Saturday, December 17, 2011

Reconciliation: bringing people together is only a step beyond bringing yourself together

“Reconciliation” is a six syllable word that only an accountant or a lawyer could love. Or the Apostle Paul, of course.

Post-traumatic stress hits hard. Words like “alienation,” “estrangement,” “personal disruptions,” begin to apply. Since rage is often introductory to the PTSD sequence, they are all understandable outcomes.

The young Saul certainly illustrated this. He had his blow-up in Damascus, then in Jerusalem, and you can trace his travels from there by him getting chased out of town after town. He must have lived in a world of hurt, not only physically, but also in his lost of family and religious traditions. He even separated painfully from the best friend he had for many years, Barnabas.

One aspect of what happens in the post-traumatic experience is a mental fragmentation. The prior sense of “who I am” is gone, as are old certainties. Values are at odds with one another; memories, old and new, are at war.

You begin to get to know how profound Paul’s healing was when you start reading that first letter to the Corinthians. He still had his ups and downs, but you can see where he is headed: in the letter to the Romans he has experienced a profound sense of reconciliation, “in Christ.” Flashbacks? These had become God reaching out to him in Christ. He truly knew about being “transformed”; God was not his enemy and he was no enemy of God. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. It happened; it still happens.

 The problem is not to be shrugged off. We see in it “wedge politics,” in “holier than thou,”religions. Sometimes it seems that a person has stayed emotionally behind as a two year old child with a frown and a self defining, NO. Sometimes old hatreds are taught by one generation and caught like the flu by the next – and even the next.

Not to be underestimated in all this is Paul’s cosmic vision of The Christ in his letter to the Ephesians. Christ is a  reconciler at work in the whole world. If you are into philosophy, think Kant. We all need to have our perspectives, “under the aspect of eternity.” “In Christ.” Broader, higher, deeper, a more universal context for you and me, an emotional and intellectual sixth sense.

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