Sunday, April 14, 2013

Proximity and Grace

Over the years, I have walked through struggles with other people. As Christians, we are called to bear one another's burdens. I rarely have any profound answers but I don't mind listening and offering words of comfort where I can.

Even with those experiences, there's a difference in showing grace to someone when the proximity is different. For example, there's a difference between walking along side a woman as she tries to end an affair and when that affair involves your husband.

The proximity of sin can make it seem impossible to forgive or offer grace to someone. Whenever sinful people are involved, there comes cheating, betrayal, and hurt. What do you do when someone hurts you, but they want to repent? How do you still have that person in your life?

We're called to forgive

Ephesians 4:32 says we are to be kind and compassionate to each other, forgiving others as Christ forgave us.

That's it. The bottom line is we're called to forgive. We often forget how much God's forgiven us for when we're faced with forgiving others (see Matthew 18 for the guy who forgot this). Forgiving others doesn't mean that we sit by and let something bad happen, and its not something we can do on our own. It's only the power of the Holy Spirit in you that will allow you to forgive someone who's hurt you.

There are consequences to sin

God doesn't punish us as a result of sin (He already did that with Jesus on the cross). Consequences of sin are used to teach us.

There's probably nothing more hurtful than when someone close to you hurts you, and you recognize that the relationship that remains will not be the same. God can reconcile relationships, but that doesn't mean that they're the same (often, that's a good thing). As we go through the process of forgiving someone, it's okay that the relationship is not always the same. I would even be so bold as to say that it's okay not be as intimate with someone who's hurt you (again, changes in relationships can be healthy and necessary).

Don't harbor bitterness and anger

So we often manage the first two fine. We can forgive someone, and we we definitely agree with the fact that there's consequences. The part that gets tough is this bitterness business. We feel wronged, so we say, "We'll I'll forgive them, but I don't have to forget." While I'm not saying you have to forget (I'll hit this in a minute) we tend to say that line in a bout of anger and bitterness.

Bitterness, anger, and resentment never made anyone feel better, and it certainly is not on the path of reconciliation. Hear me out, I've been so mad at people before that I haven't been able to look at them, let alone be in the same room with them! Even so, it's not long before you start to realize that while the other person committed the sin against you, you're the one still steaming about it.

Again, resentment and anger are not things I let go of on my own. This is a continual process of surrender.

Don't deny the pain

Even when you forgive someone, there may still be pain. The pain and consequences don't just disappear. Too many times we bury our pain because we feel like we can't forgive someone and still feel hurt.

Don't allow pain to stay buried. Give it to God. Allow him to heal your heart. Psalm 34 says that God is close to the broken hearted.

The church body is made up of a lot of broken people. We will hurt each other. There will be conflict. It is only by forgiving each other and allowing God in to the middle of our mess that we can move towards reconciliation and peace.

God wants us to live full, joyful lives in Him! We don't have to live with the burden and hurt. Allow God in. Allow him to work in the mess and walk in the fullness of Christ!

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