Tag Archives: love

hands making a heart

Thoughts on Equality

This is part of an ongoing series about the Ministry of Reconciliation.
A three-minute read.

Reconciliation (noun) /ˌrek.ənˌsɪl.iˈeɪ.ʃən/:The process of making two opposite beliefs, ideas or situations agree

Read the entire series

Two centuries ago a group of Christians from my church in South London were instrumental in ending slavery in the British Empire. Great men and women all: people of bold faith, humility, perseverance and skill. Their desire was for an equitable society.

We are still working on it, but thank God: we are still working on it! We have not given up. Progress is being made. Is it ever fast enough? Of course not. But, who do we remember? Who do we teach about? By and large they are the light-skinned ones.

We celebrate them, of course. But let’s also celebrate the dark-skinned ones: Olaudah Equiano, Mary Prince, Ottobah Cugoano.

Would the light-skinned ones have fed the fire had it not been for the dark-skinned ones who lit the match? I don’t know, but I expect not, or at least not as quickly.

One slogan of the UK abolition movement was, ‘Am I not a man and a brother?’ This remains a relevant question, although we might broaden the language today for more political correctness.

Regardless of all that, the answer from the world of reconciliation is, ‘Yes. Yes you are.’ Indeed we all are, as we’re all made in the image of God, even those of us who don’t currently believe in Him.

I offer this response about reconciliation with humility because I always come from a place of ignorance, whatever the color of your skin, whatever your background. There is much I don’t know and will never know about my dark-skinned friends, simply because I’m a light-skinned friend.

But may I say it: even though the dark-skinned ones have the light-skinned vision broadcast to them endlessly from all corners all their lives, they truly don’t know our lives either.

Many of them are my beloved brothers and sisters, my friends, and in some cases my prayer partners and confidants. But, because the world can categorize us by the color of our skin we did not and will not have the same experiences.

But isn’t that the way of life? Even when I am as like as possible to another person, we are separated by more than skin.

The truth is that I don’t know anyone’s life but my own, not truly. Certainly not someone’s inner life. Not even my wife’s, whom I know better than anyone. ‘For what man knows the things of a man, except the spirit of man which is in him?’ 1 Or put another way, ‘After all, who can really see into a person’s heart and know his hidden impulses except for that person’s spirit?’ 2

I can converse with my dark-skinned friends about racial justice issues all I want. But I will never be able to say truly and fully, ‘I know how you feel,’ or ‘I know how it was.’ Nor can they about me, actually. But we can share matters of the heart: love, fear, joy, pain, anxiety, certainty; hopes, dreams and expectancy; all those invisible, eternal things.3 Those are common to us all.

So let us begin there. Those are our common ground. That’s where our reconciliation begins: in humility and vulnerability.4 That was Christ’s model. God humbled himself to appear in the world as a human being. Divine and living a perfect life, yet vulnerable. As a baby, as a boy, as a man killed brutally and unjustly for the crimes of others. For me. For you. Because of me. Because of you.

As I attempt to approach all these ideas with humility and vulnerability, I should be able to ask the same of you. All of us are equal or none of us is. As for the ignorance I experience? So long as I don’t use it as a shield to avoid my deficiencies, I’ll be all right.

1. 1 Corinithians 2:11
2. 1 Corinthians 2:11 (TPT)
3. 2 Corinthians 4:18
4. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21

Image by Anna Shvets via Pexels

round mirror

Seen About Town

I have a habit of taking pictures of things on the floor, perched on fences, tacked on trees. Who knows why? Perhaps the eye is drawn to visual metaphor as the mind is to written ones.

London is a great place for this with nine million people’s worth of detritus fluttering down.

Enjoy the whimsey.

Cover Photo by Ethan Sees via Pexels

The Greatest Gift

(An eight minute read)

“’Tis the Season to be Jolly”, the song says. For many of us Christmas is jolly and joyful, but it can also be full of rush, pressure, expectation, a need to perform, and an undercurrent that something is not quite right somehow, as though Santa is about to drop the other boot.

This is not another cliché essay about the joy of the season, rather about something messy and demanding. It is about the greatest gift we can give at Christmas, a gift we give to ourselves.

It’s the gift of forgiveness, a gift that always, always benefits the giver.

Image: Wolfgang H. Wögerer, Wien, Austria via Wikimedia Commons

Please resist believing the lie that says you have to get even. There is no value in getting even, only in getting free. It is a simple act; it is not always an easy act, but you can do it, and it will change your life.

We start the journey of forgiveness in places like: “If you only knew what he did to me…” “What happened was unforgivable…” “She has to pay for this…” “I can never forgive.”

Please, never say “never”, because you will forego a transformational experience.

