If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18).
So regular readers will remember that last week our family survived the Gingerbread House Fiasco and that it was, as everything can be, a great learning experience for me as a mom. I have come to realize that, if I allow it to be, most of life is on-the-job-training. This is true for all of us as Christians. If we look into a difficult situation we can usually see that we are able to (1) learn something new we need to know (2) learn something we have encountered before, but have not yet learned, or (3) learn to practice endurance and trust in the LORD. Sadly, I am usually in the category of #2. For me, life has often been like the 1993 movie Groudhog Day, where events and people seem to repeat themselves, day after day.
How many times have you experienced the “same fight” with a spouse or coworker? Do you have a neighbor that pushes your buttons when he “does the same thing every time”? Does it seem like the kids keep breaking the same rules over, and over, again. Some events are like wolves in sheep’s clothing: at first they seem to be unique but, in the end, when it comes down to your feelings and your responses, you are re-experiencing something very familiar.
For me the answer has been yes, yes, and yes. What I have realized is that if I am experiencing difficulties with others, repeatedly, in the same way, that means I am not growing. At some point, I have to decide to stop carousel of emotions, and get off, and the only way to do this is to think and live differently. Relationship with Jesus offers us the opportunity to experience life in a new and better way. Even if our situation does not change, we do not have to be “stuck” living in a way that makes us unhappy, and does not reflect the presence of the LORD in our lives.
Conventional wisdom, the World, our own heart, will tell us that others need to change in order for us to have peace and joy; but the Word says our peace and joy are found in the Kingdom of God (Romans 14:17). We did a wonderful Bible Study here on finding peace and joy with God, in spite of our circumstances, called Reclaiming Your Joy (amazon.com link). This is a great book and I highly recommend it, if you have not read it before.
Ok, so back to the lessons from the Gingerbread House Fiasco. As I mentioned last week, I was given the opportunity to practice forgiveness, which was a great growth opportunity for me (this is a nice way of saying that sometimes I get in a snit and cannot get over it easily). And this week I wanted to share a few lessons I have learned along the road. I have talked about the spiritual importance of forgiving here and here and other times too. But this is what bears repeating: forgiveness of others is a sacrifice we offer to our LORD. And forgiveness is as much for our own benefit, as it is for the benefit of others.
I have struggled with forgiving people for two reasons. Firstly, sometimes people don’t seem really “sorry” about what they have done. Do you know how this feels? Some people apologize, and somehow use the apology as an opportunity to revisit the conflict and say that it is really your fault or that they didn’t do anything wrong. Secondly, some people say they are sorry, and they “won’t do it again”, when you know it is very likely, given the history of the relationship, that they will indeed respond in the very same way the next time. So here is what I have had to accept: for me, the forgiveness I give to someone else is not so much an issue between me and them, as it is between me and the LORD, and there are eternal consequences (Matt 6:15).
Forgiveness cannot be contingent upon someone else “really changing” or someone else saying sorry, and meaning it. And for that matter, saying “sorry” and asking for forgiveness are two different things, entirely (which I will discuss later this week).
Here is the higher calling, the most excellent way: Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony (Colossians 3:12-14). Did you catch that? I know you have heard it before, but let it sink in today: we are not to forgive as we have been forgiven in the past, or as we have been taught to forgive, or because someone deserves it…instead we are to forgive because we have been forgiven by the LORD. Forgiveness is not about what someone has done to us, it is about what He has done for us.
All of this is to say that the LORD has a better plan for us, which triumphs over the way of the world. The first part of this plan is to change our hearts, and the second part is to change our families. Here is the crux of this series, The Family Workshop: in the family, Jehovah God provides for us the opportunity to grow to be more like Him, AND to be as Christ to others, which teaches them about Who He IS. Life is the classroom and the family, for better or for worse, is the teacher. Again, this is what we see in our theme: Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock (Matthew 7:24-25). It is when we do the Words that we have heard that real change occurs…this is the work of the Holy Spirit, together with the Word.
We have focused on forgiveness today, and I hope you see that forgiveness of others is an act of worship; it declares the worthiness of God’s Way over our own. For the next two posts, we we will focus on something that is vital, but is often overlooked in our relationship with the LORD and with others: reconciliation. I promise I will give you a wonderful template (from the Word) for living and teaching reconciliation, and it has given my life real purpose and peace.