Monday, August 14, 2006

Reconciliation: it ain't just for preachin' anymore

For years now I have loved leading students and staff in learning the Biblical basis for racial reconciliation. Passages like Ephesians 2:11-22 really spell out that the work of the cross was not just a vertical reconciliation *man to God* but also a horizontal reconciliation *man to man*. (For an excellent sermon on this passage, you can listen to Solving the Biggest Problem in the World [the July 16th sermon on that page].)
I love watching people’s faces as they realize that the work of reconciliation is not something that we have to accomplish but rather a reality for us to live out. Jesus HAS DESTROYED the dividing wall and HAS MADE the two one, putting to death their hostility. The study is so applicable to the divide between races in America, especially black and white in the South, and I am encouraged to pray big prayers and believe big truths when looking at the power of the cross to reconcile any and all people across all lines.
But I have to admit that sometimes it is safer to relegate that finished work of reconciliation to racial issues. For me it’s easy to believe that the cross has truly canceled the dividing wall between black and white; it’s easy to hope that one day people of all colors will walk in the reality of unity that Jesus has won. But when it comes to applying that to my own sin, my own brokenness and how that affects my family and friends, well, I am reluctant to trust the fullness of the cross. In effect I say, “Well, sure Jesus paid for racial sins, and we can be reconciled, but I am not sure if the cross is big enough to handle my _____ (insert gross sin here).”
I know that good theology (and a great hymn) says that my sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more. But I am also tempted to believe that the resulting relational brokenness between me and those that I hurt is too great. One day it will be fixed, in heaven, but for now it is best to just look the other way and try not to bring it up.
And so the Evil One divides me from people, shaming me into hiding my sin and just dealing with it on a me-and-Jesus basis. He tells me that to bring it fully into the light would be too hurtful. It would create too much pain, too much shame, too much brokenness and the best thing to do is just hide. Confession should be left to popular sins like pride or materialism or generic words like “lust” or “envy.”
Believing that lie had been costing me intimacy with my wife, intimacy with the Father, and intimacy with friends. I chose to embrace my shame and own it as my own, and not lean into the fullness of the cross, the truth that Jesus had, indeed, paid for all my sin and had, indeed, reconciled me to all those I had hurt.
But praise God for His tender, unrelenting Spirit, which continued to work on my heart, calling me into the light, and calling me to really test and see if the cross was as big and as good as I said it was. I teach students all the time about how completely free they are in Christ, but until this spring, I was not willing to lean into that freedom and see if it would indeed catch me as I fell.
Now it is true that the initial process of confession was not easy. It hurt, and it seemed produced more brokenness than healing at the outset. And the Evil One said, “See. Look at how awful you are. You should be ashamed. Better hide this from everyone else.”
But the Spirit had other plans. He said, “Your name is no longer Shame . It is Chosen. And because it is Chosen, you can lean into my love, my complete forgiveness, and you can pursue the reconciliation that you preach.”
And so I confessed again, bringing full disclosure to all that I had sinned against, and I shrank back, waiting for the hammer to fall. What fell was grace. Forgiveness. Love. I was received with open arms, looked in the eye and restored, loved with tenderness and commitment.
As the Spirit has led and light has been shed, chains have come off. Strongholds have been broken. And I am experiencing freedom and intimacy with Lord, my wife, and others that I have not had for years.
Don’t believe the lie that there are sins too big for the Cross. Don’t believe the lie that your name is Shame. The Lord has paid in full and is in the business of reconciliation. Yes across racial and cultural lines. But also across lines of brokenness for ordinary, regular lives like yours and mine. The Evil One would love to see us bound, divided and shamed. Confession and light make that darkness flee.


Burly said...

Quite off topic, Marshall, but I think you'd enjoy the Tim Keller audio on "Doing Justice" found here:

Tim Keller preaches in NYC at the church where The Cavin goes (just in case you didn't know) ...

suz said...

Marshal your entry rings true. After the DR trip I feel that the shame that I have been wearing as a cloak has been lifted and though it is a daily choice to NOT put it back on. I find strength in knowing that God is God, that I am not, and that He is indeed in control. I believe I have caught a small glimpse of what it would be like to wear the robe of freedom that my Heavenly Father has designed for me, I long to see for each day and to forever through away Shame that the Enemy has thrown at me.

Marshall said...

Burly - thanks for the info; I will check that out.

Marshall said...

Suzanne - amen! I pray that in Christ you will choose to live free of shame!

Marshall said...

Burly - thanks for the info. I will check it out.