A meditation for peace: Col. 3

Today, we grieve.

We grieve injustice, racism and violence. We grieve for people killed by the very people we pay to protect them. We grieve sickness, death, loneliness, isolation, loss of income, food insecurity and those trapped in prisons where the virus rages, those effectively sentenced to capital punishment for the “crime” of not being able to meet bail.

In Col. 3, St. Paul invites us to set our minds on things above. He provides a long list of things that weigh us down, things that prevent us from being the people we long to be, including lust, greed, rage, slander and lying. He reminds us that we all are one in Christ. He says that there’s no distinction of gender, race or class in Christ.

We know. We agree. But often it feels like the harder we try, the faster we fail. The quarantine has a clarifying effect: it shows us the things we need to shed as individuals, as a nation, as a world.

We need healing. Desperately. So how do we receive the healing we need?

I can think of no better solution than the following mediation exercise in Leanne Payne’s classic book, THE HEALING PRESENCE. She writes:

“I never cease to be awed at the simplicity and the extent of the spiritual and psychological healings that take place when we ask a person to look and see, with the eyes of his heart, Jesus on the Cross. As he looks to the One who took into ‘his own body on the tree’ the sin, the darkness, the pain that is killing him, he is then enabled to yield up to the dying Christ the ‘death’ that is in his own members…. When we do so, God’s energy is indeed ‘let loose.’ People repent and are forgiven: people forgive others and are healed.”

Try it. I have, multiple times this week. But I warn you: get away by yourself, because you might weep.

What I found is that I didn’t want to burden Him. I didn’t want to hurt Christ by giving him my bad stuff. I felt terrible for causing Him to suffer. I imagined handing him my anger, for instance, and visualized what it cost Him to take it from me.

But that is exactly the point. He did suffer for us. He died so we might live. By His stripes we are healed. He invites us to hand Him the burdens we were not made to carry, the burdens of our inadequacy and brokenness.

So close your eyes and give Christ your all, your good and your bad. As you imagine Christ on the cross, dying for you, picture yourself giving to Him the sin, darkness and pain that is killing you. Give him your hopelessness and your fear, the things that make you angry and the things that make you want to give up.

He already wept.

And in the place created by that holy transference, we will find room in our hearts for hope and for love. God takes our sin and gives us grace to enable us to help others who so desperately need it. Amen.

Knit together in love (Col. 2)

read Col. 2. When I was in college, my roommates used to come to my ice hockey matches and sing original cheers like, “Rolina, Rolina, you’re doin’ so fine-ah”– while they were knitting.

Talk about love.

The rink was freezing. They sat on concrete. And the fact that they were cheering while engaged in a domestic activity made the whole thing completely endearing.

Today’s passage exhorts us to be knit together in love. Whenever I read it, I think of those kind women, knitting in unison. They were creating something warm for other people while freezing themselves. Isn’t that an image of sacrificial love that we should aspire to?

Actually I think that’s only the beginning of an understanding of what it means to be knit together in love, not the end. When we think of Christ’s calling as being a rule that means we suffer while others delight, I think we’ve missed the real point: when we give love, we get more than we give. We get to live in a new kingdom.

Let’s look, for instance, at forgiveness. Why? Because it happens to be something I’m struggling with. So what did I finally do? I sat down and read as many verses as I could on forgiveness. And yes, many of them say that if we want God to forgive us, we have to forgive others (see, e.g. Matt. 6:14-15). That’s clear. It’s even fair. We can wrap the justice-oriented sides of our brains around that.

But the Bible says far more than that. It says that God “delights” in showing mercy (Micah 7:18-19). Delight? When we read the word delight, the white-knuckled fingers with which we clutch our resentments start to loosen. Delighting sounds, well, delightful. We delight in delightful things. The idea of delighting in mercy attracts us.

The apostle Paul also says that we should repent of a sin–such as refusing to forgive–so our sins may be wiped out and “times of refreshing” may come from the Lord (Acts 3:19). I didn’t realize how badly I needed times of refreshing until I read that passage.One of the many things I love about the Bible is that it articulates our needs–and tells us how to satisfy them. I also love that it’s a plural promise. We don’t just get one measly “time” of refreshing, like a ten minute massage in an airport. We get “times” of refreshing. Reading about the blessings that follow forgiveness makes something soften in our hearts. We experience the change from the inside that God promises to us if we spend time in His presence.

As if delight, times of refreshment and the promise of being forgiven were not enough: there’s more. Paul says that the Lord asks us to be “kind and compassionate” to each other, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave us (Eph 4.32). Again, the words kindness and compassion attract us. They’re an invitation to allow ourselves to be transferred into the kingdom of light. Suddenly, we remember that the kingdom Christ offers us is a breathtaking place, a place flooded with light and peace, and we think: why did we ever leave?

Armed with these verses on forgiveness I went for a walk around the reservoir, praying for someone who says cruel things about me and has actively tried to hurt me. I began to see them with compassion. I can’t say I’m all the way there. But God gave me an image of what they’re really going through. For me, it was the beginning of what I think Paul is calling us to in Colossians 2: to be knit together in love.

It’s a warm and wonderful place to be. To move toward forgiveness means that we move further into God’s kingdom of love. There, we can be refreshed–over and over. We can delight in offering to others the kindness and compassion Christ gives us. We can give up the illusion that we are without sin, and receive instead the covering of the cross. We can live in the place where Christ nailed our sins to the cross, so He sees His perfection in place of our imperfection. There, we can truly say we’re doing fine.

xo Caroline