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Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

“Could you talk to Janey? Sarah beat her up again.” The voice on the other end of the line was a concerned mom from one of my kids in youth group. Her daughter, Janey was friends with one of the toughest kids in school. Usually the two got along fine. But Sarah’s family was abusive and full of anger, rage and violence. If Sarah were having a bad day, she was a time-bomb ready to go off on anyone who was near. Most kids in school just left her alone. In fact, she really only had one friend in the entire school-Janey.

Try as we might, we could never keep the two apart. Janey insisted that Sarah needed Jesus. “If I’m not her friend, who will be?” was her constant argument. That was over 30 years ago. Today Sarah is living out east. She’s a grandma and married to a wonderful Christian man!

I often wonder what would have happened if Janey had listened to us and abandoned her friend. Social wisdom says we leave people alone who may hurt us. ‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me’ is the rule to live by safely. If you know someone is going to fail you, avoid them. Protect yourself. Don’t trust them. Don’t let yourself be taken advantage of and made the fool.

The problem with social wisdom is that it runs contrary to what Jesus taught us while he was here on earth. One night, he knelt at the feet of each of his disciples to wash their feet. He did that knowing that in a few short hours, each of these men would abandon him. One would publicly deny him. Another would sell him to the enemy for a measly 30 pieces of silver. One would run away naked. All of them left him in his time of deepest need.

Even though he knew they would fail him, he forgave them and loved them. He’s doing the same thing today. Jesus knew you’d fail the day he went to the cross for you. He knows the things you struggle with. None of that surprises him. Your sin doesn’t surprise Jesus. Your rebellion doesn’t keep him from loving you and standing by you in your time of need.

In the same way, we are called to love those around us. Don’t be surprised when people fail you. Like you, they are human, and humans naturally sin. Sometimes we may need to be wise and protect ourselves from physical harm, but we should never stop forgiving, never stop loving, never stop lifting those who’ve hurt is in prayer.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus. I don’t think I’ll ever understand why you are so forgiving when we are so rebellious and stubborn. Thank you that you haven’t given up on me. Thank you that even though I’m going to try to keep from sin, you know I’ll fail and you will forgive me when I repent and come to you for healing. Empower me with your Spirit to live for you. Empower me to forgive as you have forgiven. In your name I pray, Amen.

 


Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

“It’s not about you!” Is a phrase that pops up occasionally?  The intent of the phrase is to remind the listener that all of life doesn’t revolve around their feelings, their comfort or their life in general. Much as we’d like to think otherwise, life will go on without us. The flowers will still bloom, the rain will still fall and the seasons will still go through their cyclical changes.

When it comes to our spiritual/emotional lives the phrase takes on a somewhat different meaning. In God’s eyes everything is about us. We are his special creations, the apple of His eye, and the motivation for everything he does.

God created the world for our pleasure as much as His. He sent His only Son for our eternal forgiveness and blessing, not because He had to. Not because He felt obligated due to our frailty as human beings. God did what He did for our benefit.

In the Apostle Paul’s’ letter to the church in Ephesus he encourages them to live lives centered on the feelings and emotions of other people. The church in Ephesus was known for ‘getting it right.’ John writes to them in the Book of Revelation and commends them for taking a stand against those who were rebellious towards the things of God. They knew right from wrong and weren’t afraid to tell people who’d stepped outside the circle of God’s will.

Where the people of God in Ephesus fell short was in the area of love. John exhorts them to return to the basics. To love, accept and forgive those who had wronged them. Neither Paul nor John gives the church in Ephesus any room for arguing their case. How they treated people had nothing to do with how they were being treated. It wasn’t about them. It was about Jesus.

The message is true for us as well. As followers of Jesus we are commanded to be compassionate and forgiving because that is exactly how Jesus treats us. Other people who speak ill of us, attack us verbally or physically and hurt us (intentionally or otherwise) are in God’s eyes no better or worse than we area.

We are not forgiven because of anything we have done or because of our ability to live like Christ. We are forgiven because when we are at our worst God’s loves us at His best. Forgiving others doesn’t mean we allow them to continue to hurt and abuse us. It does mean we put ourselves in a safe place and don’t retaliate. Being compassionate doesn’t necessarily mean we allow ourselves to be used and taken advantage of. It does mean we do what we can, in a safe way, to bring those in need to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ through prayer, refusal to speak ill of them and whatever other ways we can to remain safe and extend the hand of Christ’s love and forgiveness.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, when I think of how I’ve been hurt and taken advantage of by others it’s really hard to treat my attackers with love, compassion and forgiveness. Yet in my heart I know you have forgiven me for much more. I confess to you the hatred I have for certain people, abusers, in my life. I ask that you would heal my wounds and empower me by your Spirit to forgive them. Help me to know that in your eyes it’s all about me and because of your love I can release my enemies into your hands. Amen.

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