Reflecting on the diversity of our community enables us to have a better understanding of ourselves.
In an inclusive community culture that values different perspectives, builds more citizen engagement, fosters creativity and fuels innovation, we first must choose to follow the path of redemption and forgiveness.
This is no easy thing when we are surrounded by people in fear and have that fear inside us, too. But when we truly experience the grace of God as love and forgiveness, joy and peace, we move with complete freedom from who we think we are to who we really are.
When you watch TV or read the newspapers, are you struck by how much they focus on punishment and revenge? About fighting hatred and fear with more hatred and fear?
In reality, the most profound stories ever told are ones about real redemption and forgiveness. They touch the heart and soul, and open us to the experience of God, to grace, in a way that nothing else can — except, of course, in our own personal experience of this profound activity. One deep act of forgiveness, where an obvious human mistake was completely denied, can reveal the real person underneath.
This awakening can lead someone to experience themselves as someone who has a soul, a person who could make a difference, and indeed they can.
When we truly can look beyond the sins and mistakes we all make (“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone”— John 8:7) and see the real person within, as Jesus did — the real person who is looking for love, just like we are — we can be the expression of forgiveness. At these times, our hearts open wide, and we really do see the face of God, and others see God in us.
I see restoration as a constant striving toward an earlier state and, therefore, a continuous process. This understanding gives humanity a significant role and a responsibility to participate in lessening the impact of human agendas. Restoration is more about the here and now. But, redemption is more about the then and there. The American church — and America itself, at many times — tends to focus on things that American culture values: immediate, felt needs and desires, rather than deep, eternal truths.
Toward that deep end, can we hear God say, “To love another is to see the face of God?”