This time of year you are bound to hear one of our best Church buzzwords: reconciliation. The word simply means a restoration of friendly relations, or the repairing of a relationship. We focus on reconciliation because of the work of Jesus. He took our mortal, sinful nature upon himself so that we could be reconciled to God, in whose image and likeness we were originally made. In the last book of the New Testament, Jesus says, “See, I am making all things new.”
The problem is, that I do not often – or even usually – see that everything has become, or is becoming new. When I look at the world around me, when I turn on Facebook or Twitter, when I read the paper, or talk to my friends, that “new creation” does not pop out to me. What I see is much of the same old, same old: division, fighting, break-ups, epidemics, addiction, war, and so on. In fact, perhaps now more than ever it feels like that hope of a new creation is a distant dream for another age.
Take my own situation for example. I am divorced and recently remarried. My wife and I both have strained relationships with our “exes” (who doesn’t?!) We both have complicated custody situations. Since my oldest daughter lives eight hours away, our family is only united certain times of the year. On a daily basis we face the reality of the brokenness of our lives, and often live under the weight of human sin and broken relationship made manifest directly in divorce.
This is where I think Lent can save us from becoming lost in the pain of living in a broken world. Lent is a season when we live into the tension between our present reality and God’s reality, the “already” and “not yet” of Christian hope. In this season we face head on the paradox of our mortality meeting our baptismal reality, our sin and our salvation. Lent reminds us both of who we are and who God is calling us to be as we face our mortality in ashes and kneel to confess our sins in penitence.
Lent also reminds us that we carry this ministry of reconciliation out into the world. God is calling us to be peacemakers, to restore and mend broken relationships, and to proclaim the good news that in Jesus all trespasses, all mistakes, all wrongs, have been set aside, all slates wiped clean.
How can we be ambassadors of reconciliation when we ourselves continue to live in broken relationship? The reality of my divorce is that I do not think I can ever reconcile with my ex-wife, not in a substantial way. Realistically, our relationship is cordial at best. Pain, time, and distance have created a wedge that may never be overcome in this life. What does that mean for my ministry of reconciliation?
I think that is the last good news of this season of Lent. The good news St. Paul proclaimed is that this ministry of reconciliation does not come from us. God did not wait for us to decide to come home before wiping our slates clean. We did not need to ask for Jesus to come to us. In his love, God chose to send Jesus to take on our nature, sharing in our humanity so that we could become the righteousness of God.
In other words, reconciliation is ultimately not my work, but God’s. This is good news because my relationship with my ex-wife, my relationship with my daughter, and any relationships I have which have been complicated by life, I can give them all over to God.
This does not let me off of the hook. I am called to be engaged in the work of reconciliation God is doing in the world, and being a Christian means that I treat relationships – even complicated ones like a divorce – through the lens of grace and forgiveness. But reconciliation is a two way process and requires both parties be willing or able to come to the table. The good news is that there is a third party, God, and God’s work in the world is to take all of the mess we have made and re-make it in God’s image.
This Lent, I will look for the way God is making all things new. I’ll look again at my relationships, especially the ones most painful. I’ll pray for grace, and try to show myself grace for the mistakes I have made. And I’ll ask God to work in the hearts of those hard toward me. If I do this, I am sure that I will discover God is making me anew.
Where do you need to seek God’s ways of making all things new in your own life?