Faith · Forgiveness · Reconcilliation

It was Never Your Grudge to Hold

There’s a family who has completely shut mine out for almost four years now.

At one time I loved them like my own family. We spent many days a week together. And then suddenly, we were shut out. Just like that. They shut us out of their lives. Out of their church. Out of their friendship circles.

Out of everything.

In fact, if I meet up with either of them, they will try to look past me as if I do not exist. If I smile and say hi anyway, they barely nod, mumbling an inaudible greeting in return and only because they know it would make them look bad to say nothing.

Why, you may ask, am I sharing this? Because of the warning their lives have become for me.

I do not know them anymore, because they have made sure that we can’t. They were once great people, godly people. They weren’t some angry, bitter souls that looked to destroy and tear others down. They were helpful people. They had a strong family and a beautiful faith. They were talented and inspiring.

Yet somewhere along the line, they have become convinced that what they perceive as wrong in our lives, is what God perceives as wrong… and that God is pleased with this grudge they continue to hold, this “godly shunning” of others.

Let me just say this: Other people’s sin is not for us to hold against them.

Ever.

God does not need us to hold on to the burden of hating others for his sake. He doesn’t need our help to convict them, to discipline them or to punish them in any way. In fact, there are very strong warnings in scripture against bitterness because that is really what bitterness is: holding other people’s sins against them, refusing to forgive. The only difference is that this has been done “for Christ’s sake” so it feels much more godly.

In some cultures this sort of zealous self-righteousness results in honor killings. A “sacrifice” to God.

Can I be so bold as to say that God takes no pleasure in honor killings? Neither does he take pleasure in grudges or in self righteous shunning. In fact there is a story where Jesus responded to this type of religiosity.

A woman was brought before him, caught red-handed in adultery. The real righteous folk, those leaders of the church, brought this woman to Jesus, trying to trap him. Smirking and desperate for bloodshed that day, they said:

“Good teacher, the law requires us to stone her. What should we do?”

Jesus bent down to write in the sand. And then he stood to say something absolutely phenomenal: “He who has no sin, cast the first stone.”

Every single person present silently walked away, one at a time. No one was worthy to cast it.

Not one.

Every single one of us has sinned. And when we judge one person’s sin as worse than ours, holding onto it, we are literally spitting on the grace that Christ has shown us. Holding onto the sins of others and feeling as if their mistakes are just somehow not worthy of the grace that God has shown us, is hypocrisy.

When Christ was being nailed to the cross, he did not say, “Father, once these vile sinners repent and realize their sin, forgive them.”

He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Jesus did not hold on to grudges, regardless of the actions of those around him. He simply forgave and left the rest in God’s hands.

So why would we think it is our duty to live any differently?

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1-2

Do I really want to hold onto another person‘s sin and take the risk that God will hold onto mine?

I’m not taking that chance.

Let it go, move on and love people deeply.

Because friends, it’s not our grudge to hold.

Faith · Forgiveness · Freedom · Prayer · Reconcilliation

The Very Best Thing

I realize that I’ve had quite a few heavy posts lately and that usually reflects that I’ve had a hard month. It really had its ups and downs. But today I’m feeling truly blessed!

On Sunday, I went Prayer Summit at my church. If you’ve never hear of it, basically it’s a huge prayer meeting. I’m sure there are well over a thousand people attending from many different countries, languages, and denominations. I was just overjoyed to be a part of so many people worshipping together. And it’s times like those that I really get a different perspective.

I’m sure that if we had all come to search for something we disagreed on, we’d find as many opinions as there were people in the room. But we weren’t there to focus on those things. We were there because we agreed on ONE thing. The very best thing: Jesus. And the love that flows when we focus on worshipping Jesus together is unlike anything else.

Too often the body of Christ is so consumed trying to figure out how to all agree on everything that we really forget how much we have in common. Jesus! Our Hope, Our Life, Our Saviour, Our Righteousness, Our intercessor, Our friend!

And yet there’s this struggle among believers for unity. And I truly believe it’s because we talk too much and don’t worship enough! How can I tear down, gossip about, judge my fellow brothers and sisters if my eyes are on Christ? How dare I focus on the negative things in the very people Christ DIED for?!? How dare we fight over foolish controversies and ideas?!?

