by Will Dozier

Psalm 103
Matthew 18:15-22
2 Corinthians 5:17

The new creation has come. The old has gone, and the new is here.

New creations aren’t easy to deal with, especially without forgiveness. We’ve all been there before. When we move to a new town, start a new job, or have our first day of class at a new school, we’re experiencing a new creation. These kinds of changes are usually frustrating (and sometimes exciting) but they aren’t very complicated. With a new place, we adapt, we fall into a routine, and we move on.

But there is another kind of new creation, one that blends the old with the new. We’ve all been through that too. This kind of change could mean a new teacher half-way through a school year, a new boss, or a new pastor. It’s hard to adjust to new leadership, to accept that things will never really be the same again.

This summer, my new creation struggle has been with my new cross country coach. The issue isn’t that she’s incapable or dispassionate – she’s just as experienced as my previous two coaches and has been heavily involved with the women’s team for almost seven years.

What I recently came to realize is that the real struggle comes from somewhere inside of me. For the first half of the summer, we seniors would complain to each other about the way we’d been training, how things would’ve or could’ve been with our old coaches. In short, we focused on the negatives.

Halfway through summer though, I had a little bit of a revelation. One night, after having a long discussion with my parents about how difficult our summer training had been so far, I really started to reflect on why it was that things had been so rough. What I realized was that I had a lot of unresolved bitterness and resentment churning around inside me, and, undeservedly, I was blaming my new coach for it. I was working against her, working against the new creation I was now a part of.

It didn’t happen overnight, but after I made the conscious effort to tone down my negativity and focus on the upsides of my new creation, things started to get better for me and my teammates. When I complained less and started to buy into the things she told me, my teammates around me began to do the same. I’m still getting used to the way things are going this season, but I’m adapting, I’m falling into a routine, and I’m moving on.

As Christians, we are called to forgive one another and resolve our differences. If we don’t address our problems, they’re only going to get worse over time. By taking that first step and forgiving our new boss, our new coach, or even ourselves, we’re starting to move in the right direction. But we can’t forgive just the one time. One moment of forgiveness, no matter how sincere, can’t fix all of our problems. We need to forgive two or three or seven or even seventy-seven times before we’ve truly and fully forgiven. Forgiveness isn’t a single moment. It’s a process, a process that we are bound as Christians to see through to the end.

When we’re able to forgive and heal damaged relationships with each other, Christ is pleased. And when Christ is pleased, his pleasure is bound in heaven. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

In our reading from Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples exactly what forgiveness looks like. First, go and talk to the person who wronged you alone. Sit them down and work out your problems. Make sure you let them know they’re forgiven. If they won’t reach back to you and accept that forgiveness, approach them again-but this time, take one or two others with you as witnesses, to reaffirm what you have to say. If they still won’t listen, bring them to the church and let them know that they are forgiven. Because if you can forgive one another, God will bind that forgiveness for you in heaven.

When you’ve done that, when you’re bound in forgiveness, that first step is over. And then you have to work at that forgiveness, no matter how tough it is. There’s no telling how long it might take for you to really put your differences behind you.

But know this: you are not alone, for where two or three are gathered in Jesus’ name, he is there among them.

And all God’s People Said…