Friday, September 25, 2009

Toughness: The Fifth Tool of Reconciliation

Jesus used truth to bring people into a right relationship with the Father. He also touched them and healed them to point them in the same direction. At times, he was utterly transparent in telling people the way to God. While at other times, he was totally tender, having compassion on the lost, the least and the helpless. But there was another side to Jesus. In many situations, he was tough or used what we call today, “tough love”.

There is a role for tough love in the ministry of reconciliation. While some of us tenderhearted may shy away from this approach (while others might gravitate towards it), it definitely a method that Jesus used.

He was especially tough on the religious leaders of His time. He used terms for them such as “wicked and adulterous generation” and “brood of vipers.” (Matthew 12:39; 12:34) He pronounced upon the teachers of the law and Pharisees the seven woes (Matthew 23). He was constantly confronting them on issues such as healing on the Sabbath (Luke 5:17-6:11), right action in God’s temple (John 2:16), or the clean/unclean debate. (Matthew 15:1-20)

He was hard on the wealthy. He proclaimed, “blessed are the poor” (Luke 20) and then confronted a rich young man who expressed desire to follow after him. (Matthew 19:16-20) And, at times He was tough on the poor as well. When a Canaanite woman approached Him for help for her daughter, Jesus answered, “I only sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Matthew 15:21-28)

But Jesus was also tough on those who loved Him and followed Him. When his mother and brothers wanted to speak with Him, he said, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? Here (they) are…whoever does the will of my Father in heaven…” (Matthew 12:46-50) He even seemed to reserve the especially “tough love” for his disciples, His closest followers.

He chastised them for having too little faith. (Matthew 16:5-12) He rebuked His chief disciple, Peter, by saying, “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:21-28) He taught the “toughness” of following Him by saying, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me…” He constantly reminded His listeners to “count the cost” if they so wished to follow Him. (Luke 9:57-62)In fact, His teaching was so blunt and hard, that many of His followers turned back. (John 6:66)

There was no ill will in Jesus’ tough approaches to reconciliation. If anything, Jesus knew the consequences of people who were non-reconcilers. He knew the heart and the need for “tough love” at particular points in people’s lives. And He effectively used it as a tool of reconciliation.

Next topic: Timing as the sixth tool for reconciliation…

Until then, Shalom!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tenderness: The Fourth Tool of Reconciliation

We’ve talked about the first three tools Jesus used in His ministry of reconciling others to Himself: truth, touch, and transparency. Now it is time to talk about tenderness, the fourth tool of reconciliation.

There are times in the gospel where Jesus is amazingly tender to those in need of His touch. Matthew tells us that once when Jesus was teaching, preaching and healing, we was filled with compassion for the crowds, “…because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 22:36) Once when the disciples tried to protect Jesus by shooing away people who were bringing their little children for Jesus to touch, Jesus became indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them,…” (Mark 10:14)

Another time, as Jesus was teaching on a mountainside, great crowds had come bringing, “the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others.” It was getting late and Jesus said to His disciples, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hunger, or they may collapse on the way.” And he promptly used what was on hand to feed four thousand. (Matthew 15:32).

And, when Jesus saw where they had buried his friend Lazarus, he wept. (John 11:35)

Time and again we see the tenderness of Jesus coming through to minister to those in need and point them to the everlasting Father who cares for all. Never should we make the mistake to believe that Jesus’ display of compassion was in any form a weakness. His tenderness for those broken, those in need, and those in need of reconciliation, was a perfect picture of God the Father and his love for His creation.

Some people of the world serve a terrible and angry God. And while our God is just, awesome, holy and righteous beyond righteousness, He is also a tender, loving God who aggressively seeks those who have lost their way. He is unequivocally on the side of the poor and the needy ready to tenderly call out and reach out to those who need Him and will respond to his overtures of love.

This is good news: God of all creation reaches out to us in tenderness to reconcile us to Himself.

Pretty amazing stuff!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Transparency: The Third Tool of Reconciliation

By far, the first two tools of reconiliation already discussed (truth and touch) are the most employed and modeled in the life of Jesus. The next four tools that we will discuss (transparency, tenderness, toughness, and timing) are minor in comparison and in number of occurences/uses in the scriptures. However, they are models nevertheless and are worth mentioning and exploring.

Perhaps the best example of Jesus' use of transparency for reconciliation occurs in John chapter 4. It is the story of his encounter with the Samaritan woman whom he met at the well. He and his disciples had left Judea and were on their way back to Galilee and so they passed through Samaria. Coming to the town of Sychar, Jesus decided to take a rest by Jacob's well. His disciples had gone ahead into the town to buy food but Jesus stayed behind because he was tired from the journey.

As he was resting, a Samaritan woman came to draw water and Jesus asked her for a drink. She responded by saying he would not ask of her if he knew who she was because she was Samaritan and he was a Jew.

Jesus first confronts her in the process of reconciliation with a truth encounter. Of course he knew who she was. He knew everything about her. He even knew about her five previous husbands and the man she was currently living with. And when she acknowledged that he was a prophet (her words), she also confronted him with a question about where and how to worship.

Jesus' response was to tell her that a time was coming when all true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. To which she says, "I know that coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us." To which Jesus declared, "I who speak to you am he." Transparency with a capital "T".

As to why Jesus chose at this moment, in this particular place, to this particular woman to be transparent and boldly proclaim that he was the Messiah, we can only speculate. However, we can know without a shadow of a doubt that he was employing utter transparency in this act and it has an astonishing affect in the woman's life. Later on in the chapter, we are told that "many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony. "He told me everything I ever did."

So, the Samaritans went for themselves to see Jesus and he stayed with them 2 days because of their urging. And because of his words many more became believers. To show the strength of his transparent ministry of reconciliation first to the woman, the people of the town said to the woman, "We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this many really is the Savior of the world."

There were times that Jesus was very tranparent with people in order to lead them into right relationships with God the Father. This story is but one example.

Next time: tenderness as a tool of reconciliation.