“And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing[a] their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.”Matthew 9:1-8
When Jesus forgives, He heals hearts, but forgiveness doesn’t always bring healing naturally. Sometimes, forgiving someone of their trespasses brings judgement from those who have refuse to give up their self-interests. When we sit in judgement of others who seek forgiveness and healing, or even one who seeks to forgive and heal others, we expose our own hearts as burrowed with bitter roots of unforgiveness and hatred. The religious establishment was more concerned about the following their traditions and rules that they were willing to sacrifice relationship in favor or religiosity.
In this season of our country, there are many who are seeking to get past the bitterness and brokenness of the rhetoric that we have witnessed and are still witnessing play out in the media and in social media. Yet, there are elements on both sides of the aisle that are more concerned about being “right” instead of being reconciled. While there are some legitimate concerns on both sides – and you can see them if you look beyond your own preconceived notions of justice and look to the heart of each other – when we sit in judgement of those who wish to bring healing and reconciliation instead of taking your preferred side of the argument, we expose the condition of our individual hearts.
And such judgement is evil to the core. And Jesus sees it for what it really is. The fact of the matter is that it is easy to say “I forgive you.” It’s quite another matter to offer restoration, because restoration requires healing of brokenness. Brokenness of heart. Brokenness of vision. Brokenness of spirit. And brokenness brings pain. Pain is nothing more than a neurological signal that your brain sends out that says change is necessary. If you put your hand in the fire, you are going to get burned and it’s going to hurt. That is a signal that your body is telling you to stop and take your hand out of the fire and don’t do it again. That’s a picture of repentance.
The same image applies to how we treat one another. We experience pain and brokenness in our relationship and we change and break off the relationship. But that produces even more pain and brokenness as the relationship becomes strained and broken. It’s not enough to simply offer forgiveness. Forgiveness is merely the first and easiest step. Restoration requires healing and healing requires work and time. But a refusal to offer restoration is in fact just as sinful as the pain that broke the relationship in the first place.
Restoration and reconciliation are acts of grace. Grace is undeserved, but grace is what we all need. It’s one thing to receive grace from God Himself, but quite another to extend that same grace to our neighbor who offends us. If we consider ourselves Christ-followers, we have an obligation to view everything in the world against the backdrop of the cross of Calvary. In that act, Christ showed us the price it took for God to forgive mankind. In so doing, when we surrender our lives to Him, we also surrender our right to be unforgiving towards anyone.
And in many cases, restoration is only possible through the intervention of Jesus Himself by the power of the Holy Spirit. The paralytic’s friends brought him to Jesus for restoration. They knew they didn’t have the power to heal, but they knew who did. If you humbly come together before Jesus seeking restoration in your relationship, He is faithful and just to forgive and heal. But it requires humility on the part of all in order for all relationships to be healed.
I challenge you to seek restoration in your relationships this season. Seek and give forgiveness to one another, but don’t let it stop there. Pursue restoration and reconciliation with all your heart. And if the pain is too great, seek the intervention of the Father. Seek wise counsel from intermediary. We are in a period of Thanksgiving, soon to be followed by celebrating the advent of our Lord Jesus with Christmas. What better time to come before Him in humility together and seek restoration for ourselves and for each other.