The two had been friends since childhood. They had gone to school together, and had remained in the same small town after graduating. They each married, their children played together, and they vacationed together. They were both in Church leadership at the same Church. To say they were close was an understatement.
There was a husband and wife in the Church who were going through a tough time in their marriage, and the two went to see them. It developed into a few weeks of counselling, but the husband left his wife, and they divorced. Something also happened between the two men that changed everything. Somewhere in the counselling, the two disagreed on something, and their relationship disolved quickly. The two stopped speaking, and when you asked them about it, one said he didn’t know what was wrong, and the other just said, “I don’t want to discuss it.”
Over the years, there was little reconciliation. They would at least speak to each other, and be civil to each other in public, but everyone knew that the riff continued. One eventually moved on, going to another Church, while the other became even more vindictive in speech and attitude toward the other.
When we see these situations occur in the Church, it hurts, especially if you are friends with both of them. And it hurts those who don’t know, or understand what happened. There is a saying that the opposite of love isn’t hate, it is indifference. When we love each other, but offend each other, we often see hatred rear its ugly head. You see it in marriages, friendships, and in families. We can go from loving someone to hating someone in the blink of an eye. What can change this back from hate to love? Forgiveness.
Forgiveness is one of the toughest things we must learn to do as Christians. When someone wrongs us, we want revenge. How could they have done what they did to us? What were they thinking? And to think they call themselves a Christian! Be aware, this is going to take a lot of work on your part, and you need to start with Scripture and prayer. Get used to it, too, because you won’t be asked to do it just once. Peter asked Jesus, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21,22). We struggle to do it once, but by the time we do it 490 times, we should be in pretty good practice. Besides, we’ll probably lose count.
What if we are the ones committing the offense? After all, we believe we were right in doing what we did. We think we are right all the time, but when we realize we are wrong, there has to be something or someone to blame. Just admitting we are wrong is humbling, and to have to admit it again takes Scripture study and prayer.
In Matthew 5:23-26 Jesus tells us, “Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.”
We all have someone we have offended, or who has offended us. Pray about this today, and this coming week. Do what’s right, and make it right.