October 17, 2020
Subject: What Unashamed is all about: Forgiveness and Reconciliation
2Corinthians 5:19 “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their sins to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”
We often hear that if we don’t learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. As our President recovers from COVID-19, and America continues to be embroiled in hatred towards each other because ideologies conflict, it was 20 years ago when Europe’s deadliest conflict since World War II. The Bosnian genocide was the first European crime to be formally classified as genocidal in character since World War II,
In his 2012 article “Don’t Cry For Me, Sarajevo”, Philip Yancey explained, as he travels through the war-ravaged Sarajevo, what it means for generations of people to refuse to forgive each other and be reconciled for the horrible things they have done. He calls it ‘the sad natural state of being human’:
“For just shy of four years Serbian soldiers who inherited most of the Yugoslavian army took up positions in the hills that surround Sarajevo and strangled the city in a brutal siege, the longest in modern times. At least 11,000 civilians died during the siege, including 1,600 children. Cemeteries filled up so that the dead had to be buried in a soccer field just down from the site of the 1984 Olympics.
More than 100,000 people died in the wars. In Srebenica Serbs rounded up every male over the age of fifteen, 8000 in all, tied their hands behind their backs, and shot them. Workers are still digging up the mass graves in an attempt to identify the bodies.
I came to this part of the world because two of my books, ‘Where Is God When It Hurts’ and ‘What’s So Amazing About Grace’, had just been published in the Croatian and Bosnian language. I had prepared talks on grace… with one exception, however, I was asked to speak on suffering, not on grace.
When I asked, ‘Are you ready for reconciliation,’ not one person answered Yes. The wounds are at once too fresh and too old, for these disputes go back more than seven centuries. ‘Every compromise is defeat,’ said one Serbian leader. And another: ‘Any reconciliation is betrayal.’ I have never visited a place in such need of grace and forgiveness, and yet so resistant to it… Ungrace plays like the background static of life for families, nations, and institutions. It is, sadly, our natural human state.”
I agree with Yancey’s conclusion. We are all by our very natures graceless creatures in desperate need of a solution that will unlock the prison of resentment and bitterness we choose to stay in, that prevents us from ever living life with a freedom to forgive others for their trespasses. We want fairness. We long for justice. We want people to get what they deserve. Somehow, we need to feel justified for our bitterness.
And this is what we are seeing at a much less devastating level so far, here on our American streets. No one is protesting against each other’s lack of grace toward each other. No one is demonstrating against the lack of forgiveness and reconciliation. Perhaps it is because no one feels qualified to take that position.
In our verse this week, Paul explains to the early church in Corinth, in 2Corinthians 5:19, that the appearance of Jesus Christ on earth was to accomplish God the Father’s specific goal. He offered friendship between Himself and mankind not by anything God would demand we must do to earn that friendship, but rather something solely based on His initiative.
God accomplished the miracle of reconciling Himself to sinful, graceless, evil people, like those Yancey describes who are simply demonstrating ‘the sad natural state’ of what it truly means to ‘be human’.
How could God possibly watch what people did to each other in Sarajevo and still decide He wants to extend a free offer of reconciliation? This is the grace Yancey writes about, and offered to Yugoslavia. How does God do it? Men in their sinful state, alienated from God, are invited by God to be reconciled to Him by willingly accepting the provision He has made – the death of Jesus Christ for the sin they committed.
If you, like me, are someone who has freely submitted to the free offer of reconciliation to God through trusting in Christ’s death for your sins, Paul exhorts you in the second half of our verse to not only live a life of freedom in knowing God has freely forgiven you, but also to unashamedly take that freedom to others.
We are His unashamed voice of reconciliation, to pronounce the need to forgive and be reconciled to one another, because of what He has done for us. It is time to turn up the volume and make ourselves heard.
Ed Croteau is a resident of Lee’s Summit and hosts a weekly study in Lees Summit called “Faith: Substance and Evidence.” He can be reached with your questions through the Lee’s Summit Tribune at Editor@lstribune.net.