Advent day 12: Peace, Goodwill and Reconciliation.
A common ground of understanding is the impetus that moves a relationship from the barbarism of blame and “put downs”, to the effective deliberations of civil discourse. Moving beyond current understandings does not mean removing boundaries. Instead its primary goal is to secure a mutual reciprocity between people in order to establish a respectful line of communication, and therefore mutual benefit.
We can do this whilst keeping a firm hold on our wits. However, there can be no real peace without forgiveness and understanding.
Meaning, if we truly are a victim, we do not forget the abuse, rather we apply an understanding to the act of forgiving. This should fuel our momentum towards emotional and psychological liberation. Not as it does in some cases, fuel a victim politic.
The reverb of abuse can linger long after the abuse has stopped. Sometimes these effects prolong suffering and deteriorate what opportunity there is to reconcile ourselves to the truth. Coinciding with this is easily giving in to the temptation of avoidance strategies. For example: reactions such as: “the silent treatment” – a deviancy control technique and passive aggressive tool. Or covert-aggressive put-downs strategically placed into comments, smug remarks or throw backs like answering a question with a question.
These “echoes from the past” exhibit themselves in “negative patterns of behaviour”, such as addictions, rage, resentment, a plethora of failed relationships with otherwise well-balanced people, and the list can go on.
To say that there can be no peace without forgiveness and understanding is to recognise that the desire to establish peace and understanding must be generated from a source outside ourselves.
We, sinful, broken human beings need help.
Bridging over a chasm of hurt deemed unbridgeable is to reject nothingness. We overcome this abyss by acknowledging that we are enabled by God to do so. An unbridgeable bridge may manifest itself in the recognition that identifies a need for professional counselling, medication or a period of mourning to allow us to grieve the loss of relationship well.
Along with this Gospel ethics (grace and law) teaches us to reach for forgiveness in the power of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, ‘keeping the commandments and holding to the testimony of Jesus’ (Rev.12:17, ESV). Total forgiveness does not entail forgetting the abuse or remaining in a cycle of abuse. Rather, it translates in responsible, just actions that move the abused to safety and towards healing.
‘they have conquered by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony’ (Rev.12:11)
Humans are certainly not powerless outside this because of Jesus the Christ. However, attempts to singularly take on forgiveness without God will overtime lose effectiveness.
This is because it is a rejection of grace; a facade of strength packed inside the image of self. It eventually breaks self, condemns self and alienates us from the community that surrounds us.
Inside the paradigm of broken relationships there comes a time to move on. With or without the bridge of mutual understanding; as difficult as this may be. Being at peace with ourselves; reconciling the past by accepting God’s peace with us is an important step in the process of making a full recovery.
Rejecting grace, on the other hand, surrenders our God-given power. Consequently we become overpowered, beaten and burdened because we failed to acknowledge that on our own steam, we are unable to sustain honest and necessary change.
Paul makes mention of this in his letter to the Corinthian Church writing
‘According to the grace of God-given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ‘ (1 Cor.3:10 & 11)
As a scholar once said:
‘Jesus Christ is grace in the flesh’[i].
In Christ, God builds a bridge deemed unbridgeable. He reconciles us to Himself and asks for our gratitude and relationship in return because:
‘under this name He has revealed Himself. According to Scripture the One who bears this name is the One who in His own ” I ” introduces the concept of sovereignty and every perfection. When the bearer of this name becomes the object of our attention and thoughts, when they are directed to Jesus Christ, then we see God, and our thoughts are fixed on Him.’[ii]
It is in Jesus the Christ that we find the concept of God. Not in elevated opinions drawn from our own presuppositions, or preferences about who we want God to be.
The special message of Advent is that God makes Himself known to us. Within this is the invitation to recognise Jesus the Christ as the invisible God made visible (Col.1:15-20).