Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for August, 2014

forgive

“He said I am sorry but it’s at least the tenth time! I don’t know what to do. I am told that it’s my Christian duty to forgive and the Lord knows I’ve tried. But each time I forgive him, he changes for a little while and returns to the same behavior. I have a gut feeling I am handling this the wrong way. He never really changes and I just become more angry. What should I do?”

Sound familiar? I encounter people all the time who are trying to forgive someone who has repeatedly hurt them. They know it’s their Christian duty to forgive but often feel they’re being taken advantage or manipulated. They also have a disturbing sense that they’re enabling the selfish behavior of their offender.

Is there something wrong with this picture? Is this what forgiveness requires? Is it possible to forgive someone while withholding reconciliation from him? There is an urgent need in the Church to learn the differences between forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness is always required by God but it does not always lead to reconciliation.

Forgiveness

Jesus warned that God will not forgive our sins if we do not forgive those who sin against us (see: Matthew 6:14-15; Mark 11:25). It’s not that we earn God’s forgiveness by forgiving; instead, God expects forgiven people to forgive (See: Matthew 18:21-35). Yet forgiveness is very different from reconciliation.

It’s possible to forgive someone without offering immediate reconciliation. It’s possible for forgiveness to occur in the context of one’s relationship with God apart from contact with her offender. Reconciliation is focused on restoring broken relationships. Different from forgiveness, restoration is a process and, when trust has been deeply violated, restoration is often a lengthy process.

Reconciliation

It is important to understand that (unlike forgiveness) reconciliation of a broken relationship is a process conditioned on the attitude and actions of an offender. Those who commit significant and repeated offenses must realize that their responses and actions affect the timing of the process. Those who are genuinely repentant will accept this fact with brokenness and humility. Of course, only God can provide the needed strength for embracing the process.

In some cases, even if an offender confessed his wrong to the one he hurt, and appealed for forgiveness, the offended person could justifiably say, “I forgive you, but it might take some time for me to regain trust and restore our relationship.” The evidence of genuine forgiveness is personal freedom from a vindictive or vengeful response (see: Romans 12:17-21), but not always an immediate restoration of relationship.

Minor offenses

Forgiveness and reconciliation occur together in relation to minor offenses. In relationships shaped by the gospel, “love covers a multitude of sins” (i.e. offenses)” (I Peter 4:8). Those who withhold restoration over minor offenses are lacking in genuine love based in the gospel (see: Ephesians 4:32-5:1). Where such love is absent, immaturity and manipulation will threaten unity. Please take time to review the two principles for resolving conflict here.

When deeply or repeatedly betrayed, however, forgiveness does not necessarily require that one immediately grant the same level of relationship back to an offender. Even when God forgives our sins, He does not promise to remove all consequences created by our actions. Yes, being forgiven, restored, and trusted is an amazing experience, but it’s important for those who hurt others to understand that their attitude and actions will affect the process of rebuilding trust. Words alone are not enough to restore trust in such cases.

When a husband speaks harshly to his wife in a way that is out of character, his acknowledgement of sinning against her should be received with forgiveness and restoration. If he repeatedly speaks this way, he should expect his acknowledgements of wrong to be more difficult to receive. If the pattern continues, his wife would not be wrong to tell him that she forgives him but will not accept his harshness in the future without consequences.

When someone has been significantly hurt and feels hesitant about restoration with her offender, it’s both right and wise to look for changes in the offender before allowing reconciliation to begin. This is especially true when the offense has been repeated.

The act of forgiveness surrenders the desire for revenge in the context of one’s relationship with the God who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” (Romans 12:19). Forgiveness is first about God. When genuine, the heart of an offended person should be open to the possibility of reconciliation (unless personal or family safety are clearly at risk). Forgiveness requires us to offer a repentant person an opportunity to demonstrate repentance and to regain trust. When a person has repeatedly behaved in a sinfully harmful and irresponsible manner, he must accept the fact that reconciliation will be a slow and difficult process.

Three main considerations in the timing of a process of reconciliation:

  1. The attitude of the offender
  2. The depth of the betrayal
  3. The pattern of the offense (repeated offenses)

 

Source: Steve Cornell (www.thinkpoint.wordpress.com)

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

forgive

How do you move toward reconciliation when you’ve been deeply or repeatedly hurt by someone? How can you rebuild trust?

The first and most important step is to confirm the genuineness of the apology or the repentance of the one who hurt you.

