Maybe you’ve heard this Taylor Swift song, Bad Blood, from earlier in 2015. It’s terribly catchy [consider yourself warned!]. The following are a few selected lines:
‘Cause, baby, now we got bad blood
You know it used to be mad love
So take a look what you’ve done
‘Cause, baby, now we got bad blood
Now we got problems
And I don’t think we can solve them
You made a really deep cut
And, baby, now we got bad blood
Band-aids don’t fix bullet holes
You say sorry just for show
If you live like that, you live with ghosts (ghosts)
Band-aids don’t fix bullet holes (hey)
You say sorry just for show (hey)
If you live like that, you live with ghosts (hey)
If you love like that blood runs cold
There it is. And who among us does not relate to the difficulty of a damaged relationship? Maybe it’s someone we work with. Maybe it’s a member of our immediate family or a distant relative. Maybe it’s a former dating relationship. There is not a person alive who cannot honestly relate to Taylor Swift’s piece. It’s not possible.
The question of the day isn’t whether or not the song hits home. The question is this: where do we go from here? What do we do when we find ourselves steeped in the pain of a broken relationship? Most importantly, what do we do when we really feel distance between ourselves and God almighty, our Creator? There is serious distance between us and God, according to Scripture. It’s summarized rather well in question and answer format in a 450 year old church teaching document, the Heidelberg Catechism:
Q. What does God’s law require of us?
A. Christ teaches us this in summary in Matthew 22- Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.
I don’t know about you, but I certainly haven’t been loving all neighbors as myself, and I certainly don’t always show my love for God in every action, even toward people I really do love dearly. And I have certainly had Taylor Swift’s experience of rotted relationships: bad blood has been my experience at various junctures in life. According to Scripture and careful reflection, I am fallen. I am unable to earn God’s grace. I’ve got bad blood with my Creator.
Here’s the good news, and maybe you’ve heard this before and it never hit home: Jesus stepped in. That old church document summarizes his mediating work well:
Q. And who is this mediator-true God and at the same time truly human and truly righteous?
A. Our Lord Jesus Christ, who was given us to set us completely free and to make us right with God.
So the biggest problem was separation from God. But, through the Son of God, Jesus, we are reunited and forgiven and declared righteous! With the problem of separation from God addressed through Jesus, we can now live in a different reality. For Christians, the biggest concern-separation from God-is taken care of in Jesus, and we can now learn to live different kinds of lives.
And the God of the Bible is no distant, impersonal force in the universe. Instead, Scripture points out how close God is by explaining our relationship to him as adopted children. God is the parent, and Jesus is our sibling! Theologians point out how this is a double grace: not only are we delivered from sure separation from God, but we are also freed to act as children of God! We are freed from certain death and for his purposes of restoration to the good of all people.
We learn that we are all in need of forgiveness, and this makes forgiving other far, far easier. As I head to a close, I’ll use a story that Jesus tells. It’s in the book of Matthew in the Bible’s New Testament, and my version is a paraphrase.
There was a guy who owed a rich person a ton of money, like 5 million dollars. The rich person was about to litigate and have this guy and his family taken into prison, but the poor man begged. There was a subsequent change of heart, and the rich man forgave the debt completely.
He was stoked beyond belief. The next day, however, he was walking to get coffee and saw a former friend on the way there. This guy had borrowed money to pay rent and never paid back the $500. He slams the guy up against the wall and tells him to pay. He can’t. So, he calls his lawyer and gets the guy in huge trouble.
Then the rich guy finds out.
“So I’m told you’re after a guy in court. You know how I canceled your $5 million debt? Shouldn’t you have mercy on your old friend just as I had mercy on you?” As the poor yet vengeful man stood there quivering, he nodded to one of his workers who had him hauled off to prison.
Isn’t this our story? Do we not fail to recognize the gravity of our debt to God? And when we catch a glimpse of the depth of our forgiveness, does this not put all other human errors into perspective? In Jesus Christ we are set completely free. Our debt is paid, our account is settled.
Bad blood between other people in our lives is diminished. It may not go away entirely, of course; certain acts like murder or egregious slander can place lifelong distance between us and others. But we learn that because God has forgiven our great debt, the small debts-the bad blood-that others may owe us can so much more easily be dismissed. And this grace, this rich forgiveness from God shines so brightly in a world starved for reconciliation and forgiveness, a world torn apart by terrorism, racism, and lots of other isms that subvert the way God created us to live.