Throughout the month of January I am creating a Bucket List in which I will suggest one New Year’s Practice each day that will give you a taste of living an integrated life for 2011. (By integrated, I mean one in which your faith, your character, your relationships, your responsibilities--all elements of your life--are in agreement.) Each one is meant to be exercised in one day. Please feel free to share about your experience in the comments section below. We will move through four different themes of living an integrated life. The second week January we'll explore practices about how we relate to others.
We are changing gears again this week to move into our third theme, which focuses on how we relate to other people. With today being Martin Luther King, Jr. day, there's not a better day to start such a theme!
Today's practice is reconciling. I'm sure that at various points in your life you may have experienced conflict with others, albeit from a family dispute, racism, some form of abuse, or even the guy who cut you off on the expressway. If we really think about it, most of the hurt we find in our lives comes from people. And we find ourselves both being the offenders and the offended.
Dave Schmelzer, pastor in Boston and author of Not the Religious Type, says that this is a result of "sin". We think of sin as being a bad person and having vices. But Schmelzer says that the Bible really describes sin (the antithesis of righteousness) as a breakdown of relationships. So "sin" embodies our shortcomings that destroy relationships, starting first with God, and then with other people. And so he has an insightful description of what makes Jesus so unique as a "religious" figure, referring to him as the Great Reconciler, the one who breaches broken relationships. His take is that no other religious figure has it in their agenda to tear down walls the way Jesus does. Whereas we as sinful humans want to exclude, draw lines, and bear grudges, the Bible shows that Jesus wants to include, draw in, and forgive. And the Bible also says that this is something that he has passed on to us.
So today, in honor of and inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr., begin the process of reconciling whatever kind of broken relationship you're facing. Resolve recent arguments, surrender any racist or prejudices attitudes, seek forgiveness from someone you've harmed, forgive someone who has harmed you. It's not easy, trust me. But it's the only way.