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Let it Go!

Our reading from the Narrative Lectionary this week is from 2 Corinthians 2.

If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him.

Paul's language here sounds vague, like it could be for any ole' offense, but that was simply letter etiquette of the time.  He is actually referring to a very specific offense.  Someone in the community had said something against Paul and it had stirred the community up.  The majority of the community had sided with Paul, and the instigator was feeling the pain of a failed uprising. Paul tells them clearly that the pain and shame of being ostracized was enough of a punishment, that they needed to let it go. He instructs them to seek reconciliation before the instigator is swallowed up by his own sorrow. 

Have you ever been wounded so deeply by your own mistake that punishment would have had no further impact on your rehabilitation?  I have.  When I was a young child I knocked over this little porcelain lady that my mother loved.  Part of her arm broke off.  I was devastated long before my mother found out.  I was in panic and tears, feeling the sorrow of the loss deeper than my mother ever would.  My sister found me in a puddle of salty tears, gasping for air between my sobs.  I explained what happened and that I didn't know what to do, I didn't know how to fix it.  She encouraged me to do the unthinkable...to take it to my mother and tell her what happened.  I trusted my sister, but this sounded ludacris.  I eventually followed her coaching.  She assured me that I would not be in trouble if I was honest about what happened.  When I finally mustered the courage to do it, my mother's response was unimaginable.  She did not yell, she didn't even look at the porcelain lady, she just reached out and held me in her arms.  The punishment of the majority in my own mind had already been enough.  My shame and guilt were evidence of my rehabilitation.  My mother never mentioned this to me again, but I did notice that she carefully glued the pieces of  the porcelain lady back together.  She was never the same, but always a reminder of my mother's forgiveness. This was the day I learned about grace.  

Has someone wronged you in some way?  Have you been holding on to it, holding it against them?  At first they may feel shame and remorse, but after time, these feelings can change.  After a person is swallowed up by their own pain, they can become bitter and hateful.  Over time, the punishment of withholding reconciliation loses its effect, and turns on itself.  It eats at both the offended and the offender.  Grace given at the right time, on the other hand, can impact a person for a lifetime.  Are you holding on to something you need to let go of?  Is there someone that has suffered enough, that needs your love now?

Lord, we know your work is reconciliation.  Sometimes it is so hard for us to release the tally of wrongs done to us, or to our loved ones.  Help us to let go.

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