Wednesday, January 14, 2009

There's Power in Reconciliation

Robert H. Schuller of the Crystal Cathedral‘s Hour of Power offers this positive assessment:

Failure doesn't mean you are a failure, it does mean you haven't succeeded yet.
Failure doesn't mean you have accomplished nothing, it does mean you have learned something.
Failure doesn't mean you have been a fool, it does mean you had a lot of faith.
Failure doesn't mean you have been disgraced, it does mean you were willing to try.
Failure doesn't mean you don't have it, it does mean you have to do something in a different way.
Failure doesn't mean you are inferior, it does mean you are not perfect.
Failure doesn't mean you've wasted your life, it does mean you've a reason to start afresh.
Failure doesn't mean you should give up, it does mean you should try harder.
Failure doesn't mean you'll never make it, it does mean it will take a little longer.
Failure doesn't mean God has abandoned you, it does mean God has a better idea!

I have followed Schuller since meeting him in the late seventies and I believe he is right. When Richard Nixon took office, he received the following note that adds a further clue to the wisdom we need (which Nixon unfortunately did not adequately take to heart).

“…DEFEATS ARE POISON TO SOME MEN” wrote Robert O. Reynolds to Nixon, quoting a favorite College Professor, adding “Great men have become mediocre because of inability to accept and abide by a defeat. Many men have become great because they were able to accept and abide by a defeat.

“If you should achieve any kind of success and develop superior qualities as a man, chances are it will be because of the manner in which you meet the defeats that will come to you just as they come to all men. (Wm. Manchester/The Glory And the Dream, A narrative History of America 1932-1972/Vol two. Boston/Little, Brown and Company, 1974/1084-1085).

Lack of Personal integrity remains our greatest human failure. This is a theological problem because nowhere outside of theology can we find an adequate solution. It currently shows itself in the newest message from Osama bin ladin, in the bail-out news, in the Gaza crisis, and the Islamic conflict with Christians in India and elsewhere.

We have not yet learned how to deal with this theological problem of our human failures. We refuse to learn how to convert our failures into usable cash that we can roll over into dividends with a future of hope.

RECONCILIATION OFFERS A MOST POWERFUL TOOL. I loved watching THE STRAIGHT STORY, the true story of Alvin Straight. It related the tragedy of two brothers separated by a drunken quarrel that resulted in ten years of silence and separation. No longer able to drive his car without a license, Alvin walks aided by 2 canes.

Wishing to reconcile with his stroked brother before it is too late, Alvin rigged up a trailer, connected it to his riding mower, and launched a 300 miles drive from Laurens, Iowa to Mt Zion WI--to reconcile with his brother Lyle.

The journey proved arduous, a hazardous adventure, but Alvin rolled into Lyle’s yard safely, calling, Lyle.” After a lengthy silence, Lyle finally responded, “Alvin.” The two strangers--once brothers--silently sat on Lyle’s porch, neither able to vocalize his hurts. Finally … Lyle looked at the well-traveled mower and asked, “Did you ride that thing all the way here to see me, Alvin?”

“I did that, Lyle,” replies Alvin.

Reconciliation is never easy, but efforts pay huge dividends. Three of the world’s great religions look to the Patriarch Abraham for rootage. Two of them--Judaism and Islam--are locked in mortal combat to the death. Christianity alone offers the hope of converting centuries of hatred and hostility into any wholesome hope.

Centuries ago, “quarreling arose between Abram‘s (Abraham) herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot”. Abram sought resolution: “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me. . .Is not the whole land before you?” Abram, the stronger, gave Lot the choice, saying “Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right. . .”

Lot chose--be it selfishly. God blessed Abram--greatly. Both men prospered. Later, Abram had to rescue Lot from an enemy raider. Meanwhile, Abram, built an altar to God, becoming the father of the faithful (Genesis 13-15).

True Christians still pursue Christ’s way of reconciliation, exercising the power of love as uniquely expressed in the life and message of Jesus. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you. . .by this all men will know that you are My disciples” ( John 13:33-34; cf Romans 4).

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