I sat across the table from a brother of mine who had been hurt by a mistake I made, as he courageously told me how he had been holding a grudge against me for sometime. He described his feelings of frustration, sadness, and loneliness. He shared how he prayed through his grudge, and asked God for perspective and wisdom. He explained how God gave him a sudden, potent shot of empathy for me that caused him to shed his grudge and forgive. All of this, before we'd ever talked or I'd ever known there was a rift between us.
I find myself in awe of this kind of mercy. The kind of love that made my brother willing to suffer the grief in the relationship in prayer and meditation, without lashing out, so that he could come to me with complete honesty and love in his heart....that kind of love is astonishing. It was undeserved love. It was unasked for love (I didn't even know there was a problem!). It was suffering love. And, combined with my admission of guilt and desire to repair, it reconciled us.
Family, we live together in such proximity, sharing our dreams, working together for the good of our city, hearing each other's pain, and trying to sharpen each other's perspective. We are bound to hurt each other. We are guaranteed to step on each other's toes. We are likely to say a word (or be silent in a way) that triggers a brother or sister's shame or fear.
The question is, will we love each other the way my brother loved me? Will we model the kind of love Jesus has for us: undeserved, unasked for, suffering love?
A critical part of the Christian story is that God also loves us in this way--undeserved, unasked for, suffering love. He did on the cross of Jesus, dying to repair our relationship with God. It is in accepting this love from Jesus, that my friend was able to extend that kind of love to me. It was in accepting this love from Jesus that I felt secure enough to fully admit my guilt without needing to save face.
Our community is called to model this kind of love. Not a niceness that sugarcoats our mistakes, but love that suffers through them and forgives. Not a rosy self-affirmation that denies our capacity to hurt others, but the kind of love that empowers us to name our own guilt without hating ourselves so that we can be reconciled to our sisters and brothers.
This is the kind of community we are. This is the kind of community we are becoming. This Advent, let's learn to walk more deeply in the love of Christ.