I am not suggesting that changes to deeply ingrained patterns occur overnight or that we can easily erase consequences. But genuine restoration cannot begin apart from the essential attitudes that point to true repentance. We simply must know what true repentance looks like.

Seven signs of genuine confession and repentance 

The offender…

  1. Accepts full responsibility for his/her actions (instead of saying, “Since you think I’ve done something wrong…” or “If have done anything to offend you…”).
  2. Accepts accountability from others.
  3. Does not continue in the behavior or anything associated with it.
  4. Does not have a defensive attitude about being wrong.
  5. Does not have a light attitude toward the hurtful behavior.
  6. Does not resent doubts about sincerity or the need to demonstrate sincerity (especially for repeated offenses).
  7. Makes restitution wherever necessary.

Restitution gives the offender an opportunity to demonstrate by actions that he or she wishes to be restored to the injured person and to society in general. The harder you work to make restitution and repair any damage you have caused, the easier it will be for others to believe your confession and be reconciled to you. Forgiveness does not necessarily release an offender from responsibility to repair the damages caused by his or her actions. An injured party may exercise mercy and choose to waive the right to restitution, but in many cases making restitution is beneficial even for the offender. Doing so demonstrates remorse, sincerity, and a new attitude, which can strengthen reconciliation. At the same time, it serves to establish lessons that will help the offender avoid similar wrongdoing in the future.

Move forward with caution

An unrepentant offender will resent your desire to confirm the genuineness of his or her confession and repentance. He or she might resort to lines of manipulation.

  • “I guess you can’t find it in yourself to be forgiving.”
  • “You just want to rub it in my face.”
  • “I guess I should expect that you want your revenge.”
  • “Some Christian you are, I thought Christians believed in love and compassion.”

These lines reveal an unrepentant attitude. Don’t let yourself fall for such lines. Don’t be manipulated into avoiding the step of confirming the authenticity of your offender’s confession and repentance.

Use these signs carefully and with prayer. In difficult cases, seek a wise counselor. For genuine reconciliation to occur, you must be as certain as you can of your offender’s repentance—especially in cases involving repeated offenses. It is hard to restore a broken relationship when the offender is unclear about his confession and repentance.

Even God will not grant forgiveness to one who is insincere about his confession and repentance. The person who is unwilling to forsake his sin will not find forgiveness with God (Proverbs 28:13).

I realize that only God can read hearts but we must evaluate actions. Jesus said, “By their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:16a). We must not be deceived by superficial appearances of repentance. Clear changes in attitude and behavior are the fruit of true repentance.

Source: Steve Cornell (www.thinkpoint.wordpress.com)

Read Full Post »

 pew

“Once we make the attitude shift from being passive pew sitters and receivers to active workers and givers, there is no end to the difference we can make to others and to the running of the meeting. All of the suggestions below are of the informal type—things we can do at our own initiative. They are the types of involvement that every congregation member can have. The key to people work is to observe what happens around you and respond to people’s needs. Think through your church meetings chronologically. What can we do before, during and after the meeting?

Before

Preparation

One of our great contributions is our preparation. The minister should not be the only one preparing for church. We prepare by praying for the preacher, the musicians, the service leader, the Bible readers and the newcomers. We prepare by studying the Bible passages so that we maximize this learning opportunity by being sensitised to the issues and questions in the passages being taught. Such preparation also has other benefits. We are better equipped to enter into discussion with others if we have looked at the passage beforehand. It is also a great encouragement to the preacher to know that the congregation is eager to understand the Bible and willing to put in some effort. Preaching is hard work, both for the preacher and the listeners. An intelligent question, comment or observation upon the sermon is an enormous motivating factor for the preacher who, week by week, has to try and engage the congregation’s minds and hearts in the word of God. Those who sit in the pew can make a great contribution to those teaching from the pulpit.

Meeting visitors and newcomers

We enjoy meeting our friends at church, but we need to develop a nose for new people. We need to sit with them and help them feel comfortable in this strange place by introducing ourselves and explaining what is going on. We should greet the non-Christian friends of other members and introduce our friends to others. It’s all about genuine hospitality. The way we welcome and look after people when they visit our homes should be a model for the household of God. And genuine, relaxed hospitality will slowly evaporate some of the prejudices held by outsiders.

Arriving early

All of this requires that we arrive not on time or late, but early. That may be the greatest miracle of all.