Forgiveness of others can be a difficult, demanding and painful thing. I know. I have had grudges and resentments that I bore for years before choosing to unburden myself. I use the word “unburden” deliberately because a lack of forgiveness is simply that – a burden, a weight, a drag, friction.

To better understand, imagine me walking along having just finished all my Christmas shopping in one go.

On my left shoulder is a large bag, the long strap of which is over my head to keep it from slipping away. My arm hangs over it in an uncomfortable arc, supporting a hand that grips another shopping bag, this one hanging low and heavy to the left of my left knee. These stuffed satchels would have me leaning hard left if it were not for the oversized weighty sack I’m desperately clutching with my right hand as a counterbalance. Meanwhile, I am kept from being hunched over from these burdens by a giant rucksack weighing heavily on my back. It appears to keep me over my center of balance, but that is an illusion. What it actually does is weigh me down, creating additional pressure.

This is the picture I want you to have when I speak of bearing a grudge or carrying a resentment. Grudges are heavy things, and they get heavier over time; their inertia increases, as though some sort of scale builds up on them, a crust that refuses to flake off. It is as though gravity increases where they are present. They are weighty matters. Don’t take them lightly.

Can you see this? Here I am, not skipping along, not striding purposefully, not even merely walking really. Because of what I choose to carry, I am trudging, perhaps even plodding, or slogging. This is no good way to live.

Is it any wonder we speak of ‘personal baggage’ when describing this? Baggage is something we carry that has our “stuff” in it. When we travel on an airliner, we are restricted to both the size and weight of the baggage we can carry. Too much of either and the plane would burst at the seams, or simply not be airworthy. An apt metaphor for us as we journey through life with this junk!

What is in this baggage that I tote resolutely and stolidly, refusing to relinquish? Remember, in my shopping metaphor, I spent an entire day ‘spending good money’ – investing, as it were, in these things. If they are a good investment, they will increase in value. But how can a grudge increase in value?

Well, here’s the truth of it. It can’t. It has no value in the first place. And anything times zero equals zero.

This begs this question: at what point do I cut my losses and divest? Why is divestment beneficial? And what are the risks, if any?

Here is the upside: It makes my life, and my heart, lighter. Without carrying baggage, I can pay more attention to what is in front of me and enjoy it for what it is, instead of being on the lookout for obstacles. When I carry so much weight, the risk of a drop, a stumble or a fall is so great, there is no opportunity to stop being on the defensive.

Over time, without forgiveness, life then becomes a balancing act, full of deliberate steps not toward anything joyful, but away from or around anything which could possibly be harmful or painful. I live in lack, not abundance.

Can you see the trap in this? Until I lay down the burden, I cannot feel free and easy, not ever, not for one moment. I always carry the weight of it, and have to live life around it. Sure, I can pretend it is not there, but pretense itself only becomes more mass in the sack. And so it goes.

It is also very bad for my heart and puts needless pressure on it, as though I were obese, carrying so much extra weight I cannot function the way I was made, and my body’s systems break down one by one.

But – danger: divestiture can be painful. If you have ever held something tightly in your hand for too long, it can hurt to unclench the muscles. The path of least resistance is to leave it alone. It hurts because letting go means laying down the ego long enough to admit I was wrong (even if only to myself). Remember where we started?

If you only knew what he did to me…” “What happened was unforgivable…” “She has to pay for this…” “I can never forgive.”

The things we tell ourselves over and over become the elephant in the room. Living with an elephant in the room is messy and claustrophobic, but we get used to it. Worse – we become blinded to it’s presence, just as we become so used to the unhealthy ‘weight’ we carry, we cannot imagine living without it.

But if the elephant disappears, how do I clean up its mess and use all the space that is created? The beauty of true forgiveness is that the space immediately becomes empty and clean, as though the mess has been removed of its own accord.

Christmas should be a season of forgiveness, and the miracle of Christmas is that this freedom is very near. It is right on the other side of one simple act.

Here it is: declare aloud, and mean it, “I forgive [you, him, her, Uncle Bob, that nasty boss I had, such-and-such church, Politician X] for the things [he/she/they] did to me or the ones I love [enumerate them specifically], and I absolutely refuse to carry the burden of them any more.”

Mean it. And refuse to go back there. If you do this, you will be free, you will be lighter, and life will get better.

Most important of all, you will participate in the gift God gave us at Christmas – forgiveness of our sin – forgiveness of all the things we do that separate us from Him. We can’t help those things. No matter how good we think we are, or how much we do, we can never be good enough to be forgiven, because only God is perfect. And only He can grant us forgiveness for living in a state short of perfection. This He can do, through the birth, life, sacrifice, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

So please take His gift, this greatest of all gifts, and then say a simple “thank You.” He’s waiting.

Merry Christmas!