Category Archives: Forgiveness

Strained Relationships

Acceptance – there is a lot of thing in life we just have to accept, and things we should never accept.  Knowing the difference is the challenge.  This is true in many things including strained relationships.  Before my days leading a Celebrate Recovery the “Serenity Prayer” seemed a cliché.  Now, after having repeated every week for thirty-seven weeks, the words have sunk into my soul and I realize their incredible power.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

It’s that wisdom to know the difference – that is what keeps us on our knees.

English: Their are thousands of artworks creat...

English: Their are thousands of artworks created in the art world depicting St Paul. This painting was created by the famous artist called Rembrandt. It hangs on the walls of the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many years ago my husband wrote an in-depth Bible study on the life of the Apostle Paul, and since then I have been especially captivated by the many human and God-inspired facets of this sinner turned saint.  Paul was indeed a “people person.”  Although many of his adventurous and dangerous ministry endeavors were circumstances he had to face alone, there were at the same time many close people in his life and they played some important roles.

Of particular interest is Paul’s relationship with Barnabas.  This was a close spiritual and destiny-joined relationship.  In Acts 13 the Holy Spirit spoke to a small group and said:

Dedicate Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them.”  Acts 13:2b

Broad Overview of Geography Relevant to Paul o...

Broad Overview of Geography Relevant to Paul of Tarsus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’re not just talking about two great believers who became friends.  God put them together and gave them a common destiny, a calling to accomplish in unison, a glorious partnership to complete a specific ministry.  And together they made tremendous strides for the gospel.

Consider some of the things which occurred in the relationship of Paul and Barnabas, and how these experiences have a bonding effect when people go through them together:

  • Road Trip!  Paul and Barnabas not only traveled together, they did so in a place and time where travel was primitive against today’s standards and time-consuming.  Think about some of the bonding that has taken place on family road trips, and why we tend to travel with those with whom we feel a closeness.
  • Common successes!  Paul and Barnabas worked together in boldly proclaiming the good news, and people listened and were converted.  Think of how a team grows together when they are working well together and they are on a winning streak.
  • Persecution!  Nothing brings two people together as much as having opposition.
  • Prayer!  Real, heart-felt prayer, and much of it is an intimate activity as two people join their souls in seeking the Almighty and clinging to His promises, direction and provision.
  • A Shared Goal!  Paul and Barnabas were passionate about the ministry God had entrusted to them.

Ponder what a deep spiritual relationship Paul and Barnabas enjoyed.

Until, they had a major disagreement.  That’s a polite word for an argument.

The two agreed to revisit all the cities where they previously preached.  Then, Barnabas suggested they bring along his cousin John Mark on the journey.  Paul didn’t like the idea.  He felt so strongly that the two agreed to separate – with both Paul and Barnabas choosing different traveling companions and they split.

The Expositors Bible Commentary explains the situation in these terms:

The fact that Luke does not gloss over the quarrel between Paul and Barnabas shows his honesty.  Yet far from letting the disagreement harm the outreach of the Gospel, God providentially used it to double the missionary force, with Barnabas taking Mark and returning to Cypress (cf. 13:4-12)…Paul’s selection of Silas to accompany him on his return visit to the churches was wise…Silas was a leader in the Jerusalem congregation.”    by Kenneth L. Barker and John R. Kohlenberger III

Could it be that God would allow people of this spiritual stature and depth of relationship to disagree so that their effort might be “doubled”?  It’s a curious thought.  It is clear in later Scripture that Paul and Barnabas reconciled, and that is key.  The “Son of Encouragement” – Barnabas and the major writer of the New Testament certainly knew much about relationships.  Yet, they were human and at one point in time struggled with each other.

What can we learn from this incident in the lives of Paul and Barnabas?

  • Even the best of friends and ministry partners can have vastly different convictions.
  • As Luke reported the event honestly, it does no good to gloss over the incident just as if nothing had occurred.
  • If people are committed to not harming the outreach of the Gospel, God can use even these circumstances for the ultimate good and God’s glory.
  • If there is a strong disagreement and separation among such people, they are to keep working at reconciliation.  It is vital.

    Apostle Paul on St.Isaac cathedral (SPb)

    Apostle Paul on St.Isaac cathedral (SPb) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Relationships are mysterious, but God gives us examples in Scripture – some to imitate, and some to learn from and not repeat.  No one likes strained relationships, especially with people they love and respect.  Any ministry worker would look up to and seek to be like someone as a Paul or a Barnabas, human though they were.  Their example gives us hope when we are less than perfect, when we have strong convictions that we both think are God-inspired, and also the example of reconciliation at a later point on the journey.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Forgiveness, Relationships

The Gift of Forgiveness, Part I

We hear often how forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves.  While this is absolutely true, in the bigger picture, the ability to forgive others is a gift given to us from God…because truly “to forgive is divine.”  Within ourselves we human beings just don’t seem to have the capacity to wipe others slate clean in our minds and hearts on our own power.  Our form of forgiveness is convoluted with strings attached, hidden pockets of pain and bitterness that surface at the most inconvenient times – complete with elephant-type memories regarding the deeply painful acts and attitudes toward us.  How we struggle with forgiveness!  Pure forgiveness is indeed a freely-given gift from the only perfect forgiver, Jesus Christ.

