For those of you who don’t know, my formal ministry within the church has always been centered on teens and young adults. Recently I unearthed a letter (circa 1998) from one of my former students. The concerns he expressed in his letter had nothing to do with sexuality. But I do want to share with you a specific question he asked me. If you have additional thoughts in response to this question, please share them below.
“I made a silly comment that deeply wounded a member of the church where I worship. I quickly realized my sin and went to the individual involved as well as his family. I apologized to each and all of them. Some of them forgave me, but my brother will not. He says I didn’t mean it and so he will not come to church or talk to me. What can I do?”
Part of my response at the time:
Jesus makes it clear that He cares about how we treat each other (Matthew 18:6, 7). Jesus teaches us that resolving our differences with others must take high priority (Matthew 18:15 – 17; Matthew 5:23 – 26). When there is a dispute and a need for reconciliation, there needs to be a sense of urgency.
Injurious wounds inflicted on one’s soul, psyche, sense of worth and emotions can be devastating. Forgiving others (or ourselves) can be one of the most difficult things we can do. The pain and hurt can be life-altering. You have taken the most important step already. You have admitted your sin and gone to those you hurt and confessed your wrong.
“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so God can heal you.” (James 5:16a).
When we know we are wrong, the first thing to do is admit and confess to those we have injured. Apologize. You have done that. Earnestly pray for your friend and for others you have hurt. Pray for your relationship with them. Ask the Lord for healing and reconciliation.
Your Christian brother might not accept your confession as genuine. Regardless if he forgives you or not, there is more you can do. Live in such a way to demonstrate your changed heart and to acknowledge of the pain you have caused. Bear fruits that are deserving and consistent with your repentance (Luke 3:8).
You can go out of your way to be kind, to be supportive and to be patient. You can speak highly of your offended brother so that your silly comment will be seen to have been a foolish mistake, not your genuine opinion. You can act in such a way that others will see you respect this individual.
That being said, forgiveness is something that must come from the wounded person. The Lord warns us that our willingness (or unwillingness) to forgive will have much to do with God’s willingness to forgive us (Matthew 6:14, 15). Jesus says it plainly: if we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us.
So, allow time to heal this wound and work on the heart of your brother. Perhaps he will soften and forgive. The rest is between your brother and God. Leave it there.
1. What do you do when confronted with the pain you have caused others?
2. What do you typically do when you have the opportunity to forgive others?
3. Which is hardest for you?
- forgiving again and again
- not punishing those who hurt me
- forgiving from my heart – I can say the words but I don’t feel them
- wondering how I can forgive without encouraging irresponsibility
4. What have you found helpful in dealing with strained relationships?
- being up front with the person
- ignoring it and hoping for the best
- asking someone else to mediate
- writing out my feelings
- breaking off the relationship
5. What is the most important thing you have needed (or need now) to be able to forgive “from your heart”?
- talking through my pain
- receiving counseling
- appreciating God’s forgiving me
- seeing the other person as human and hurting himself/herself
- foregoing the pleasure of self-pity
6. What do you need to do to find the freedom that forgiveness brings?
- talk to the person who hurt me
- tell that person I’ve forgiven them
- hold that person accountable for the consequences of their actions
- look for ways to show kindness to that person
- ask God for strength
- ask forgiveness for my wrongs
7. Consider the strained and broken relationships in your life right now. What steps can you take today to pursue peace and reconciliation in those relationships?
Post #48 contains a link to my favorite “Christian” movie about homosexuality (starring Eric Nenninger and Jack Maxwell) and four prayers I wrote out for individuals who may be having a difficult time with alienation from family, depression and/or loneliness during the holiday season.
© Darrell Martin and SameSexAttractions.wordpress.com, 2014.
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