“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
This seems like a fitting place to begin a season of repentance and seeking God. It may also be the hardest place to start. I think it shows the importance that God places on unity in the body of Christ. We all know the consequences of broken relationships and hurt feelings, minor offenses and life-shattering betrayals.
Not all of us, however, know the deep welling up of peace and joy that comes from allowing God to mend and heal broken hearts and shattered trust. It takes two things: being willing to repent, and being willing to forgive.
Sometimes we need to say we are sorry. It’s humbling and we’re just not very good at being humble. But we are called to be just that. Whether the harm was intentional or not, big or little, if we have offended someone it’s our responsibility to say we are sorry.
The other side of that coin is being willing to accept an apology when it is offered. As children of God we do not have the right to hold grudges or bask in our hurt feelings. We don’t have the right to tell everyone how we were hurt. We have a divine mandate to forgive and to protect the person we are forgiving. No harm - physical, emotional, social, or any other kind should come to them because of our actions. We just don’t have the right to do that.
As we start this season of Lent ask God to help you take an honest look at yourself. Are you holding a grudge and refusing to forgive? Do you need to ask forgiveness of someone else? Ask him to give you the courage and integrity to follow through and make amends. Allow him entrance to your deepest soul and let him heal your wounds as you extend his love to others.
What other verses talk about the unity of believers and living in peace with others? List them in your journal. Write them out and choose one to memorize.
Is there someone you need to forgive or whose forgiveness you need? List each one and begin to pray for that person and for yourself. Ask God to help you be willing for him to change YOU. Don’t put off restoring this relationship. Do it now. Remember it is not about your feelings, it is about choosing to be obedient.
Think of those you know with broken relationships in your family and in our church. Write their names in your journal and begin to pray for God to restore those relationships. Don’t take sides. Encourage reconciliation when you can.
Holding on to anger or hurt feelings, even when they are honest and legitimate, will get in the way of what God can do in your heart. In the end, the one who is hurt the most is you.
Ask God to make you willing to let go of the hurt. You can't do this in your own power, so don't even try. It may take time, but if you are willing, God will do a work in your heart and bless you.
Are you willing?
I am praying for you.
I am praying for you.