Yesterday we read and discussed Leviticus 16, which describes the pathway a loving God provided for a rebellious people to return to faith. The Israelites, the rebellious people in the Torah, continually failed to trust in the God of creation and the exodus and would rely on themselves, typically by being tempted to follow other gods whose way seemed more “normal” and beneficial. The loving God provided a pathway which required restitution in the animals to be sacrificed, humbling themselves before God through denying themselves, and committing to not harming the relationship in such ways anymore.
The lesson we learned yesterday was to accept God’s atonement for our sins and embrace the way of life put before us. While we may not believe in penal substitutionary atonement, the idea that God was full of wrath and would destroy us in the end if Christ did not take our place, we know that God values us in spite of our sin and longs to be in a state of complete presence with us. However, we should approach God’s presence casually. We, like the Israelites, have done harm to the God of creation and exodus, often through our behavior toward our neighbor. While God offers a gracious pathway of reconciliation through Jesus Christ, we must still humble ourselves and commit to loving God and neighbor going forward. After all, there is no reconciliation if we do not intend to change our behavior and continue doing harm.
The other lesson to learn is directly related and is mentioned above: reconciliation with our neighbor. This is an opportunity to practice toward others what God has practiced toward us; to love others the way God has loved us. Who have we harmed? How can we go to them, make restitution, humble ourselves, and commit to loving our neighbor going forward? Who have we been harmed by? How can we offer a pathway to reconciliation where they make restitution, humble themselves, and commit to loving us?
Is it possible there is a mutual need between the parties to reconcile harm?
Meditate on that today and remember, as God has shown us, love is the way.
Grace and peace,
Rev. J.D. Allen