16 Oct 2018
Relationships are hard work. Even our biblical heroes found themselves struggling to maintain healthy relationships. Pride, jealousy, and greed destroyed relationships then as they do today. A prime example is that of Paul and Barnabas who had a heated exchange over their younger colleague Joh Mark. The bitterness of the exchange had negative effects on both their personal relationship and the church. It is unclear how long Paul held onto his resentment, but eventually Paul was willing to forgive and offer John Mark a second chance. Their relationship was not only restored, but strengthened, so that years later when Paul was nearing the end of his life, it was John Mark that he wanted by his side.
Paul understood that the gospel story is about the healing of relationships. At its centre is the revelation of the character of God, and the healing of our broken relationship with him. But God is also interested in our relationships with other people. The gospel story not only provides healing in our relationship with God, it models the attitudes of grace, humility and forgiveness which are necessary attitudes for the healing of our own broken relationships and the unity that God desires. We are called to forgive in spite of the attitudes and actions of the other person because we ourselves have experienced being forgiven in Christ.
Forgiveness is not easy. It is not just about mumbling of a few words. Nor is it about forgetting what has been done. It is a conscious decision to let go of our negative feelings in relation to another person and to give up any right to hurt them for what they have done. Consequently, it may seem unjust and unwarranted. But while forgiveness is hard, it sets us free. Lewis Smedes likens the effect of forgiveness to cutting a malignant tumour out of our inner lives. It helps us as much as it does the other person.
Take some time to reflect on your own relationships then pray that God will help you put the past behind you and give you a spirit of forgiveness where it is needed.