18And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19
Paul makes it clear that while we are here on this earth we’ve got one job to do- spread the message of reconciliation. The Greek word “katallasso” means to change mutually. It’s the word picture of exchanging coins for others of equal value. When we are angry with another and refuse to forgive we are devaluing that person and also denigrating the very message we have given to communicate. Paul’s point is that we had nothing to trade with God. We were in debt up to our eyeballs in sin and completely at odds with a Holy God. Yet, “God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin so that we could be made right with God through Christ.” (2 Cor. 5:21). He forgave our debt and deposited righteousness and now calls us to do the same thing.
When we refuse to be offended, when we exchange forgiveness with those in our lives we were at odds with, we are essentially preaching the Gospel. When we hold to the offense when clinging to our right to “make someone pay” for how they hurt us we are forgetting what was freely given to us and acting as if we earned it. We didn’t earn our forgiveness we just received it. Now we have the currency of forgiveness that never runs out. Forgiveness is free. It’s offense, bitterness, and unforgiveness that cost us more than we could ever know. This past Monday I went with Cyndi and the Twins to help their class with a beach clean up. I had no idea how much Jesus was about to teach me about the power of forgiveness through something as simple as Limu. There were some Uncles who taught the class all about the different native Limu (over 300 varieties in Hawaii alone). Up to this point I only knew about Limu on my Ahi Poke. After cleaning up the invasive Limu from the beach Uncle Wally told us about Limu Kala. Kala literally means “to forgive, to free”. Limu Kala played a part in the practice of ho‘oponopono, a ritual to resolve disagreements between family members. After negotiating and praying, those involved would eat this limu to signal forgiveness and the end of the conflict. Uncle told the story he heard from Kalapana on Big Island where two bothers who had pilikea (problems) made limu Kala Leigh for the head and walked in the water until it floated off the head and away with the tides. When they walked out of the waters they walked out reconciled. Such a powerful picture of what we celebrate through Water Baptism in our Christian faith. Then, the kicker came when Uncle Wally said that Limu Kala grows in the roughest part of the ocean. There is strength in forgiveness and where is it most needed? Where the waters are roughest between us and another person. Wow! Our God practiced Ho’oponopono with us and asks us to do so with others.
What a joy to discover yet another way You have planted the seeds, literally, of the Gospel of Love within the Hawaiian culture. I wouldn’t even be able to come into Your presence this morning or receive the promises of Your Word or sit at peace with my brothers and sisters at this table if it wasn’t for what You did to reconcile me to Yourself. You not only paid my debt, but you also made me a rich man. Rich in forgiveness and grace and free to spend it like Oprah giving free cars away to everyone on her show. Forgiveness for you. Forgiveness for you. And Forgiveness for you! Show me any place where I have been holding on to the bitterness of past hurts so I can let it float away in the waters of forgiveness.