I have been mulling in recent months on the fragile nature of relationships among Christians. And the rise of the Cancel Culture has had its impact among believers as well. It is very easy for what one assumed was a long, fruitful and close relationship to be dissolved overnight and for that relationship to be cancelled, sometimes permanently.
Now, relational wreckage is not new. Paul and Barnabas parted company over John Mark with deep, raw emotion on both sides. Paul had to ask the church to help two woman friends of his reconcile. In the first case we know that reconciliation took place years later. We are not sure of what happened with the two women. Then there was the time when Paul publicly rebuked Peter which I am sure caused significant relational issues. And they were both Apostles.
My conclusion is that even though we live with the Holy Spirit within us, seek to exhibit the Fruit of the Spirit, are called to live in unity and peace with one another (to the extent that we can), are to forgive one another as God in Christ forgave us, that there are times when relationships end up in the ditch anyway this side of heaven. This is a tribute to our sinful and broken condition. There are also times when reconciliation takes place between brothers or sisters who have been deeply at odds and that is a tribute to the power of the Holy Spirit. These two conditions, our sinful and broken condition are always at war with what the Holy Spirit wants to do in our lives.
How odd it will be that in heaven, those who were our worst enemy in this life but who know Jesus, will be someone with whom we will have perfect harmony with. And yes, even like and love, without any hint of whatever it was that separated us here. In fact, in heaven we will not be able to despise or marginalize or cancel or live with any kind of animosity as our hearts, that have been redeemed fully here, will live out the implications of that redemption fully there. Just reading those words makes me want to try to start living out the implications on this side of heaven.
This latter fact makes me want to see my relationships not in light of my life here but in light of eternity. If the unity of the Spirit will be lived out throughout eternity is God's desired plan why would I not want to do all that I can to capture that unity in this life since Christ lives in me? The fact that I would rather carry my hurt, pain, unforgiveness or give up my prerogative to put others down or slander their character are of course not good excuses to God. He calls that sin - and sometimes we love it. Yet, we know that one day we will regret it.
So where does all this leave me? That which consumed my journal on this past Easter morning. It leaves me with these commitments that I will imperfectly live out but which I aspire to. In my relationships with other believers,
- My goal is to understand and seek peace
- To refrain from judging when it is not necessary or productive
- To think the best rather than the worst
- To forgive freely even when I am hurt
- To ask forgiveness when I have hurt others
- To pray God's blessing on those I would rather cancel
- To ask God to change me before I ask Him to change others
- To be as gentle, patient and kind with those who irritate me as God is with me
- To seek to apply the Fruit of the Spirit with those who I don't like as well as those I do like
- To think about my relationships in light of eternity
- To give up my "rights" to my attitudes, judgements, harsh words, gossip, hard feelings and desires for retribution in pace of the attitudes of Jesus