Learning the Dance of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is one of the most freeing and challenging practices we encounter in life. We all know we need it from others and should give it to others, yet learning the way of forgiveness can feel unnatural and confusing. This feeling may grow stronger when we read the strong words of the Apostle Paul:

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (Colossians 3:13)

forgiving-as-weve-been-forgivenAs I prepare for an upcoming trip to Rwanda (a country I haven’t visited since 2000), a friend recommended the book Forgiving as We’ve Been Forgiven by L. Gregory Jones and Célestin Musekura. As I began the book and Musekura shared his own journey through the pain of the 1994 Rwandan genocide and beyond, I was thrust back into the trauma-filled stories I had heard there when visiting in 1999 and 2000 as a staff member of World Relief. Musekura’s own journey into forgiveness and the work he has done with African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries (ALARM) brought him to this powerful realization:

If forgiveness is the heart of the gospel, it is the center of the church’s mission as well.

Jones puts legs to this, using the metaphor of the dance of forgiveness. Comparing the work of forgiveness to learning how to dance, Jones offers six steps of forgiveness that I found incredibly helpful as we seek to grow in the grace of forgiveness. I wanted to share them here as we reflect on our own lives and the divided society around us:

Step 1: Truth Telling: We become willing to speak the truthfully and patiently  about the conflicts that have arisen. “We need not only honesty but also patience…[to] discern more clearly what is going on….We must, rather, take the time to talk to one another about the things that divide us” (46-47).

Step 2: Acknowledging Anger: We acknowledge both the existence of anger and bitterness, and a desire to overcome them. “Whether these emotions are our own or belong to others who are mad at us, it does no good to deny them….We learn to overcome bitterness as we begin to live differently through practices that transform hatred into love” (48-49).

Step 3: Concern for the Other: We summon up a concern for the well-being of the other as a child of God. “Seeing as children of God the ones on whom our bitterness focuses challenges our tendency to perceive them simply as enemies, rivals or threats. Now they are potential friends of God” (49-50).

Step 4: Recognizing, Remembering, RepentingWe recognize our own complicity in conflict, remember that we have been forgiven in the past and take the step of repentance. “People need to be held accountable for their actions…we also need to recognize and resist our temptation to blame others while exonerating ourselves….Repentance breaks the cycle of violence and creates space for God to do something new” (51).

Step 5: Commitment to ChangeWe make a commitment to struggle to change whatever caused and continues to perpetuate our conflicts. “Forgiveness out to usher in repentance and change. It ought to inspire prophetic protest wherever people’s lives are being diminished and destroyed. Forgiveness and justice are closely related” (53).

Step 6: Hope for the FutureWe confess our yearning for the possibility of reconciliation. “Continuing to maintain reconciliation as the goal – even if this is ‘hoping against hope’ for reconciliation in this life – is important because it reminds us that God promises to make all things new….Every concrete act – every prayer prayed, every apology offered, every meal shared across dividing lines – is a sign that our history and habits of sin have been definitively interrupted by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ” (55).

Reflecting on Jones’ dance steps of forgiveness, I couldn’t help but reflect on numerous situations I’ve experienced in my own life or in walking with others as a pastor. Some of these steps come naturally, while others take great selflessness and humility. Still, I see them as helpful guides into the pathways of forgiveness.

If, as Célestin Musekura writes, “forgiveness is the heart of the gospel” and “the center of the church’s mission,” then it may be time for some dance lessons! What do you think?

Beginnings (Gospel of Luke, part 1)

This coming weekend at Eastbrook Church we launch the first part of our six-part journey with the Gospel of Luke entitled “Beginnings.” This six-week series sets the stage for the life and ministry of Jesus that will take us all the way into the summer of 2017. Every story has a beginning, and this is no less true of Jesus the Messiah. What happened at the beginning tells us a lot about where the story is going and what God is doing in Jesus.

October 15/16 – “Promise” – Luke 1:1-25


October 22/23 – Visitation” – Luke 1:26-56


October 29/30 – special guest Victor Hashweh

November 5/6 – “Prophet” – Luke 1:57-80

November 12/13 – “Savior” – Luke 2:1-21 

November 19/20 – “Growing” – Luke 2:22-52

You can follow along with the series via our web-site, our Vimeo page, our Facebook page, or by downloading the Eastbrook Church app.

Next Steps from MissionsFest

dwell-series-gfx_thumbAs we drew Eastbrook‘s 2016 MissionsFest to a close this past weekend, here are the next steps we shared this past weekend in relation to the messages by Ken Katayama (“Christ in Us“) and Pastor Paul Bland (“Embodied Presence“).

READ a book!
Joyful Witness in The Muslim World: Sharing the Gospel in Every Day Encounters by Evelyne Reisacher
Surprise the World: The Five Habits of Highly Missional People by Michael Frost

PRAY for Eastbrook’s partners
Over the next month, use our prayer page to pray for our International Field Workers, as well as our Local Partners. Contact me for that prayer page.

ENGAGE at Eastbrook’s Sunday 9:30 am Missions PRAYER Class
This weekly class meets in Fellowship Hall every Sunday at 9:30 am and is a great time to get informed, involved, and to intercede for our world in prayer.

VOLUNTEER at the International Language Center
Serve and meet some new friends from Iraq, Somalia, and Burma! See what happens at this center and consider tutoring a refugee.

MEET a new friend
Women, become a friend to a Muslim woman! Contact Laura Fears to get connected.

SHOP, EAT & DRINK at a neighborhood store, restaurant or coffee shop
Get to know the owners and workers. Ask the owner how you could be a blessing to their employees.

SERVE at the Eastbrook Church Food Pantry
Come help distribute groceries and build relationships with our guests. Contact Chris to volunteer.

Reach out to the neighborhood around Eastbrook Church. Contact J.C. to take a next step.

COACH OR PLAY BASKETBALL with young men from our neighborhood
Saturday mornings. Contact J.C. to take a next step.

EAT dinner with some of your neighbors
Get to know their life stories by inviting neighbors over to your apartment or home for a meal together.

SUPPORT financially Eastbrook’s Missions Budget for 12 months
Visit the Eastbrook website for more information on how you can financially support the Missions Budget.

Christ in Us

This past weekend, Ken Katayama concluded “Dwell:MissionsFest 2016” with a focused and challenging message, “Christ in Us.” Here are a few statements that I wrote down while Ken was preaching:

We must feel with Christ’s heart…we must see with Christ’s eyes…we must go with Christ’s power.

Spiritual needs are everywhere, but access to the Gospel is not.

God calls some of us for full-time ministry but he called all of us to minister full-time.

Please watch his entire message below. You can also follow the entire series at our web-site, through the Eastbrook app, or through our audio podcast.

You may also be interested in watching the message by Pastor Paul Bland, who began the MissionsFest experience the previous.