September 28 The Heart of Christianity
The heart of Christianity is relationships.
- Love God.
- Love your neighbor as yourself.
- Love one another.
- Love your enemies.
These commands of Jesus are all about relationships. And it is that last one that makes us realize that relationships are messy. Very messy indeed.
The heart of Christianity is forgiveness:
- Forgiveness from God.
- Forgiveness for your neighbors.
- Forgiveness from your neighbors.
- Forgiveness for yourself.
- Forgiveness from yourself.
- Forgiveness for your brothers & sisters.
- Forgiveness from them.
- Forgiveness for your enemies.
The heart of Christianity is the Good News that God restores broken relationships through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Complete restoration. We can accomplish partial restoration through our own human ingenuity, wisdom, and work, but only Jesus makes it complete.
Sloppy Christianity—very popular in the United States—makes the forgiveness of Jesus to be mainly the mental assent to the truth that we have messed up our relationships with God, self, and others; to acknowledge that and to ask Jesus to fix those relationships, to fix us. Make no mistake about it, this is a great start and an important beginning. Anyone who has done this will find tremendous changes happening.
But it is not transformation.
Your wrecked car is not transformed when you tow it not the body repair shop and leave it. It is transformed when the master mechanic undertakes the complex, skilled work of replacing or refurbishing each damaged and destroyed part. The work cannot be hurried or interrupted, and it proceeds in a definite order. Even when the work is done, it is never done. Maintenance and upkeep take place weekly and monthly, sometimes minor, sometimes major replacement or repair.
If it takes this to transform a car, how much more does it take to transform a relationship?
Today we begin a six week journey into the heart of Christianity as we explore six of the components of forgiveness. It is a transformational journey that can restore all your relationships.
We begin with Jesus’ instructions on how to relate to people who have sinned against you. Typically we respond either by receiving the hurt, damage, or wrong as if it does not affect us at all. We respond with silent internal suffering. Or, we lash back with more intensity than we have received. We react loudly with great anger.
Jesus teaches a middle way; speak the truth in love to the offender. Make it clear what happened and its consequence. Seek to restore the relationship.
Jesus says that this is so important that it will not only have profound implications for this life, but also for the heaven itself.