We need to talk.
Friends, I am grieved. Like can't sleep, even in my bestie's "bump nest" pillow she lent me that is freakishly comfy for a preggo like me.
Over the past month, I have probably had a bazillion difficult conversations with other Christ followers. Community has been super messy lately, ya'll. Asking forgiveness. Encouraging forgiveness. Navigating tricky communication. So many exhausted relationships from the amount of wrongs to make right. How much time did I spend asking God for the right words, the right push towards peace?
When so many believers have so much beef with one another, we are distracted from sharing in the love and joy that is Christian community. We don't invite others in, because what is different about us than the rest of the world? When we are petty, claim "personality clashes" as reasons we can't hang out with one another, or we can't let go of when that person said that one thing that one time, or we expect everyone to meet our needs before we even voice them.
This is not love. That is not grace.
What is love? 1 Corinthians 12:4-8 says "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perserveres. Love never fails."
What is grace? It is God's unmerited favor upon us. God giving us something we do not deserve. Grace is God giving us his very son to bring us life, freedom, forgiveness, and so much more.
The truth is, it dumbfounds me that if we have truly understood and recognized the depth of God's love and grace for us, that we could not in turn extend those to someone else, indeed, to everyone else. The love of Christ does not stop when someone has a personality that clashes with your own. Did not Christ love the vilest of this earth? The ones that had made the poorest choices according the standard of the day?
Don't get me wrong. I am sure you are right. I am sure we could find something that person did that offended you. But is the problem that person's actions if you are offended by just about everything? By just about everyone?
Everyone is sinful. Everyone could be more sensitive.
And. Everyone needs God's abundant grace, just like you do, just like I do. Or are we so prideful as to think that God's grace is reserved only for one person? For me, myself and I?
I've got news for you. Until you realize that no human being on this earth can fulfill that gaping hole in your heart, that ravenous, never satisfied, never happy with another, never happy with yourself, cavernous, twisty, empty, endless hole, you will continue to look to anyone and anything for that need. You will continue to feel left out and lonely. You will continue to see everyone as harsh, out to get you. They will leave you disappointed again and again and again. And you will suffer from the endless failings of those around you.
Because fulfilling that need was never their job in the first place.
Because we are all dreadfully terrible at playing the role of God.
In John 4, Jesus encounters a woman at a well. She is trying to satisfy herself with men. She has had five different husbands and yet she is still unquenchably thirsty. Jesus says to her, come and drink from my well and you will never be thirsty again.
1 Corinthians 12:7-10 "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamitities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." GOD'S GRACE is all sufficient! We can be satisfied in him, no matter the status of our relationships. We can be content with insults, because was Jesus not the most insulted on the cross? When he was spat upon, gambled over, nailed hands and feet to die for the very people who were insulting him? It sure puts the offenses of others in our lives in perspective.
In Colossians, it describes Jesus coming to reconcile ALL to himself. Not just you and the people who don't ever do anything to offend you. All. Everyone.
Sometimes, I think we reserve the hard work of forgiveness for the big leagues. When we feel truly victimized, then somehow we have to work though our stuff, give it to the Lord, or else we would never be able to move on in life. But maybe we don't realize how that mentality carries over to every small offense in our otherwise, very normal, healthy relationships. We don't realize the hard work continues in every single conversation. Our identity becomes the victim, and it shows up when we walk away from every conversation feeling more hurt. Spending countless hours replaying conversations. Analyzing. Then often, venting to other friends.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for working through conflict. I'm all about communicating well, hashing it out in a healthy way. I'm also all about finding my identity in Christ. The freedom we have in Christ means we are no longer a victim, no longer beholden to what everyone else thinks or does, no longer a slave to our station with the person next to us. And our identity in Christ means I can give someone else the benefit of the doubt, think of myself less, and think of others more.
That is freedom.
I've never thought about Jesus as a victim. Yet when I look to the cross, I realize his identity could have been just that. He was crucified! Ultimate victim status right there. But no. That is all wrong. I see The King. Who conquered death. Yet even as he was dying, he forgave the very people who put him there, the robber next to him that deserved the punishment he was getting, and incredibly, unbelievably, me. He forgave me. Goodness gracious.
You know what that means? You and I aren't victims either. We are subject to this sinful world. Things are not as they should be. But we are redeemed from that victim status in Christ. We are free.
If my identity and fulfillment and freedom are in Christ, then I too can easily, without thinking twice, forgive. And maybe I will have less to forgive in the first place, because I will not be thinking of how that other person rubbed me the wrong way.
I will be thinking about how I can love her. I will be thanking God for the precious sister in front of me who is God's glorious creation. I will be inviting her for coffee, asking to watch her children, sending her words of encouragement, sharing my life with her, because Jesus died and rose again for her. I will be on my knees in prayer for her, because Jesus was on his knees in prayer for her, for the both of us, the very hour he was led away to his ultimate death.
Lord, may it be so in my own life. Help me to love as you do. Unify us Lord. Bring this grace and peace to my people and to my own heart.
Grace and peace. Grace and peace. Grace and peace,