“Relationship is paramount to God. It is the foundation of his character, and it is the reason we exist.” (The Economy of the Soul, pg.6)
We’ve had a few people come and stay with us in our home. There have been three exchange students who came for short-term stays, but there are others who, for one reason or other, came to stay with us for a greater purpose. These have mostly been young adults who are struggling at home and need a healthy time-out to gain a fresh perspective. For the brief time they stay, they become a part of the family. They do school when our kids do school, they help with the chores, they do our devotional with us, they eat with us, and they try to keep up with our crazy schedule. They also see us for who we are. They see the tension that occasionally arises and how we deal with it. They witness daily trials that test us and observe how we handle it. If our family relationships weren’t healthy, they would leave with a warped picture of what a family and family relationships look like and likely would see no need to change anything in their own lives.
The same goes for all our relationships. If, as a follower of Jesus, a disciple of Christ, we allow unhealthy relationships to exist unhealed and bitterness to dwell between us and our brothers and sisters it will poison all the good we know as well. Those looking for Christ and the healing and redemption he brings will find nothing more than what they get in the world. Holding on to bitterness, anger, or resentment; allowing issues to linger unresolved muddles your witness and robs the gospel of its power and influence in and through your life.
The message of the Gospel is that of restoration. It begins with your sin and how it has broken your communion with God. Your offenses and rebellion have made you an enemy of God. Yet God, in his mercy and grace reached out and through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ bridged the gap. He provided forgiveness for your sins – and the sins of the world – and restores that relationship when we lay down our foolish pride and surrender. To restore this relationship it cost God the life of his only Son. That is how important this is. Likewise, those who follow the Son are also called to lay down their lives.
All over the world, in third-world countries and places where Christianity is illegal people are still sacrificing their lives, facing horrible torture and death to bring the light of the gospel to the lost so that their tormentors and persecutors can be redeemed in Christ. When we see the value of relationship like this – through the eyes of God – it really makes our trivial disputes, differences, and shallow offenses seems, well, stupid. Jesus Christ, the Son of God himself gave his life to restore me. His children all over the world are literally giving their lives to restore to God those who hate and murder them. Who am I to harbor unforgiveness on any level? Who am I to treat my relationships lightly?
Jesus said, “But if you will not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:15). Notice it says that if you “will not” forgive. Forgiveness is a matter of decision, just like love is an intentional attitude. You choose to forgive. We forgive as we have been forgiven. Look at God’s forgiveness. God forgives and no longer allows those past offenses to influence how he loves. They no longer enter his mind. Even when we are repeat offenders, God forgives completely. Jesus said we are to forgive, not seven times but “seventy times seven.” How many of us even get to seven before we put conditions on our forgiveness and relationships and limits on our love?
Your church is a window into the Kingdom of God through which the outside world can look. When the lost and broken encounter your family and fellowship they need to be able to see through you what restored relationships look like. How will the world ever see the value of life in Christ if they cannot or do not see it in the lives of those who claim to follow him? Part of the reason the church is so rejected and ridiculed in our day is largely because we claim to have something and they don’t see that claim validated in the way we live. Too often we cling to the dead man and all his bitterness, hurt, and resentment and fail to live the new life Jesus gives.
Jesus heals broken relationships. If there is a relationship in your life that remains broken, and by your actions and attitudes prove that’s okay with you, then Jesus is not in it. If that be the case, then there is a serious problem. “In my Father’s house there are many rooms” (John 14:2). You don’t get your own mansion where you can isolate yourself from those people you “love but don’t like.” That’s just a Christian way to say “I hate them.” If you do not allow Jesus to bring healing to your relationships, then there is no place for you in the Father’s house. Galatians 5:19-21 says, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissention, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (emphasis mine). God has always taken relationships – every relationship – very seriously; as serious as life itself. It’s not just your salvation that hangs in the balance. What about you? Will you allow Jesus to heal those wounded parts of your heart and empower you to forgive and love as he does?