[Note: This blog is part of a series. Part one can be found here.]
As might be expected from my thoughts on the first message, my thoughts on the second message in the series on the Ministry of Reconciliation were somewhat complicated as well. These complications mean that this series of posts is less likely to be as coherent as most of my other writing, but hopefully they are not entirely without worth as an honest response to a set of messages that is worthy of being better recognized. So far, at least, it appears as if this particular series of message was intended to be short but got longer as the material grew, which seems somewhat typical of the approach of many writers. Not everyone writes out or maps out the scope of their message ahead of time, and certainly I do not always do that when it comes to my own writings, so while this particular sermon says that the plan was for four parts, there are at least half a dozen parts posted on the website to listen to, which means I will have quite a bit of time to listen to it all.
In listening to this message, I have to say that I am pretty impressed with the person who suggested the message to me, and increasingly impressed with every message heard in the series so far. Without knowing all of the motivations she had for praising this message so highly, this message definitely gives a great understanding as to why on at least a couple of occasions  this friend expressed a desire to be baptized before the next Passover. One of the points the speaker of this series of messages makes loud and clear is the need to reconcile with God before one can be reconciled with other people. I do not know which people are most in mind as far as reconciliation and overcoming enmity and hostility are, but I do know that someone who wants to make peace and wants to become a child of God is someone worthy of all of the encouragement I can give, whether or not this desire has anything to do with me. As explored at some length and painful depth in the first part of this series, this particular message and its contexts hits me in a very sensitive place.
There are a few elements of this message that I thought particularly worthwhile of discussion. For one, the speaker gave a very thoughtful understanding of the seriousness of our natural hostility towards God as a result of our corrupt nature. Given the relationship between leavening and corruption , this is an important point to remind us of. In our day and age it is common for us, and that includes believers as well as the world at large, to believe that we are fundamentally good people by nature. Even if we tend to demonize those who we find in opposition to us and do not treat them with respect as fellow misguided and weak children (or potential children) of God, we tend to see ourselves as good and see our behavior as justified. I know I struggle myself with treating people as they are owed based on being God’s fellow children and my fellow brothers and sisters, rather than treating them as I think they deserve based on how they act towards me, and I know I am not in the least alone in that struggle. Sometimes it is worth being reminded of the absolute necessity of treating others with the same graciousness and active forgiveness that God treats us with, despite the fact that we are not in the least worthy of it.
One aspect of this message that particularly hit home to me was the focus the speaker put on our wrestling with God. I don’t tend to think that I understate my own difficulties with God in terms of trusting Him. I am aware, and am often reminded, of the struggles I have to trust myself and others . How is it that we can release our attempts to maneuver events towards our own desired end, and trust that God will work everything out for the best of everyone involved? Even when we are fully aware of the fact that we make a mess of things, many of us (and I am definitely included in this) are simply not very confident that God will work things out in this life in a manner that will benefit us. Far too often I have seen people put themselves into horrible situations, especially with regards to marriages, largely because they did not trust that God understood their longing for love and intimacy and would address it in a timely fashion. As the speaker commented, our longings and desires, which in themselves are not bad, have become bent and twisted and corrupted as a result of the influence of sin in our world and in our natures. Surely I have seen that in my own life and in the lives of those around me.
What I found refreshing about this message was its combination of high ideals and practicality. For the second time in a row, the speaker mentioned that he was not giving tips on negotiation and communication, which he said would work as far as getting along in the world was required. Yet although this series of messages is not a tip on conflict resolution, there is clearly a practical aim involved, in that the speaker encourages his audience to wrestle with their attitudes towards God and towards each other. Understanding our own immense difficulties in becoming more like God makes us more compassionate with our fellow imperfect brethren who in many ways are mirrors of ourselves. Much of what frustrates the most about other people are qualities that we ourselves share. I know this to be true for me. It is my hope, at least, that the family resemblance of God can be seen in me, and that I treat my present and future brothers and sisters with the graciousness that God treats us with, even if we aren’t exactly the most graceful of people on our own. Our total helplessness in coming to God and showing our own worthiness of any of God’s gifts is something that cannot be emphasized enough, and the speaker is right to bring this fact forcefully to our attention, lest we cease to be little in our own eyes.
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