Week 7: Overcoming & Enduring

This week, we look at the things in our lives that might keep us from living as fully as God desires;

some we learn to overcome, some we learn to endure.

Spiritual Practice: Repent & Forgive

If shalom — right relationships with God, with others, with ourselves, and with our world — is the goal, the spiritual practices of repentance and forgiveness are vital, not just because they are indispensable in relationship maintenance, cultivation, and repair. When partnered together, repentance and forgiveness can lead to reconciliation. And yet none of it is easy.

 

Sociologist Christena Cleveland, writing in the context of racial and crosscultural reconciliation, says:

The work of reconciliation is often excruciating because it is the work of the cross. If reconciliation work isn’t painful, I’d venture to say that it isn’t really reconciliation work. Reconciliation requires that we partner with equally imperfect individuals ... forgive those who carelessly wrong us, repeatedly ask for forgiveness, engage in awkward and unpredictable situations and, like gluttons for punishment, keep coming back for more.

Forgiveness and repentance are hard because, as the very practical and concrete outworkings of love, they break the cycle of hate or violence — a spiral that can seem easier to succumb to.

 

Jesus taught his disciples to ask God to forgive as they also were forgiven. He explained, “In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part” (Matthew 6:14-15, The Message). We are called to forgive as God forgives. In failing to forgive, it is not that God withholds his forgiveness from us; rather we are, by our inaction, cutting ourselves off from life. Forgiveness allows life and love to flow; unforgiveness clogs the pipes, storing up only bitterness for us.

But it’s also vital — and also hard — to repent: to say sorry, to admit wrongdoing, to change our thinking. Repentance is hard because we usually have a reason for doing what we did or not doing what we failed to do; we can usually explain it with a great number of justifications. And yet having a good reason — or even good motivation — is no guarantee that harm did not still result, that the other person was not adversely impacted. This is what we repent of and what we apologize for. So practice saying “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you.” Good relationship depends on it.

Verse of the Week: Romans 8:35, 37

Who will separate us from Christ’s love? Will we be separated by trouble, or distress, or harassment, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? … in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us.

© 2020 by Justin B. Fung

Christ City Church, Washington, D.C.