During

Active listening

People in the pews have an enormous impact on those who are teaching and leading. Communication is always a two way process. Energetic listening through taking notes, making eye contact with the preacher, sitting at the front, laughing at jokes (even old ones), will spur on the preacher. It is very hard to preach enthusiastically to a sleepy, distracted, fidgety group. Our active listening will also infect others with enthusiasm for learning, just as our fidgeting will discourage them. Unbelievers will also pick up that these ideas are worth listening to if they see rows of regulars eagerly soaking up the Bible.

Singing

Similarly, those in the pew can be a great help to the singing and leading of music. It is everyone’s responsibility to share in the corporate singing of the congregation. The music may be well chosen and played but if it is poorly sung it is disheartening. Our enthusiasm and gusto in singing the great anthems of the faith is of great help to those around us and those leading the music, even if we can barely hold a tune. Just pretend you’re under the shower.

Logistics

Each member in the pew also has an important part to play in the smooth running of the meeting. The devil will use anything to distract people from hearing the word of God. We musn’t rely on ushers to fix things. If the window needs to be opened, get up and do it. If the microphones are not right, signal to the speaker so the problem can be fixed before they continue on without being heard.

Newcomers

Keep attending to newcomers’ needs. If they can’t find their way around the Bible or the service outline, or they don’t have a Bible, or they need to find the creche, help them yourself. It is your meeting, not the minister’s. It’s all about being observant and outward-looking.

After

Discuss God’s word

We have just heard the word of God and we spend all of morning tea talking about last night’s video. It isn’t right and we know it, but many of us are just uncomfortable starting up ‘spiritual’ conversations. If you get the ball rolling, others will pick it up. During your preparation and the sermon, think up some comments or issues to raise with others. Asking “What did you think of the sermon?” will usually put your neighbour into a coma, but making a specific comment like “I didn’t know Abel was a prophet. What makes someone a prophet?”, may generate a fruitful conversation. Even if the conversations don’t always get off the ground, your enthusiasm for learning the Bible will be contagious and non-Christians will see that church is not dull and boring but fascinating and life shattering.

Pray with others

Use the supper time to meet others and find out their concerns and pray quietly with them. This will look a bit weird to newcomers with pairs of bowed heads all around the building, but they will know that we love each other and trust God’s providence.

Newcomers

Newcomers tend to leave fairly quickly so we have to move fast by identifying the visitor in our pew and offering them conversation immediately after the service ends. It’s all very purposeful: make sure they are welcomed properly by you and your friends, maybe introduce them to the minister and help them see how they can fit in to the congregation. You may have to postpone catching your friends until after the newcomers have been cared for.

Stay late

Once you catch this vision of church, you are always the last to leave because the opportunities to minister don’t end until the last person leaves. Gone are the days of fitting church in between breakfast and brunch. Ministry of the pew takes time. In the forthcoming issues of Factotum, we’ll continue to explore practical ways in which we can be better Christian servants. Sorry to have ruined your ‘day of rest’. Church requires a lot of effort, if we are to build the body of Christ. Don’t worry: you have Monday to Saturday to rest so that you’ll be fit for next week’s work at church.”

 

Source: Col Marshall (www.matthiasmedia.com)

Read Full Post »

Still Learning…

vapor

I looked at the calendar this morning only to realize that it is August 1st. This probably means nothing to anyone else, but to me it was a reminder that this is the month that I will turn 32 years old. I have never had a problem with aging, but for some odd reason, turning 32 is packing an emotional punch to me. So in an effort to redeem the thought, I felt compelled to jot down some things I have learned (and am still learning) in my nearly 32 years of existence:

 

1) The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (Prov. 3:5)

2) He who finds a good wife finds a good thing. (Prov. 18:22)

3) Living to impress others is exhausting and fruitless.

4) Every honest person will admit that their life is a train wreck.

5) It’s easier to deal with the sins of others than it is my own.

6) Integrity includes doing the right thing even when no one is watching.

7) The more I learn, the less I know.

8) The tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. (James 3:6)

9) A hug and a kiss from your kids can cure any ill.

10) Prayer comes from a desperate heart.

11) I am not fit to do anything that God has called me to do.

12) Wasted time is just that.

13) God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6)

14) Life is easier when your kids are potty trained.

15) I have many weaknesses and only One strength.

 

As I reflect on each of these, it strikes me odd that most of these lessons are the very things that my parents taught me as a child. Yet, at the same time, these are the exact lessons I have learned in the last week.

 

Still learning,

Pastor Gary

 

Read Full Post »