The Lord's Prayer (1886-1896) from the series ...

The Lord’s Prayer (1886-1896) from the series The Life of Christ, Brooklyn Museum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We know we are supposed to forgive.  The Lord’s prayer, reads in part:

and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.  Matthew 6:12

Forgiveness

Forgiveness (Photo credit: poportis)

This is clearly not an option, but a command from God who has forgiven us – that we MUST forgive those who have inflicted pain upon us to have a clear relationship with God.  But, oh how we struggle!

In a sense, granting forgiveness is like hitting bottom with a drug or alcohol addiction.  What finally causes one to surrender is unique to each person.  Those who love an addict agonize in prayer over them and keep hoping that each new crisis or even happy “big life moment” will be THAT THING that will cause that one to admit there is a problem, surrender to Christ and submit to a program that will help them overcome their addiction.  But that turning point is indeed different for every person who has made that huge u-turn in life.  And so it is with forgiveness.  For the person who knows they need to forgive and willingly travels that journey toward totally releasing that person or group of people in their lives that has caused pain, the point of letting go mentally and emotionally differs.

But God is faithful.  Forgiveness is for real.  If we are seeking to obey Him in this area, He will provide that necessary ability to forgive fully, but it is a journey.  It is a process.  The gift of forgiveness – the ability from God to forgive others is a sweetness to our soul.  It brings smiles and relief and often times reconciliation and tenderness to a relationship that looked like it was beyond recovery.  Forgiveness is a miracle.

Forgiveness is and isn’t many things.

Forgiveness does not mean that we minimize what that person has done.  Forgiveness most certainly will cost us in some way.  We may have to endure the consequences for the other person’s sin against us, and perhaps for a very long time.  Forgiveness does not mean we necessarily go back to “life as normal.”  The act of forgiveness sometimes means that we are separated from that person, yet our hearts are at peace.  Sometimes, the relationship becomes stronger and more connected with granting forgiveness.  We do not have power over the outcome of granting forgiveness, but obeying God by forgiving is always for our good.  The is greatness and exhilaration in the peace that God provides to our souls when we forgive.

Forgiveness lesson from flowers

Forgiveness lesson from flowers (Photo credit: juliejordanscott)

Forgiveness is freedom.  We give up the notion to desire any punishment or ill will toward that person in our minds.  We can pray that God will bless them and mean it, and go on with our lives.  We find ourselves to be “bigger”, stronger, more generous and sweeter human beings.  The best part of forgiveness is that it opens the doorway to run to God full throttle, leaping up into His arms and experiencing that sweet communion that cannot be described in words.  There is nothing between God and ourselves when we willingly forgive others, and in the process admit our own sins and weaknesses.

Our hearts are softened by granting forgiveness.  This too is a gift from God.

I will given them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them.  I will take away their stony stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, so they will obey my decrees and regulations.  Then they wil truly be my people, and I will be their God.  Ezekiel 11:19-20

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Forgiveness

All Embracing Forgiveness and a Clean Slate

Life stories are fascinating.  I especially love hearing the stories of how greatness became possible because of the adversity someone travailed through in order to gather the strength or courage needed to address the difficult circumstance in their life.  It is inspiring.  I’ve never heard of a story of true greatness that started any other way.  There is always a difficult mountain to climb.

Sometimes that difficult mountain to climb is in the area of forgiveness.  We all need God’s forgiveness, for we all do things that hurt the heart of God and hurt others.  No exemptions.  When we are faced with our own sins it can be hard to imagine that we could rise out of the rut we have dug for ourselves.  We may even consider the thought that God could forgive us, but we can’t see ourselves as anything other than someone who did such bad things that we are stuck in that rut forever.  Perhaps, we have not really sensed the complete forgiveness that Christ offers.

Jesus had a life story that shed light on these thoughts:

“A man loaned money to two people – 500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other.  But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts.  Who do you suppose loved him more after that?  Luke 7:41-42

Most obviously the one who loved more was the one who was forgiven of the greater sins.  We run toward the person who offers us complete acceptance and grace after we have blown it really big.  Great forgiveness makes great love possible.

That’s why Easter is the cause for the greatest celebration!  We, no matter what we have done or who we have become can come running to Jesus because He died on the cross to allow complete forgiveness with God.  And it didn’t stop there.  He rose from the dead on Easter morning demonstrating His power over death, over sin, over everything that makes us think that God can’t truly forgive whatever we have done.  He kindly offers all-embracing forgiveness and the complete cancelling of our debt.  He truly offers us a clean slate.

In response, our love for Jesus can give us strength, courage and confidence to face whatever situation causes adversity in our lives.  When we know we are forgiven and loved much, great and amazing life stories are possible!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Forgiveness