Jesus once told the story of a wealthy man who forgave the debt of another to whom he had loaned money. After being released from his great debt, this forgiven man ran into a man who owed him a small amount of money--and showed him no mercy, demanding repayment at once. When the first man found out about his former debtor’s lack of kindness to the other, he went looking for him and threw him in prison to be tortured until he had personally, completely repaid the original debt. Jesus then concluded, "My heavenly Father will also do the same to you if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart." (Matthew 18:21-35)
This story teaches much about our relationship with the Lord. Because He has forgiven us and humbled himself to the point of death to bring about payment for our debt of sin, then He’s saying we owe everyone we meet the same grace, love, mercy, and forgiveness that we have received. If we do not forgive others, then no matter how justified we feel in hanging onto our resentment and hurt, our hearts will be damaged and we will feel far from God.
A very godly, older, wise friend of mine was sharing with me the other day, and she said, something quite surprising: "You know, I have lost many friends over the years because of issues with my children."
Apparently, one of her children had been immature, offending one of her friends--and the friend held it against her personally. What a travesty! To lose a friendship over a silly incident is such a waste. If we expect our friends and their children to always be mature and behave as we would wish, we will surely become disappointed and disillusioned. Yet I see it happen all the time. No wonder so many people are suspicious of Christians--we often act like normal people, meaning we are self-centered, easily offended, and vengeful--rather than behaving like those who have been redeemed.
There is so much potential for broken relationships throughout life--hurt feelings, different values, varying philosophies, immaturity, insensitivity, harsh or careless words, and simple irritation offering just a few places where bitterness could take root.
We all have baggage of some sort of severed relationships in this broken world, and sometimes it’s not at all our fault! But our hearts don't have to stay broken and we don’t have to react with bitterness, even in these circumstances. We can always choose to love, even when we are not loved by people--because God is absolutely, forever committed to loving us.
"But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men." -Luke 6:35
Take a moment to complete the reflection and application below:
• "I will never leave you or forsake you." Hebrews 13:5 Do you truly believe that God has made a commitment to never leave you? As you embrace this truth, the commitment to love others in the same way becomes easier!
• "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 Are there relationships in your life which have been broken? People you need to forgive? Ask God to bring them to mind today, and lay a burden down.
In Monday's e-conference, I will be sharing how to set up a grid for living with wisdom, cultivating love as a foundation of influence, understanding what you are building, how to endure with grace and so much more. Be sure to register and tell your friends. It will be a wonderful time. It is changing my life again as I am working on it! And if you win the rafflecopter, your registration will be refunded. Can't wait.