March reminds me of new beginnings, and new beginnings make me think of reconciliation. Reconciliation is, after all, at the heart of the gospel message.
God sent Jesus to reconcile all of us to Himself. Jesus walked among humanity, showing Jews and Romans, Middle Easterners and Europeans alike, what it means to forgive and how to do it.
Even hanging on a cross; head throbbing from a crown of thorns pounded into his temple by some disgruntled Roman soldiers far from home, taking their frustrations out against the Jews who, in return despised and looked down on them for their religious practices and thirst for power, said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t even realize what they’re doing” (paraphrase mine).
John said (also my paraphrase) “Look. Give up the bad things you are doing, saying, thinking and go the other way (In other words, repent)!” (Matthew 3:1-3). God is coming close to you! God is reconciling you to himself. He wants us to be reconciled to each other.
Jesus said, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother, then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23)
There are many reasons behind rifts in relationships. Argument and petty disagreements can grow out of proportion and develop into estrangements. Jesus made it clear that getting things straightened out between each other is a priority with God. It’s easy to be religious, but we need to have relationships with God and each other. Jesus wants us to forgive, as our heavenly Father has forgiven us. We do not always have to prove we’re right.
David W. Holdren said, “Unity within diversity is called harmony, and that is the answer to our disagreements.”
“A new command I give to you, love one another. By this (loving spirit and action) everyone will know that you are my disciples (living as I have lived toward others), if you love one another.” (John 13:33-36 with commentary in parenthesis made by Reverend Bill Carr, Rocky Mountain District Superintendent of the Church of the Nazarene.)
1 Corinthians 14:1 says, “Let your love be your highest goal. “
Reverend Carr also gives the following suggestions on where to begin:
1. Make a covenant with God to love as He enables us to love others as Jesus loves us.
2. Look for and identify those who need to experience Jesus’ love through you.
3. Initiate acts of loving kindness toward others.
4. Share yourself (friendship, a listening ear, a gift of love).
5. Practice forgiveness.
6. Release any and all slights, hurts and grudges through loving conflict resolution.
7. Refrain from hurting others.
As we near Easter and realize what God has done for us, let’s do for others. Begin with forgiveness. Move on toward unconditional love.
Christie American Horse is director of M.O.R.E. Ministries and a local minister with the Church of the Nazarene.