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about ignoring or turning a blind eye to evil and injustice…but really, how easily am I willing to tear down a brother or sister in Christ?  Over political views? Over child rearing? Over fitness or eating habits? Over a wrong attitude they may have? I shamefully admit that all too often, I’ve been quick to point out the flaws in other people. But why? Why do we insist on turning on each other, rather than walking beside each other in humble love? Why do we insist on always being right? Why do we continue to think the worst of others? Should we not rather in holy fear focus our own imperfections and give others the benefit of the doubt? How often do we actually see what’s going on in their hearts anyway?

And here’s something remarkable: When we come together to worship, we suddenly don’t feel like those little things matter anymore. It is here we come and find peace. It is here we come to be made whole.

What is it about worship that binds us together? Why do I look over beside me and see a complete stranger worshiping and feel like I’m beside family?

When we worship it is actually an expression of our reverence for God. And when we stand before a Holy God it complete awe, suddenly we can’t help but begin to feel very small. So far are we all from God’s perfection that all our sins are comparatively equal. And then looking at this perfect Jesus, who lavished his great love on us, dying for us and continues to care for our needs so tenderly everyday, how can we say I’m not willing to love my brother? And it’s here where our differences don’t seem to be all that important any longer: All made in his image, all dearly loved by God.

And he says: “This is my command to you, that you love one another.” He doesn’t say just to love those nice to us, those who look like us, those who agree with us, those who smell nice, or who are fun to be around. Love one another. I’m pretty sure that means everybody.

And with all the hate in the world today, it’s especially important that we don’t follow those patterns. Please dear brothers and sisters, we have so many opportunities everyday to speak life or death to each other. Choose love.

There’s a song I used to sing in church. I wonder what would happen if we stopped just saying the words and started living them:

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
And we pray that our unity will one day be restored
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yeah they’ll know we are Christians by our love

“If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” -Jesus Christ

 

Faith · Forgiveness · Reconcilliation · Repentance

Reconciliation

As I read her response to my message, tears spilled out of my eyes. “Well, that’s it!” I thought, “Another beautiful friendship in my life fading away….”   Then she wrote these words: Can we meet for coffee?

Three hours later I came out of the coffee shop, joy on my face, my heart at peace and my friendship not only restored, but better than it had been before. My friend taught me a lot about reconciliation that day.

Reconciliation. It can be really REALLY difficult. In an age where we prefer to communicate over short texts and messages, yet we’re so busy we don’t have the time to meet face to face, keeping strong and meaningful relationships can be a huge challenge!

I always thought I was a great communicator, but I’m beginning to realize that maybe I’m not actually as great at it as I’ve believed. When someone says something hurtful to me, I always felt the the best thing I could do is to brush it off and think the best of people. And sometimes that really is the best way to deal with offence. Forgive, move on. But with close friendships it actually doesn’t work that way. Words cut a little deeper, because the person saying them means a great deal to us. Before we know it, tension can grow between us. The longer we tend to ignore these things, the deeper and more confusing they become as more offences are added to the previous one. One of the things my friend taught me was that we need to deal with our hurts NOW. And as I thought about it, I realized that it’s actually a very biblical concept:

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24

This is really shocking because what God’s saying is: Worship can wait, forgiveness can not. In fact God knows that if we come to him with unforgiveness in our hearts it will affect the way we worship, it will affect the way we see Him, and it will hinder our prayers. Another verse gives us even more insight as to why God wants us to immediately make things right:

“In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Ephesians 4:26-27

Staying angry gives satan a foothold. This has been proven VERY true in my life. In fact, this weekend I realized how another one of my relationships has been severely damaged just because we WAITED to talk. The longer I waited, the more I dwelt on the negative things that had happened, the more I started to believe the lies in my head:

“She is so selfish”

“She does this often to people, I bet this is why her other friendships have suffered”

“She’s just so hurtful, she doesn’t even try to show grace”

And I started making a very common mistake…in listening to my thoughts and the lies inside my head, I began to assume the other persons thoughts about ME. I think we all tend to go down this path and it’s incredibly dangerous to assume peoples motives and thoughts. Because more than likely we’re wrong.

Maybe this is old news to most of you, but it’s new to me, and learning new things comes with a challenge: Is there anyone I need to make things right with, RIGHT NOW? This may mean cancelling plans, awkward phone calls, and difficult coffee dates. And maybe you’re thinking: I HAVE tried to make things right, it just didn’t work out! Believe me, I understand this FAR more than many people may realize. But one thing I now realize that in my trying to make things right, I have often waited too long. And when we finally met, both of us had come with our lists of things we had spent that time thinking about each other…rather than meeting quickly and hearing what the OTHER person has to say.

So I guess this means that I have to make that effort again, differently this time…and right NOW.