This weekend our family put up our Christmas tree, a brand new one right out of the box. Much to our dismay only the bottom portion of the pre-strung lights were working. My children, who were very excited to decorate and very concerned about the tree, asked, “If it is new, why is it broken?” My wife responded, “Because it wasn’t connected right by the people who made it.” I saw a lot of wisdom in this living room parable before us.
I asked myself, “Why are Christians, who are new creations in Christ, still broken?”
As I reflected on the answer, I realized that it is the same problem with our tree: because their most meaningful relationships (parents, family, teachers, pastors, etc.), those people who shaped them, didn’t connect to them correctly.
We often view relationships in the context of our past experiences. Whether we see them through the lens of healthiness or brokenness depends a lot on the quality of past relationships. For Christians, the most substantive and transformative relationship is with Christ. While that relationship provides the meta-narrative for all other relationships, unhealthy thought patterns and behavioral habits often take time to identify and to change. Ideally, we will learn to view all relationships through the lens of grace and humility as well as faith, hope, and love.
To start us on that journey we should take to heart the lesson of Luke 15. You may recall this is the story that some refer to as “The parable of the prodigal son.” Yet we should look at it as the “Parable of the Father’s Heart.” We must learn to love like the father of the prodigal son. Not only did he hold no bitterness toward his son for his hurtful words and actions, the father also demonstrated grace as he humbly ran to restore the relationship. He did not hold his son in the debt of unforgiveness, which could never be repaid. He allowed no conditions of service to diminish his son’s value, nor did he allow arbitrary standards to cloud his desire to reconcile. He saw a broken man who returned home because he believed his father would accept him. And he did. Without reservation. Why? Because the father had the wisdom to know that it was enough to see a humbled person who demonstrated faith in the character of another to restore the broken. The reality is that there is no way that the father did not experience the great pains of betrayal. His own son, whom he raised and nurtured, wished him dead just to gain money and experience pleasure. The father had to have been crushed. Yet the devastated father remembered grace when his humbled son returned in the hope of acceptance. Despite their brokenness, they found reconciliation through grace and faith.
Jesus, of course, provided the greatest reconciliation through the same means: his grace to forgive plus our faith that he would accept us as we confess our sin. If we have received the grace of forgiveness then let us learn to be living demonstrations of this restorative grace. Let us allow Christ to heal our hearts from the pain of disconnected relationships. Let’s allow new thoughts and habits to mend our old relationships and to restore our current ones. Let us love like Christ by extending forgiveness, promoting hope, and striving for peace. And this we can do because we have experienced it first hand to a greater, eternal degree than we have experienced the patterns of painful disconnection.
There was hope for this Christmas tree to be reconnected and shine its light. We had to read the instructions again, check the bulbs and cords, and hope for the best. Despite our past brokenness, our Great Redeemer heals us and helps us to connect and to shine his Light into all our relationships. I pray that this season will be merry and bright for you as you experience the joy of reconnection and the beauty of God’s light shining through your life.