It was Saturday afternoon that Pastor David and his fellow pastors and leaders gathered with us in a small village church. I preached on Sulha. I shared that God’s heart has always been coming toward us unto reconciliation and the putting down of all that may be between us and the Lord.
In Luke 15:11-32 we read what has been called, ‘the story of the prodigal son’ but I am convinced that the prodigal son part is not really the point of the story. Rather, the prodigal son is merely the context for the Father’s actions and the older son’s response – both meant to instruct us in the ways of the Lord.
In verse 20 we see the father running toward his son. There are a few cultural things that we must understand in order to get the significance of what Jesus was expressing as he told this story.
1st, important men in middle eastern culture DO NOT RUN (and I have seen this in Africa to this day). Rather, they walk very, very, slowly in a manner of their great importance. Yet, this father ran to his son. This would have been shocking to the listeners of the story in Jesus’ day. The father put off his importance in order to run to his son.
2nd, in order to run the father would have had to lift his skirts and reveal his ankles. Another thing not done in middle eastern cultures. Another part of the shock of the story within the context to which it was originally told. The father threw off his dignity in order to run to his son.
And 3rd, there is some thought that, due to the great insult (and that is an understatement) of the son 1. asking for his inheritance, 2. squandering it on vile practices and 3. ending up in a pig pen (the utter lowest anyone could go in Jewish culture), the ‘right’ thing, the thing of ‘justice’ would have been for the people of the village to stone the son to death before he reached his home.
Yet we see that the father runs to intercept the stones on his sons behalf.
The very same thing that God has done for us in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus ran toward us to take on the stones.
And then, the party begins. The fatted calf is prepared for a great feast.
Sulha is a middle-eastern tradition of peace and reconciliation. Literally it is this: imagine that you have harmed me in some great way. Perhaps you came and burnt my house to the ground.
Now, normally, if I am the victim to a crime then I enter into a holding pattern waiting for the perpetrator to realize his or her great harm against me, and to come to me for forgiveness.
Yet, Sulha puts into the hands of victims the power to loose off great harms done against them. So, if you had burnt down my house I would have opportunity to prepare a meal for you.
I would come to you with a meal in hand and in this act I would be stating that I am putting all harms and damage done to me by you to rest. I no longer hold these great harms against you. And we eat together. (Note, even to this day we will not eat a meal with someone that we count our enemy.)
With this lens of Sulha in place, we see that Sulha is all through scripture!
Jacob makes a meal for Laban in Genesis 31:54-55 (after Laban’s horrible treatment, betrayal, and manipulation of Jacob for many years). Sulha
Joseph makes a meal for his brothers in Genesis 43:16, and 43:24-34, (after their gross mistreatment of him, first leaving him to die and then selling him into slavery). Sulha
We see the spirit of Sulha as Hosea continues to love and live toward his wife who was prostituting herself.
We see Sulha as Jesus talks with the Samaritan woman at the well. We see Sulha as Jesus eats with sinners. We see the Sulha as the wedding feast of the lamb. And we see Sulha as the spirit speaks in Revelation 3:20, “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.”
In Luke 15:25-28 we read of the older son’s response to the celebration given for the sake of his brother and we see something that should concern us.
“The older brother was angry and refused to go in.” vs.28
The older brother had been doing all the right things for a very long time. He had been faithful, sacrificial, moral, upright, dutiful, obedient, compliant. And yet, his heart had become bitter and hard. He missed completely the heart of his father.
He had been living in the house of his father but did not live as a son, but as a servant. “Look dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours.” vs.31
So is the danger with those of us who have been alongside the Lord a long time. We have honed habits of holiness, of rightness, of goodness, of sacrifice and service. Perhaps we too have lived as servants and not sons and daughters.
We must take care that we do not miss out on the feast, unable to enter into the celebration.
The pharisees missed the feast, “But when the teachers of religious law who were pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”
How easy it would be, in our rightness, in our self- righteousness to completely miss the heart of the father and refuse to enter the feast.
I am convinced this is the lesson of Jesus’ story.
For myself, after learning about sulha some 2.5 years ago, I spent some months asking myself, “How can I live out a heart of sulha to those who have harmed me most?” And the Lord gave a few opportunities as I waited on his direction and clarity in this.
I’ll share one. About two years ago I had a dream. In the dream the teenager now a man, who had raped me as a child, was standing before me. In my dream I put my hand on his shoulder and declared the Lord’s deep forgiveness over him, as well as restoration and wholeness upon him. And then I woke up. I woke up with an indescribable joy. And even though it was only a dream I count it as one of the greatest privileges of my life.
And I came to learn something through this thing called Sulha. I now know that justice unto me is the restoration of me back to the original image as God created me to be before rape.
And I now know that justice unto the man who raped me, is not the stones of the villagers, but is the restoration of him back to the original image as God created him to be before rape.
Sulha is God’s healing and wholeness and restoration unto each one of us.
This is the message that I shared on Saturday afternoon in a village in Kenya. A number of the men were blinking back tears for some time after the sharing of this message.
May the Lord be praised.
Module Two of CCIM College, Walking in Spiritual Authority, is basically this message of Sulha, of understanding the priority of the Lord, and our participation with this, his great plan of restoration of all things on this earth.
“Wow! What a wonderful and great day I had today by meeting Cyndy! I am spiritually blessed and my hope is revived. I like and admire how Cyndy presents the gospel! I thank God that I am connected to this ministry. After the meeting, my team remained mouth open on the message and they are happy for listening to Cyndy and they say, ‘She is the right person to work with’. Thanks for your prayers to our ministry. Blessings to you.” Pastor David
I was only a week in Kenya but oh my, what a week! It has become evident that if I had been there any longer than one week that we would have come out of the time with an unmanageable work load.
As it was, one week with eight speaking / preaching times brought about 71 names of pastors wanting to either take our CCIM Course, or teach it beyond themselves to the areas from which they come.
Every bishop, those responsible for many pastors and churches, said to me, “Our pastors are not trained and this has become a weight to me. You are an answer to my prayers.” Our next time in Kenya will be bringing Teacher Training for those wanting to pass on CCIM College. The Lord has a great plan for this world, it is simply a privilege to be part of his heart over many.