“...but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach.” Mt 23:3
We spent the first seven years of our married life living in an intentional Christian community. This community life exposed the realities of human interaction we often do not see in the seclusion of our ordinary life. Our ordinary life provides us the opportunity to hide. If my work life is full of difficult relationships, I can hide from those difficulties by throwing myself into friendships outside of work. If my social life is suffering, I can retreat to my house or bury myself into my work. The seclusion of ordinary life helps us avoid dealing with our problems. Yet, by avoiding reconciliation, the weight of our problems become unbearable.
This is not possible when your work, social and spiritual life all exist within the same community of people. The conflict at work never goes away, because you eat together. At the end of the day, you both retreat to the same building to sleep. The down side of community life is you feel like you’re in a state of perpetual conflict resolution. However, the upside is discovering the joy of reconciliation and the freedom of not carrying burdens.
Despite everything I know about reconciliation, I could not bring myself to write a reflection on it yesterday. The reading for the day, Luke 6: 36-38, once a verse of joy, now felt condemning. Jesus reminded me not to condemn and judge but to be merciful and forgiving. Working with my own failures in these areas is not a problem. Where I have a problem is granting forgiveness to people who do not ask for it. People who show no sign of relenting on their judgment and condemnation of me.
There’s something hollow within me when I forgive people who do not ask for it. It does not feel like reconciliation, but avoidance. Yet, when I do not forgive I feel the burden of today’s text, “they do not practice what they teach.” So now, in addition to judgement, condemnation, lack of forgiveness and mercy, I can add on hypocrite. Thank you, Jesus. It’s a burden too great to carry.
The place I find relief is in confession. I love that at my current church, we kneel during confession. It’s the one place of pure honesty in my life. We all judge and condemn our neighbors. We all withhold forgiveness and mercy. In the end, we do not live as we profess. We can either be broken by this reality. Or, take the reality of our brokenness and put it into the loving hands of Jesus. The one who forgives when we cannot. It’s the only place I know to remove the burdens I carry.
Click to read: Matthew 23: 1-12
- Is there a difference between reconciliation and forgiveness? Can you have one without the other?
- Where do you struggle with judgement and condemnation of others?
- How do cope with the judgement and condemnation returned upon you?
- Where do you hide from God?
- Where do you open yourself up to God?
- What’s the difference between those two experiences?
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