Devotionals #105577

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Devotional #81 True relationships

Posted by Eldad on 2010-06-26 10:02:02, Saturday

15 Let death take my enemies by surprise;
let them go down alive to the grave,
for evil finds lodging among them.

Ps 55

"The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone." Jn 8 v 8 (The Message)

23-25"The kingdom of God is like a king who decided to square accounts with his servants. As he got under way, one servant was brought before him who had run up a debt of a hundred million dollars. He couldn't pay up, so the king ordered the man, along with his wife, children, and goods, to be auctioned off at the slave market.

26-27"The poor wretch threw himself at the king's feet and begged, 'Give me a chance and I'll pay it all back.' Touched by his plea, the king let him off, erasing the debt.

28"The servant was no sooner out of the room when he came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a thousand dollars. He seized him by the throat and demanded, 'Pay up. Now!'

29-31"The poor wretch threw himself down and begged, 'Give me a chance and I'll pay it all back.' But he wouldn't do it. He had him arrested and put in jail until the debt was paid. When the other servants saw this going on, they were outraged and brought a detailed report to the king.

32-35"The king summoned the man and said, 'You evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy. Shouldn't you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?' The king was furious and put the screws to the man until he paid back his entire debt. And that's exactly what my Father in heaven is going to do to each one of you who doesn't forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy."

Mt 18 [The Message, altered]

3 "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. 4If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him."

Luke 17

Being a Christian should be about being real - real with God, real with one another. God wants to free us from the slavery of playing games with one another; it's not about being 'nice' in a superficial way, it's about creating and maintaining relationships in which we challenge and build one another up. But too often we settle instead for the unreal; our pride encourages us not to reveal how hard we are finding things, whilst our fear of the cost of engagement deters us from giving people the space they need. So we settle instead for the 'Fine thank you' answer to the question 'How are you?'

What is the solution that Jesus points to? It starts from the commitment of family - of realising that the people around me at my church ARE my family. We are not merely fellow members of an audience being entertained on a Sunday morning. As BLs we struggle with this concept: 'If only they knew about what I'm really like, they would reject me.' Sadly that's probably true of many churches, and it does provide a barrier. As someone who is out as a BL to many people, I've been amazingly blessed by how few have rejected me as a result. On the other hand I'm aware that for some churches even being gay is unacceptable. Yet we yearn for real relationships and the solution of just being closed off with everyone is no answer. But even if we aren't out as BLs or even as gay to anyone, we can still admit to being lonely, to our struggles with temptation (estimates of internet porn use range from 40-70% of male internet users - you don't have to say it's young males that are the issue for you), to our sense of worthlessness.

But after that comes the instruction to rebuke your brother if he sins. Again it's about being real: if we don't communicate when we are getting hurt, we aren't treating either the other person or even ourselves with respect - instead we are saying to him: 'It doesn't matter what you do to me' either because he isn't important or because I'm not important. But both you and he are people for whom Jesus died in agony. Who are you to decide you aren't important if God has done so much for you?

Then we are told to forgive. In the passages I've shared there's a presumption that the forgiveness is sought, but even if it isn't, I believe it does us no good in the long run not to forgive even when there is no repentance; at best it gives us an unhelpful sense of pride that 'at least I'm not as bad as him', and at worst a seed of bitterness will be planted that will drain away our joy in life as we persistently reflect on the historic offence.

But how do we achieve such forgiveness? It's here that the quote from Psalm 55 comes in:

Let death take my enemies by surprise;
let them go down alive to the grave,
for evil finds lodging among them.

The answer does not lie in just swallowing our anger, but rather in expressing it in an appropriate way - so that we can look at it, realise that we ARE hurt over the matter - and then look to God to put the matter into perspective. Too often we think that it's wrong for us to feel hurt - and are then surprised when a minor slight causes a major overreaction in us. By contrast the book of Psalms offers us a pattern of hurts being expressed - and moved on from; Psalm 55 is written by someone whose closest friend has betrayed him, prompting the quote, yet by the end of the psalm he is expressing his trust in God. Jesus' parable of the unforgiving servant reminds us that we are all vastly more in debt to God because of our sins than we can ever resolve, and so we have no right to demand repayment from our brother...

It's easy to settle for second best. We can resist the call to any relationship. We can play at just being nice and never making real friendships. We can allow slights and misunderstanding to build barriers that strangle real communication. Or we can seek to follow Jesus' teaching and work at true relationships. Easy and quick? Of course not - and because of that in a society that expects things to be quick and easy, it's tempting to give up the search; it will take time, effort and risk taking. But to fail to do so is to miss God's best for us.

Prayer: Lord Jesus - when you were on earth you surrounded yourself with friends. Help us to find people in our lives with whom we can be real, who will be there for us when we are hurting, who will love us and care for us. Help us to resist the temptation to hide ourselves away, and deprive others of our love. Help us to be willing to take risks, and remember that everyone needs friendship; may I be the friend that another is hurting for. To your praise and glory, because you made the effort to come from heaven and become our friends at the price of the cross. Amen.

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