Saturday, April 4, 2009

Building Community

Randy Montgomery gave Kentucky Pastors his assessment of the 4 gospel accounts of PALM SUNDAY. The populace hailed Jesus as their prospective King and Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey. The four accounts offer a vivid picture of Jesus fulfilling Hebrew prophecy, but His heart was breaking as He entered the doomed city. He received their affirmation, but He had come "to seek and to save" people He knew were lost (cf. Luke 19:10).

“The church needs a good housecleaning,” suggests Randy, meaning “the body of Christ willingly paying the price for revival.” Jesus offered moral regeneration; He received political affirmation (they wanted a king).

Revival, a word rich in tradition, sometimes offers more rhetoric and emotion than active behavioral change. Times call for living the life Jesus lived. Revival may mean our repenting, then renewing efforts for reconciliation (extending forgiveness, and building community).

Dan Wooding (ANS News) interviewed Harvey Thomas, a British Christian; it illustrates my meaning. Quoting Thomas:

"I was directing the conservative conference for Margaret Thatcher in 1984 and at about three o'clock in the morning, the night before her speech, a bomb went off five feet under my bed and I was blown up through the roof of the hotel, fell three floors, and was buried under ten and a half tons of rubble for two and a half hours."

"Finally, they dug me out without a bone broken. Five of my friends were killed in that bomb. The bomber was an Irish Republican Army man called Patrick McGee. He was caught about a year later and sentenced to eight life sentences for five murders and three attempted murders, one of them was me.

". . .in 1998, fourteen years afterwards, I was really convicted by God while . . . speaking . . . in Louisville, Kentucky, on reconciliation. I felt that I should write to him and say that I forgave him. So I wrote to Patrick McGee and I said, 'I'm a Christian and I forgive you for what you did.' I told him that I could only speak on my own behalf as 'I have no right to speak on anyone else's behalf.'

The two began corresponding. McGee is a highly educated man with a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Ulster in Belfast. Thomas went to see McGee in 2000. He says, "We talked for hours and then he came over to England and talked to my family in my home and he had breakfast together with us. He told my two daughters, and my wife, 'I can't believe I'm here as a friend having tried to kill your daddy and (to my wife) your husband.'

Thomas continues: "We have become very good friends and now, once or twice a year, we try to do a seminar together on reconciliation. He is very much affected by Christian things. He'll say to me, 'Keep praying for us,' and 'the friends in America haven't stopped praying for me have they?'"

When Wooding asked Thomas for background on why the Irish Republican Army had waged war against the British, he gave a brief review of the abysmal British treatment of Irish Catholics in Ireland for 200 years. McGee continued. "I mean in Northern Ireland you couldn't become more than a sergeant in any uniform. You couldn't do anything and it's been very bad;” he then shared how he became personally involved.

When Wooding asked Thomas what he had learned, Thomas replied, "I think the most important thing I've learned, or realized, is first of all and it took me 14 years to understand, was the meaning of the Lord's prayer: 'Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.' In that verse in Matthew, Jesus goes onto say, 'If you don't forgive others, we won't forgive you.' It's a very strong verse. I had to realize that I had to forgive and that's the first step in reconciliation.

"One friend . . .a very senior politician, wrote to me and said he was very badly injured in the bombing and his wife was made a quadriplegic through it. His letter said, 'Don't you realize there has to be repentance before forgiveness?' And I wrote back and said, 'Actually it doesn't. Between man and man, forgiveness is the instruction. Between man and God, yes, there has to be repentance of man before God can forgive. But this is between man and man and mankind and mankind.'

"So we still correspond and he still doesn't forgive and I understand that. I have no criticism of him."

We live in a world full of broken fences. We all need good friends and neighbors, but the way to have friends is to be a friend. No one ever lived that life better than Jesus.
From Warner's World,

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