he and I got very close, and that’s why I speak Dutch. Eventually he repented to my grandmother, and she took him back, and the elders in Paterson reinstated him; they had never excommunicated him. They waited years for him to come around, which eventually he did. And my little brother got named for him.

Go back to the first step, of going to meet with your offender one on one. Who wants to do this kind of thing. Keep your distance and protect yourself. Have good boundaries. Let people do what they do. Everyone is fallen, everyone has weaknesses and makes mistakes. Just get over it. Go to church, worship God, go home, and be responsible for your own life. People have to figure out their own mistakes, and people who won’t, well, they’re not going to listen to you anyway. Oh, I know.

Here’s why we go through with it. First, because we owe it to our offenders, it is our obligation (Romans 13:8). The translation of Matthew 18:15 is misleading. What Jesus actually says is this: “If your brother sins against you.” Not “another church member” but your brother, your sister. You can choose what church to be a member of but you can’t choose who your siblings are. They are given to you without your choice at all. And you have obligations to them no matter how you might feel about them. It’s organic. The church is not just some voluntary associations, it’s mystical and spiritual, it has a reality beyond ourselves, it’s the body of Christ, and how you behave in it as how you behave for Jesus Christ. You owe it to others because they belong to Jesus Christ.

Second, it’s so much needed by the world. The world has so much need of reconciliation. And the church is called to model it. The church does not belong to us. It belongs to Our Lord, and it is his chosen instrument for the healing of the world. If we belong to the church we do not have the right to say “No” to the mission Our Lord has given us. Maybe we should add it to our Old First mission statement. We are witnesses, not that everyone is nice and good, but that ordinary fallen people can work reconciliation. That it can be done and should be done. Of course there will always be some persons who will not reconcile, whom we just have to hand over to the hidden work of God, but we can practice it enough for it to be believed in as a realistic way of living in the world.

Third, we do it for the sake of love. The revolutionary love of Our Lord is always misunderstood and resisted and defended against, and if the best defense is a good offense, then offences will come against the works of love. To live within this kind of love requires you to see it through.

And fourth, you do it to reflect what God has done for you. We go in private to our offender because God sought us out in private. We sacrifice our ease and comfort remembering what great sacrifice Our Lord has done to reconcile ourselves to God, the sacrifice of his own life, which he did for love. “O Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us. O Lamb of God, that takest away the sin of the world, grant us thy peace.”

Copyright © 2011, by Daniel James Meeter, all rights reserved.