Matthew 5:23-24 “This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.”
I never would say that I am an expert at relationships…I am simply like many of you…I do my best to be a loving person…someone in whom people can trust but also sense the presence/person of Jesus. I’ve struggled like most of you with conflict and issues of forgiveness. It has been much easier for me to allow “issues” to blow over and not have to deal directly with conflict. I grew up in a home where the baseline meaning in life was – “avoid conflict”. So, that dynamic has been something that I have intentionally had to grapple with over the years of life. Conflict is a given in any relationship…in fact, the more potential for intimacy, the great the potentiality for conflict to raise its challenging head. Scott Peck helped me though…years ago, I read one of his books where he states that we can never fulfill or enter into a vision of true “community” (oneness, intimacy, etc.) until we were willing to enter the “tunnel of chaos” which is paramount in moving us from pseudo-community to true community. That challenged coupled with some painful relationships that I had to confront in a loving, persistent and intentional manner helped me to “grow up” in terms of conflict. I’m not saying I do it well…I just navigate conflict with my eye and heart on the Lord and a prayer that a relationship can be healed. Reconciliation comes at a high price (our pride, arrogance, etc.) but is rewarded with a desirable emotional/spiritual payoff – peace and joy and personal freedom!
As Matthew 5 states, sometimes freedom and forgiveness start with us…you and me. I am not saying that each of us doesn’t have “rights” when it comes to expecting the “other” to take the first step (especially if it is the “other” who wronged us)…but actually Jesus is saying something massively profound in this text…freedom and forgiveness is more important to the one who has been “wronged” than the one who perpetrated the hurt. As the Lord says in other sections of scripture, we will always “reap what we sow”…if you are sowing hurt and pain, you’ll reap it (sooner or later). So the personal freedom that can fill our hearts even if we are the “wronged party” needs to start with us. I know this to be true right now in my life…there are some relationships in which I need to take the first step. To wait simply keeps me running the wrongdoing/hurtful words/actions through my head and heart time and again…to take the first step is to take the initial step into the light. That’s where I want to live…in the light…even if the “other” isn’t ready to come clean with their responsibility in the brokenness or wound in the relationship, at least it gives me some freedom and spurs my heart on to love. You know, I’ve tried to do my best to honor God in all my relationships…how about you? And if that is your heart’s desire, like it is mine, doesn’t it start with offering forgiveness and healing even when it seems like might be the furthest thing from what the “other” might be willing to admit? I don’t know…I don’t have all the answers…but I praise God that the Spirit leads me through this part of the journey of Kingdom living. All I know is that if I’m going to err, I would rather err on the side of love, freedom, healing, and forgiveness than on any “other side”. What say you?