Reconciliation & Forgiveness

Readings for this week October 30 – November 3
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Day 1 – The Heart of God for Us

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – John 3:16

Forgiveness and reconciliation lie at the heart of God’s action towards us in Jesus. The distance between God and humanity, and the sin that opened up that distance, were as unacceptable to God as they were destructive to us. In the life, death and resurrection of Jesus we see the full depth and intensity of the love God had for us in not wanting us to perish – in wanting us to have the fullness of his love and life that he always intended.

For our sin to be dealt with and for the seemingly unbridgeable chasm separating us from God to be erased, God himself came as one of us and opened up the path of forgiveness and reconciliation. Instead of leaving us in our hopeless state, God sent Jesus to redeem us, to show the extent of God’s love and forgiveness. Only in this way could we be reconciled with God, and our broken relationship with him be restored – that original, loving, rightful relationship with God that we were always meant for. God’s love for his world and all people does not allow him to sit by and watch people destroy themselves because of sin. He offered us a way out, a way back to himself, a chance to put things back the way they were meant to be, regardless of the terrible cost to himself in doing so. His call for us to forgive and be reconciled to him is also the model for our forgiveness of each other and the restoration of true human community. Just like him, we cannot sit by and watch people destroy themselves. We must enter into their worlds and offer that same hope of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Question to Consider
How have you experienced the power of God’s reconciliation and forgiveness in your life and relationships lately?

Prayer
Lord God, make me an agent of reconciliation in this broken world. May others experience your forgiving and reconciling love through me. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – Forgiving Each Other

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Matthew 6:14-15

Forgiveness is relational. It is not something that happens in isolation; it is not something that we do on our own. It only makes sense in a relational context. Forgiveness – and therefore reconciliation also – is an ‘us’ issue, never a solitary activity. Confession and forgiveness are so important that God links them to his forgiveness of us. If we don’t forgive each other, he will not forgive us. Jesus tells us that unforgiveness is unforgiveable! We need to show others the very same mercy and forgiveness that God shows us each time we mess up. This is what reconciliation is: acknowledging our failings and joining together as forgiven and forgiving people. Our lives are interconnected with the lives of others, both those in community with us and those outside the community: with each other and with the world. Failing to forgive damages all of our relationships because it damages us. Equally though, when we forgive each other the community is restored and broadened and healthy relationships are maintained.

Our attitudes towards other people are a reflection of our relationship with God. We cannot claim to love God while acting unlovingly to others. If we refuse reconciliation with others, then we are denying our reconciliation with God, and denying what God did to achieve it. By forgiving each other and maintaining good relationships we show that we are God’s people. He wants us to love and forgive each other in the same way he loves and forgives us.

Questions to Consider
Who are the people in your life you need to forgive? How you will begin this process of forgiveness?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, show me when I need to forgive someone and be reconciled with them. Puncture my pride, eliminate my ego and humble me so I will be spurred to seek their forgiveness in love. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – The Power of Forgiveness and Reconciliation

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – John 20:22-23

Forgiveness was central to the mission of Jesus. It is a crucial aspect of the entire reconciliation process; how can we be reconciled if we are not offering, and being offered, forgiveness for all that may have caused the breach on the first place? Jesus came to forgive sin, not to condemn people because of it. He loves everyone and wants us to know forgiveness and be saved. In his last few hours with his disciples he told them that to continue following him would involve taking his message of forgiveness – the forgiveness he had shown them – to all people, in all places. We continue the work Jesus started when we take his message of salvation and forgiveness to people around the world.

Jesus authorised us to forgive each other’s sins. In a way, Jesus stepped back from the process and declared that the forgiveness of sins was a community activity. This is a crucial part of our reconciliation with each other. The power to forgive each other is the power to effect reconciliation and begin the process of healing fractured relationships and communities. A world seeking reconciliation is a world than needs to discover the power of forgiveness. God has forgiven, opening the path to reconciliation with him. Will we forgive each other and offer our hurting, broken world the possibility of being healed? Through our voices the word of forgiveness is heard across the world. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we can announce forgiveness and reconciliation to the entire world.

Questions to Consider
How does it feel to know that other people’s forgiveness is dependent on you? How can you become more involved in spreading forgiveness?

Prayer
Lord God, forgive me for my failure to forgive. Help me share your forgiving love with all people I come across. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Parihaka

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 2:10-14

“Peace to those on whom his favour rests.” God offers peace to the entire world. And yet the story of our world is the story of this peace being broken time and time again. Parihaka is a small town on Taranaki’s southern coast. In the 1870s and 1880s it was home to about 1500 Māori who grew their own food in their extensive gardens and used the surplus to feed the many visitors who came to hear the messages of peace spoken by the prophets Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi. But the government wanted the settlement’s land to give to settlers. When the Māori refused to leave the land, on November 5, 1881, 1600 armed soldiers and volunteers invaded the settlement. Inside they were confronted by the entire population of the town sitting and waiting for them. Children were singing and some even offered food to the soldiers. Even with the soldiers now within the walls, Te Whiti and Tohu and their people were determined to meet the threat of violence with passive, peaceful, resistance. Said Te Whiti, “There is nothing about fighting today, but the glorification of God and peace on the land … Let us wait for the end; there is nothing else for us. Let us abide calmly upon the land.”

The soldiers destroyed the village, arrested hundreds of people (over 400 were jailed in the South Island), pillaged and ransacked the houses and raped many of the women. Under harsh new laws instituted just for this occasion, many men, including the two prophets, were imprisoned for as long as 16 months without trial.

Questions to Consider
What do you know of the story of Parihaka? How might it be a story of God’s love that could impact you going forward?

Prayer
Loving Father, you didn’t resist those who came for you, but loved them enough to die for them. Help me love my enemies too. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Jesus’ Way of Non-Resistance

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Matthew 5:39

Aikido: Japanese martial art developed as a form of non-resistant combat that turns an aggressor’s force back against them.

“What is more, Jesus’s Aikido-like way of “non-resistance”, as Martin Luther King Jr. called it, or of satyagraha, as Gandhi preferred, is the only way to keep violence from entering into an ongoing, escalating cycle, as it typically has done throughout history. The almost inevitable pattern has been that the “eye for an eye” mindset soon becomes a “head for a head,” then “family for a family,” then “tribe for a tribe,” and so on. The only way to avoid this cyclical escalation is to refuse to avenge the first wounded eye. Yet for followers of Jesus the motivation for practising this nonviolent response to evil is not that is it pragmatically effective, though Gandhi, King, and many others have demonstrated that it often can be, even on a national scale. The motivation of Jesus’s followers must rather be that this is the way that reflects our Father’s character and our Father’s way of responding to evil, as it was modelled for us on Calvary.

Yet, whether we can discern its effectiveness at the present time or not, we are to trust that the Father’s way of responding to evil, as illustrated throughout Jesus’s ministry and as supremely revealed on Calvary, has in principle already defeated evil. Indeed, whenever we cut short the cycle of violence by refusing to participate in it, we are manifesting the truth that God’s Aikido-like way of responding to evil has in principle brought an end to evil.”

-Gregory A. Boyd, Crucifixion of the Warrior God: Interpreting the Old Testament’s Violent Portraits of God in Light of the Cross, p.820.

Question to Consider
What is your reaction to the message of today’s reading?

Prayer
Heavenly Lord, help me follow your way of non-violence in word, thought and deed. May I love my enemies the way you loved yours. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)