I work at RBC Ministries and have begun to daily post the reading from Our Daily Bread on my Facebook page. Yesterday’s post has me thinking along the lines of what I’ve been thinking on lately, sort of forced to do so, actually, by circumstances.
What happens when one’s own ideal of what should be is utterly shattered? I’m thinking of a church context, though more specifically of relationships between believers. What happens when someone in your mind undoubtedly sins against you, you wait a few days (maybe too long), hoping they might repent, but finally you lovingly confront them, and they remain set in their way? I am not referring to online stuff, but in person, though it could pertain to any relationship which is in public.
Yes, we need to strive to obey Jesus’ commands. And we need to consider carefully both their context and the context we are in. All of that, prayerfully. That should be our goal. But we may need to keep in mind limitations we all have, remaining in prayer.
An openness to what we can learn from an ordeal may open up to us ways that we can do better in love. Ways that may have been offensive to another. I can’t help but think of hardness of heart. We all suffer from it to some extent at least at times, I’m afraid. Certain times in our lives it may be an issue that the Lord is going to make evident, even if to others, but in time hopefully to ourselves. That is why in love we may need to simply accept what we think is wrong in a given context. Provided we continue to pray for ourselves and the person involved. “Love covers over a multitude of sins,” but it does so with the goal of the best outcome for everyone. Sometimes it’s not necessary to bring up a matter, we can simply forgive and go on. Other times we may need to, and so we prayerfully do. And if there is still no repentance, we may need to follow through on the steps our Lord gave us, for their own good, and for the good of the church. Or in certain cases we perhaps should back off. In those cases maybe the Lord is trying to teach us something. And while what they did may indeed be wrong, and sinful, they may be right in ways we don’t understand. We may make the judgment that we should humble ourselves and acquiesce to their terms. Even when we don’t believe they did entirely well in what they did. Grace is what we’re to live in and embody. But it is a responsible grace. It forgives, but it also wants the ideal which is found in scripture.
Coming from a more Anabaptist perspective (and I’m sure this thought doesn’t belong to that perspective alone, among Christians) I like practices routinely carried out when need be as a matter of course. If I sin against a brother or sister I’m to repent to them, and they’re to forgive me. And other matters Jesus mentions in scripture such as blessing those who curse us. But it is evident that this ideal is not accepted by everyone. At the same time we all need to work through difficult matters. Yes, in our heart we need to forgive others. And we need to think of the very possible best in regard to what has happened, trying to put the best construction on their own action or words which was hurtful. In the end, we want to do what our Lord has commanded, but we do so imperfectly, to be sure. As those who must submit to the Lord’s judgment in the end, on everything. Thankful for his grace to us in and through Jesus, meant for each other. That he is at work in everything for our good. Together in Jesus in all of this, for the world.