The Real Issue*

Maybe you've reached the time in your life when you're beginning to sense how big the real issue is: how wounded and scarred people can be, how hopeless and powerless many people feel, how stressed our relationships sometimes are, how we may have hurt those whom we love including our kids, how fragile our families are, how deeply almost everyone hurts.

The truth is, we are all so needy, so hungry. You'll never know this about the other guy; we don't tend to tell one another these kind of things. This is too deep. We each need to be wrapped up in a love we can trust, a love that heals us, comforts us, assures us, adores us. You can picture a loving parent nurturing, protecting, and affirming a child, but many children never got that and even the best parents could only do it imperfectly. They too were wounded.

So we may spend the rest of our lives looking for it. Maybe we marry. Now we expect this perfect love from our husband or wife. Or maybe we've found the perfect friend, a dream friend. Now we will be fully loved. But guess what! It doesn't happen, because often they have their own hurts to heal. So we may get angry or bitter or more likely guarded and protected. Maybe we look to be filled up at work, or by the guys at the bar or the girls at the club. But it doesn't happen; so we may build walls around ourselves, or we may find some way to numb ourselves.

And sometimes we can be so hard on ourselves. A Dark Force often seeps into our souls. We feel accused. And the consequences of our decisions and actions seem to pile up against us. In the scales of justice we sense that we owe a debt, and our wrongness can overwhelm us and begin to immobilize us. We try to forget it. We settle for making it through the day or making it through the night or making it through the weekend. But then we stop and look-stop and really feel-and the darkness is still there. And the hunger.

Returning Home

The truth is that our neediness can only be met by returning home to our loving Father God who gave life to each of us. In fact, the hunger within you is the homesickness of the soul longing for its true home. Now as you turn again homeward, God will wrap you up in his love. He will run to you when you are still a long way off. When you are feeling lost, all alone out in the wilderness, he is out looking for you. He is delighted by you.

All this we know from the birth and life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. And this loving Father God bleeds for us. That we learn at the cross. Once in human history God stepped out from behind all the books about him and loved us enough to become one of us and die for us. Moreover, he died by the most excruciating death imaginable, crucifixion, and in his last hours he forgave even his executioners.

All this happened so that we could know deep down inside-as bedrock certainty-that at the heart of the universe there is forgiveness and sacrificial love rather than accusation. Now knowing this, we can learn to trust the life our Father God gives us and the life to which he calls us. And the Dark Force of accusation, fear, and doubt recedes. It was all along not God but the Devil who is the Great Accuser.

Starting Over

What God offers you now is forgiveness, the feeling as a child when you woke up each morning feeling alive, innocent, and excited. You can start over. Whoever you are, whatever you've done, you can start over. You will discover what it's like to feel fully alive with new energy to face life's challenges and adventures. It will be the Spirit of God strengthening your inner being. You will sense a calling, a life task, a purpose. And you will find yourself able to do things-good things, significant things, lasting things-you never imagined you could do.

Astonishing, however, there is even more good news. Jesus did not stay dead. He was resurrected, confirming within history what thoughtful people have always known. Death is not the end. There is so much more to being alive. And now Jesus offers to us the sure confidence of resurrection beginning in our lives here and now. Lives are resurrected. Families are resurrected. Friendships are resurrected. Communities are resurrected. Trust and hope and love are resurrected. For the Christian this is foundational truth. There is no higher certainty. This is the starting point for a whole new way of understanding our human experience. This is the light by which all things are seen as they really are.

A Community

As your life is transformed by this story, you will want to tell others. And you will want to form communities with others who have learned these things. These will be communities dedicated to living and learning and teaching the ways of Jesus. Consequently these communities will be based on trust. They will be filled with such grace that we learn to be completely honest with one another even about the things that may have once shamed us. These communities will be held together by forgiveness, reconciliation and love. They will renounce ways of power and control. And they will channel our energies towards feeding the hungry, inviting strangers in, looking after the sick, even visiting those in prison.

Through these communities we will learn to celebrate God's goodness in a world of marvelous complexity, diversity and mystery. We are part of a renewed humanity-free and spontaneous, nurturing and growing, healing and forgiving, caring and creative. We are part of God's loving intention to save the world through Jesus.

We hope that we at the Nashua Church of Christ are such a community and perhaps we can be for you. If you wish to know more about this Jesus and how to say "yes" to his forgiveness and sacrificial love, please ask someone or contact us. We'd love to share this news, which is the best you've ever heard.

*Used by Permission, Dale Pauls.