Relationships are a Mess Worth Making
- Monday, March 26, 2007
Forgive. Realize that God expects you to always be willing to forgive in all your relationships, since God has forgiven you. Rely on God to help you forgive, trusting that He will help you do it, despite your feelings. Understand that when you forgive, you’re making a conscious choice not to make the offender pay for the offense, not remind the offender of what he or she has done in an effort to control, not bring up the offense to others and slander the offender, and not dwell on the offense yourself. Remember that, although forgiveness is costly, the price you’ll pay if you choose not to forgive is much higher – bitterness that will poison your life. Expect that, if the initial act of forgiving people, you’ll need to keep forgiving them each time you remember the offense. If the people you have forgiven repent, then reconcile your relationships with them. But if they don’t repent, know that you still maintain an attitude of forgiveness toward them before God, because that is your responsibility. Understand that forgiveness doesn’t mean pursuing peace at all costs, such as by giving people permission to abuse you. Know that you can forgive people while still holding them accountable to you and other authorities (such as the police or church leaders) for their actions. When you apologize to someone you’ve offended, don’t just say you’re sorry. Be sure to also name the sin, confess that it was wrong, and ask for forgiveness.
Embrace the hope God offers you. Expect difficulties in your relationships as a normal part of living as broken people in a fallen world. But as your relationships push you to the boundaries of your own strength, reach out to God for new strength that you can count on Him to provide. Pray for God to use your relationships to help you develop strong character qualities like humility, gentleness, patience, perseverance, forgiveness, forbearance, kindness, and love. Remember that God is always present with you, ready to help you. Recall His promises from the Bible and let them encourage you and others. Recognize the tremendous potential you have in Christ for healthy relationships.
Serve others. Ask God to help you genuinely care about other people’s burdens and help you rise beyond selfish concerns to regularly serve them. Keep in mind that your circumstances don’t determine whether or not you can serve; remember that Jesus served others in the midst of His greatest crises. Understand that a person’s worthiness doesn’t determine whether or not you should serve him or her; recall that Jesus served many people who didn’t deserve to be served. Get rid of the mistaken notion that the way to become great is to climb the world’s ladder or power. Know that, in reality, the way to become great is to be humble enough to serve others as God leads you to do so. Remember how God has reached out to you with grace, and let your gratitude for that motivate you to reach out to others with grace. Realize that there is nothing more God-like than serving others, since God redeemed our fallen world through service and sacrifice. Reflect on a few specific relationships in your life, such as a loved one, a difficult person you usually avoid, and an enemy. Then think and pray about ways you can serve each of those people in the coming months, and put your plan into action. As you serve anyone God leads you to serve, treat them with love, as if they were part of your own family. Honor them as people of value. Don’t exclude people simply because they’re different from you; accept them. Help people shoulder their burdens by using your time, money, talents, possessions, and reputation to give them assistance as God leads you to do so. Be patient with people when they irritate you, and tolerate weaknesses and idiosyncrasies that aren’t sins.
Show mercy. Realize that you need God’s mercy just as much as anyone else does. Let your gratitude for the compassion, sympathy, forgiveness, and rescue that God gives you motivate you to offer mercy to others. Whenever you encounter someone in need and sense God leading you to help that person, act on that urging. Expect suffering to sometimes occur in your relationships, and be willing to endure it. Don’t abandon people in their poverty, whether it’s economic, spiritual, or social in nature. Don’t show favoritism to people. Persevere in hardship. Be willing to leave what is comfortable to you so you can share what God has give you with others. Overlook minor offenses, and be willing to forgive major ones. Don’t compromise what is morally right and true. Turn to God daily for fresh mercy in your own life so you can continue to offer mercy to others.
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