A few weeks ago, I posted about being an extrovert and sometimes missing having extrovert friends who would invite me to things or want to be doing things as often as I do. (Read about that journey here.)
I had a friend respond to me in the middle of the night (immediately after she had read the post) with, “Me, me! Pick me!” She felt the same. A day later, I was invited to Grow 2015. And here I am.
I love watching the gathering on days like this. Women of all walks of life mingle, their colours flashing and clashing and brightening a cool Brisbane morning. Short, tall, dark or blonde, we are all here to listen to the same message. Glints of silver stranded hair reflect the same light as multi – pierced ears, noses and lips.
After worship in song, we are brought a message by Lesley Ramsay.
Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you. How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.
2 Corinthians 5:16-21 MSG
“God acts to end the war.”
Lesley tells an almost unbelievable story from the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, South Africa. I have found a copy of the story to retell here:
I quote an episode from “Call Me David” by John McSweeney to clearly understand the “understanding” required for reconciliation through a TRC.
“A frail black woman stands slowly to her feet. She is over 70 years of age. Facing her across the court room are several white security officers, one of them, Mr. Van de Broek, has just been tried and found implicated in the murders of both the woman’s son and husband some years before.
It was indeed Mr. Van de Broek, it has been established, who had come into the woman’s home many years back, had taken her son, shot him at point-blank range and then burned the young man’s body on a fire while he and his officers held a party. Seven years later Van de Broek and his cohorts had returned to take away her husband as well. For many months she heard nothing of his whereabouts. Then almost two years after her husband’s disappearance, Van de Broek came back to fetch the woman herself. How vividly she remembers that evening, going to a place beside a river, where she was shown her husband, bound and beaten, but still strong in spirit, lying on a pile of wood. The last words she heard from his lips, as the officer poured gasoline over his body and set him aflame, were `Father, forgive them.’
And now the woman stands in the courtroom and listens to the confession offered by Mr. Van de Broek. A member of the commission turns to her and asks, `So, what do you want? How can justice be done to this man who has so brutally destroyed your family?’ ‘I want three things” began the woman, calmly but confidently. `I want first to be taken to the place where my husband’s body was burned so that I can gather the dust and give his remains a decent burial.’ She pauses, and then continues, `My husband and son were my only family. I want secondly, therefore, for Mr. Van de Broek to become my son. I would like him to come twice a month to the ghetto and spend time with me so that I can pour out on him whatever love I have remaining within me.
‘And finally,’ she says, `I want a third thing. I would like Mr. Van de Broek to know that I offer him my forgiveness because Jesus Christ died to forgive. This was also the wish of my husband. And so, I would kindly ask someone to come to my side and lead me across the courtroom so that I can take Mr. Van de Broek in my arms, embrace him and let him know he is truly forgiven. As the court assistant comes to lead the elderly woman across the room, Mr. Van de Broek, overwhelmed by what he has just heard, faints. And as he does those in the courtroom – friends, family and neighbours, who were all victims of decades of oppression and injustice – begin to sing softly the great hymn, `Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me…’
Truth told. Forgiveness offered.
Bigger and grander is God’s reconciliation with us.
This is not always the first thing that comes to our mind when we share the gospel. It’s because we have a problem – God is not good enough and we are not bad enough. The gap between us is huge, but we don’t see it like that.
We see God as a suped-up version of us. BUT!
Here’s the reality. God is holy.
We know what holiness is because God is.
1 John 1:5
Something is good because God does it.
Righteousness is holiness in action.
God comforts Israel. Isaiah 51:5.
Why? Isaiah 5:16
Love. 1 John 3:16. Love changes everything because God demonstrates His righteousness and holiness through His commitment to reconciling with us; His enemies.
Us. We are very bad.
No redeeming features here.
Thanklessness is at the heart of humanity’s moral bankruptcy.
We are pretty horrible really. Without understanding this, we won’t understand the love and reconciliation of God.
We hide sin, rename it and ignore it as long as possible. God does not.
But there is nothing we can do to regain God’s favour and friendship. God has to do it. Romans 5:6.
We have a big sin debt against us. We can’t pay our debt, but God does. By the death of Jesus, our debt is paid.
We get to swap our sin for Jesus’ sinlessness. Romans 5:1, 6-8.
If you accept God’s offer of reconciliation, peace is declared between us.
Have you accepted this offer? Do you understand the breathtaking magnitude of the chasm God had to cross to reach us?
What a brilliant message from Lesley Ramsay.
And what a wonderful day out with my friend; who responded to my honesty with action. While the day was fantastic in itself, the very best bit was the drive to and from the event; drinking coffee frappe and discussing the messages of the day and the weird, freaky honesty that is only possible in a REAL friendship. I was able to share a real concern in my life – perhaps a story for another blog post – and feel safe in the sharing. What an awesome gift.